The way in which a scene is lit is perhaps one of the most integral components that an artist has of communicating perspective and defining a style. Developing a keen understanding of the way light works will make it possible to work in a multitude of scenarios and honing in on this skill set will drastically improve a body of work.
As photographers and cinematographers we frequently discuss various lighting setups, modifiers and how to do more with just a single fixture. Ted from the A-Team explains that perhaps one of the most fundamental lighting principals that flies under the radar has nothing to do with modifiers at all.
What many consider to be ambient lighting is actually reflected light, often referred to as bounced light. Bounced light is not relegated to solely bounce cards and reflectors – reflected light is everywhere and every element in a scene plays a role in shaping the light.
Surfaces such as blades of grass, the sides of buildings, windows, mirrors, white walls, shirts, etc are all reflecting light back into the subject and shaping them accordingly. Because of this, the color spectrum should be considered when working with reflected light. For example, grass while emit a green reflected cast while the inside of a brick building would emit warmer tones.
Tip: This is where modifiers and gels can come into play.
Additionally, light can be reduced from a scene by means of a negative fill to increase contrast and play up the moodiness. Black v-flats and flags are great ways to increase shadows by absorbing and blocking the light.
Every part of the scene impacts the lighting and even though it may never be possible to have full control over it, understanding that it exists in the first place is the first step toward manipulating it and crafting a creative vision.
Be sure to check out and subscribe to the A-Team’s Aputure Channel on YouTube for much more information. While it is geared toward cinematographers and filmmakers, photographers can gain a lot of useful tips.