123’s of Media Production: Far-side lighting, A quick trick for your own shots

by Jeff Carpenter

You’ve heard it before: “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”

And you understand that. The artist is always more important than the tool. But maybe it discourages you. Maybe you think it means you have to go to school to take good photos. Or you have to practice 10,000 hours. Or maybe you think that YOU will never take great photos because you’re not a “professional photographer.”

But you are forgetting one really important asset: You have spent your life being best friends with this bad boy right here:

That’s right: Good ol’ TV.

It wasn’t just entertaining you. It was also training you. It was teaching your brain to notice how the professionals light and shoot and you associate that look with quality and professionalism. And guess what? All that knowledge is trapped up in your head. You just need to unlock it.

I’m not here to teach you things you don’t know. Nope. Instead, I’ll be using this blog series to point out things that simply feel right to you without you being able to explain why. Once you can explain why, then you can do it too.

So to begin, we’re going to tackle a very simple concept: Lighting the far side of your subject’s face. And we don’t even need a light! It just means that if you’re about to take someone’s photo, angle them and yourself so that the brightest light is on the side of their face that’s furtherest away from you.

Like so:

Rather pleasant to look at, yeah? You’ve seen it a billion times before. You may not have noticed, but watch for it now. The vast majority of the time, you’re going to see folks looking like this guy with the light on our right. (His left)

Or this lady with the light on her right.

In all cases, they’re showing their darkest cheek to the camera. And all because I said “look this way” right before hitting record.

This was not from some large complicated movie set. This was an open area that we were wandering around in. We just made sure to turn folks the right way before we started asking questions.

Lighting is not always about having lights; it can simply mean where you move yourself within the light that’s already there. Which means you can start using this tip right freaking now.

So practice with your cell phone! Tell your kid to turn “this way.” It only takes a second and you’ll find yourself even happier with your photos and videos. And feel free to tell your friends it’s all because you’re “just really super talented.” You’re the one that took the time to read this blog, not them. That means you deserve all the praise.

Good job, you. Come back next week for more!

Jeff Carpenter

Jeff Carpenter

Director of Operations

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