Professional lighting techniques can transform an average photo or movie into something with style. Lighting is really at the heart of photography and learning how to exploit and manipulate late can transform an otherwise boring image or movie into something memorable. You must learn to master lighting and shadow before you can ever hope to become a professional moviemaker or photographer. (Professional photographers do still exist, don’t they? I mean aside from wedding photographers?)
Uplighting is the kind of the lighting that you see in old horror movies. The light is set low and points upward to provide dramatic shadow effects. The dramatic impact of uplighting can be the creation of an eerie effect that is double when makeup is used to exploit the effect. Think of the horror films of the 1930s form Universal Studios. The effect of uplighting is pretty much the same effect that you get when you hold a flashlight beneath your chin while telling a scary story around the campfire.
Downlighting is achieved by placing a series of smaller lights above the object provides a strong sense of perspective and weighty meaning. The Godfather provides an excellent opportunity to learn how downlighting can afford an image a certain level of gravity.
Silhouetting places the focal object at the center of the image, but diffuses clarity to afford a more architectural shapeliness. Lighting should be flush with the ground and is most easily accomplished with a starkly white background. I’m looking for a filmmaker-possibly Guy Maddin-who will bring back the lovely art of silhouette animation.
Film noir offers the ultimate example of shadowing. Film noir relies heavily on creating long and often bizarre shadows to illustrate the uncertainty of reality. Practice the art of shadowing with a simple of window blinds that casts different sized shadows on a wall or floor depending on the position of the sun outside and how much you have opened the blinds.
Dead-on lighting is rarely used professionally. The one place you will definitely see dead-on lighting is the local newscast. That’s why all the anchors appear to have dyed their hair and whey they look puffier and fatter than they are in real life. If you want the look of the 6:00 newscast, then do away with fancy lighting that bounces off objects and just place a regular light directly in front of your target.