Lighting for Kids and Others

This is primarily for TV commercials with not yet trained actors.

Kids are less predictable and often go where they aren't asked to. To make them worry about your lighting problems will detract from or even destroy their ability to act or even be themselves. It's better to have acceptable lighting and freedom to act than perfect lighting in the wrong place where the best action happens. If the rest of the set has the right feel in lighting, the scene will feel right. Most houses have many sources of lighting that are not seen on camera and justify many lighting schemes.

1. Kids often have their heads down doing things. Fill or have a second key to compensate for any position.

2. Kids don't always face the way you want for lighting. Make sure you know how the director is blocking the shot. Have the art director contain the kids and/or animals with props and furniture.

3. Place one kid where he will not shade the other's key light. Put the shorter kid closer to key so he doesn't block the other's key.

4. Make sure you understand the mood of lighting that the director wants. High-key (bright- sunny- cheerful), low-key (darker-mysterious-night-dusk), early am/late afternoon (contrasty-warm-sunrise-sunset-low angle) or other. Ask for examples in print or on film, not like what might be remembered in some film. Look at examples so that you can figure out what the gaffer did. Sometimes the feel of the whole shot has more to do with things other than the actor's lighting. Music, cutting pace, or art-direction can also effect the feeling. Some old faded black and white films still pack a wallop of emotion.

5. I prefer to not burn out windows, but just hold a little detail. They should read about 3+ stops reflected over what you are exposing at. The scene outside a window exposed near the exposure of the rest of an interior set or location will look like a picture on the wall or just plain fake. Light from the real or simulated sun can be many stops over and look all right if broken up by blinds, greens or window frames. A rim light can be 6 or more stops over and still look all right. Do some testing when you can. Take a look at Caleb's "Message in a Bottle".

6. Try a black and white Polaroid with an adjustable shutter and iris to evaluate contrast. Black and white video assists are not very helpful as they can see detail where the film will not. Color video assists may be an even worst guide.

7. I like to light to a T-4.0 to help hold focus on unpredictable kids and allow using the zoom.(In 35mm)

8. Protect babies from shocks. They are fast and curious.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.