Filmmaking Tips for Lighting on a Budget


It is no mystery that good lighting is one of the most crucial aspects of filmmaking. If you are a filmmaker on a micro-budget looking for lighting kits but can’t swing the expensive equipment that top studios use, look no further. There are cheap ways to get the picture quality you want without dishing out the big bucks!

Here is what you need to get started with a basic, yet adequate lighting set-up that will cost you less than $100:

1) At least two halogen work lights
2) Reflector board(s)
3) Chinese Lanterns

A good alternative to buying an expensive lighting kit is to purchase a couple of basic halogen work lights. I’d recommend a 500 watt tungsten work light, which can be found at any hardware store–usually for less than $30.

These halogen work lamps come with a stand or stand-less. The lights with a stand are obviously more versatile and can be adjusted depending on the height of the subject you are filming.

One potential limitations of these inexpensive lights is that the color of the light can have a very yellow hue. In most cases, if you white-balance your camera this won’t be an issue.

But, if you want the best quality lighting for these halogen work lights you can try one of these solutions:

1)   Place a colored gel in front of the light to correct the color.
2)   You can replace the bulb in the lamp with a 3200K white bulb.

A drawback of these lights are that they are hard to control the distribution of light and can sometimes be harsh and act as more of a spotlight. To combat this problem, it is best to bounce these halogen work lights off the ceiling, wall, or reflector. If you don’t have a reflector, you can use other objects such as a whiteboard, cardboard, windshield reflector, or bed sheet to bounce the work lights off of to create a more diffused and even lighting effect.

I’d recommend watching this video from the Frugal Filmmaker on simple modifications you can make to the work light to make them more useful for your production.

Another type of light that works well in achieving the feel you want, is a Chinese Lantern. This type of light are actually used sometimes on big-budget productions. They are made of paper material and work best using a 200 watt bulb inside.

These provide a great soft-light for close-up shots. Chinese Lanterns usually run for $3-$7 and can be purchased at a local home decorating store such as Pier One.

Just please be careful with these lanterns, as they get very hot and the paper may catch on fire if you are not careful! Do not exceed the wattage recommendations and turn them off between takes. These lights really do provide a beautiful, soft light that looks great on camera.
Hope these DIY lighting techniques are helpful! Let us know if you have any suggestions on additional, inexpensive lighting techniques that you like to use in your productions.

Jessie is a freelance filmmaker who formerly worked as a Marketing Manager for Subversionz and entertainment anchor for TV 26 on Charter Communications.  Jessie recently joined Zooppa as our Partner Programs Manager.  

Meme E

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