Doug Lee Pictures

Doug Lee, a Motion Picture Director as well as a Director of Photography, visited my Multimedia Portfolio class this past week. After a quick monologue reaffirming that we ARE storytellers, he took a different approach at teaching – instead of telling us what to do when lighting videos, he told us what not to do.

To summarize, here are 10 things you should definitely not do when lighting:

  1. Place the subject next to the background. Doing so creates a super flat and boring 2D image.
  2. Use hard/un-diffused light, like the ones you see during news broadcasts.
  3. Let your lighting overwhelm your story and your subject – it’s the best way to ruin a mood.
  4. Ignore practical sources of lighting. ALWAYS think of the available light!
  5. Light all parts of the scene uniformly. Doing this eliminates any depth or contrast in an image.
  6. Light the background brighter than the subject. If you do so, all the viewer’s eye will see is the bright area.
  7. Pretend composition and lighting are unrelated – you need to lead your viewer’s eyes. P.S. never forget the rule of thirds!
  8. Ignore color temps. color balance, and color contrast.
  9. Avoid available light.
  10. Avoid planes, doing so will make photos seem 2D.


Lee was also able to give us a good amount of pointers for Interview Lighting, which is probably the most common set up for us in this major.

“Wrap” the light; pop the subject from the background, contrast light and dark on the subject’s face, and always catch light in the subject’s eyes.

  • The shadow side of the subject’s face should be shown towards the camera.
  • Keylight should be on the other side of the interviewer (keylight > interviewer > camera).
  • A white card (or bounce card) is the perfect fill light for interviews.