What To Do When You Don’t Have Lights For Your Scene

I always hear “any camera will look amazing as long as you light your scene well” regarding cinematography. Now, lighting for film is a HUGE topic that cannot be covered in one blog post, but it is extremely important to understand when creating any kind of video. Whether you are new to the video production world, or simply want to learn more about cinematography, this post will share some insight as to what to do when you are in a situation where bringing even one light is not possible.

Let’s jump back to last July. Heidi and I hopped on a plane to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, we had everything with us, our camera, sound mixer and microphones, a laptop…. but no lights. You might be thinking this is crazy for us to even attempt making a film without bringing a single light. In this situation, we were unfortunately unable to bring a light with us due to our flights weight restrictions (it was a struggle to even bring a camera with those weight restrictions). Let’s start here: What do you do when you don’t have a light with you?

The answer, put quite simply, is to pay attention. Your only light source is the sun and now you are forced to think about where you are placing your subjects, and the time of day you are filming. If the sun is directly overhead, you will get some really-harsh shadows on your subject and it just wouldn’t look good in the camera. In this situation it is almost impossible to film outside, and with limited time, you then film inside. There is only so much you can do in-camera to increase its sensitivity to low-light before the footage starts to look super grainy and ugly. This is where you will use windows and doorways to your advantage. Let’s look at a few frames from our documentary:

Ritah in “Center of Hope”

Ritah in “Center of Hope”

Arthur in “Center of Hope”

Arthur in “Center of Hope”

This first frame is Ritah. We were filming this about midday, and the sun was incredibly bright. So we moved over to her office where luckily she had a large window letting in a TON of light. This is one of those rare situations where we got really lucky without needing lights. The sun in this scene helped fill in the rest of the room as well as acting like a “key-light” to light our subject.

The second frame features Arthur. The computer lab at H.E.L.P. International Primary School doesn’t have as large of a window as Ritah’s office did.  This room was significantly darker, and we needed a way to create that separation from the subject and the background. Here we used the doorway to let in some light for our subject. This helped separate him from the darkness of the rest of the room. To help with this we also put him in a position where the back windows were creating a “kicker light” to help separate him even further. This nice little touch of light on his shoulders really helped fill out the rest of this interview.

Let’s hope that whenever you have to film something you are able to bring at least one light with you. If not, pay attention to where the sun is and see if there is any windows or doorways to aid in lighting your scene. In my next blog post I will be showing you how just one light can make a difference and make your life during production much easier!

Be on the lookout for the release of our film “Center of Hope” coming out at the end of this month!

Childhood Dreams

Heidi at Southern Connecticut State’s 2017 Graduation

Heidi at Southern Connecticut State’s 2017 Graduation

You know how sometimes a child can have really weird dreams about what they want to be when they grow up? The careers children wish to see themselves in can sometimes be comical. For instance, growing up I had so many different dreams, but the three I always went back to were these: I wanted to be a chef and work with ice-cream, I wanted to work at a candy factory, and I wanted to tell stories. Sounds realistic enough, right?

Sometimes, childhood dreams can be super vague, often odd, and they’re not always practical. Looking at my own I would instantly just assume that these three dreams would relate to me training to be a chef, owning a candy factory, or attempting to be a widely successful author.

 If you noticed, not once do all my assumptions lead to these dreams co-existing together. Once a person finishes their education and enters the real world, it’s easy to forget about those childhood expectations. I know that I did.

But then the other day I had a realization that I may have accomplished those dreams without even knowing it.

For instance, my first job ever was at Popey’s Ice-cream Shoppe in Morris, CT. I spent many years there serving people ice-cream and even ended up cooking in the kitchen. I had a second job in college too, and this job was at a local chocolate factory that produced and sold their own chocolates. And currently, I do tell stories. I write on this blog and I tell other people’s stories through film with Little Tree Farm Productions.

I somehow without even realizing it accomplished my childhood dreams, but why did I not notice this before? Why did I not notice when I actually had those two other jobs? Why didn’t I appreciate it and see it as accomplishing one of the dreams I always had?

The answer to this is simple and direct. I didn’t notice this before because the previous jobs I had were jobs that society deemed to be minimum wage positions that are unable to produce a realistic income. Those jobs are also positions that do not require a college degree, which we all know just screams “not successful” for some reason.

This one realization made me see my dreams completely different. Dreaming big is important and it is often what gives people drive. However, dreaming big does not have to mean you’re making large amounts of money. Obtaining success does not mean you need to be making large amounts of money. In fact, the only way money should be seen as is really just a tool that is needed for survival not success.

So, the next day you’re feeling a little down that you may not have followed your childhood dreams… reflect back in a different way.

Maybe you did achieve those dreams without even realizing it?

Perhaps it happened in a way that you didn’t foresee?

The Key to New Adventures

“Taking a risk, living life to the fullest, no plans, ‘don't think just do’. To be spontaneous is to be the most relaxed go with the flow and have fun person; you would never get mad if plans changed, you would get excited because then it would become spontaneous.” – Urban Dictionary

In my life I find it important to remain spontaneous. Which can be difficult sometimes because life can get a little repetitive and that’s when it can get boring. We’ve all been there! For me, it usually happens when things get too planned out or if I’ve remained in the same place for a long period of time. For example, I don’t travel much in the winter, and sometimes driving down the same street to work can really get boring. How do I spice it up?

Random Highway somewhere in Texas 2017 - Heidi Reinprecht

Random Highway somewhere in Texas 2017 - Heidi Reinprecht

I take a different road.
I don’t think too much on it, I just act and find another way.

And honestly, that can be a weird metaphor for life. When life gets a little boring, just take a different road. You can use this concept anywhere in your daily life.

When a job gets repetitive and dry, switch up your commute and look at your work through a different lens. This can help you branch out from the pack and make you think in a creative way. Act on those initial ideas and thoughts; don’t think too much into it! In writing, we call this concept “word vomit”. Scared it’s not a good idea? No first draft is perfect, but what happens after the first draft can be amazing. By acting on your ideas without fear, this can lead you to coming up with concepts that you may have overlooked before or make you discover something about yourself that you didn’t know existed. You may even conquer a hidden fear you may have had.

If you exercise often and that gets boring, switch up your workout routine. See what happens and push yourself. You may discover a new technique that benefits you or you may even overcome a fear you had and surprise yourself.  

Bored in the kitchen? Branch away from your comfort zone and just try different kinds of foods, recipes, and cultural styles. Don’t think too much into this, just do it and see what happens! This is honestly how I became such a fan of Indian and Lebanese cuisine, which I used to be afraid of trying because I was scared I wouldn’t like it.

Why did I choose these three examples?

Most people need to work to survive in this modern world; to provide for ourselves and our loved ones.
According to healthcare professionals, exercising is essential to a healthy way of life and diet.
And… we need some form of nutrition to survive, which in most cases come from eating food.

In all these examples, one common outcome from being spontaneous is overcoming fear. Being spontaneous is about not overthinking the situation, it’s just acting on natural impulse. Feeling bored? Just change it. Do it. Do not think too much into, just try a different route.  When you don’t live life to the “plan” amazing things can happen.

In my life, there are plans and then there are the actual outcomes. For me, I often just use plans as an outline. If everything happens according to the plan and nothing else but the plan happens… then that was a boring day for me. So, when I plan, I just make goals, and I leave room for the spontaneous adventure that I hope happens.

On one of my most recent trips, an amazing adventure happened. In my previous post, I talked about how Jesse and I went to New Mexico to train for our work trip to Africa. While in New Mexico, we did an insane amount of hiking and tried to see some natural wonders on the way. One of those natural wonders was the Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch. We didn’t research the area beforehand, we just knew that this area had some amazing trails and some beautiful sites. To our amazement, just outside of Ghost Ranch was this beautiful lake, Abiquiu Lake.

Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico

Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico

We ended up spending a lot of time there and it was gorgeous. It was everything that we didn’t know we needed. It made us take time to relax, de-stress, and spend some time at the lake to go swimming and have lunch. When you truly be spontaneous, life gives you things that you didn’t know you needed, and you overcome some sort of fear.

What was our fear in that situation? Overworking ourselves and over stressing about being fit for our upcoming work trip. Abiquiu Lake was our opportunity to sit back and to reflect; to realize we were as prepared as we could be for our trip to Africa.

So, when life gets boring or when you plan every second… let yourself be spontaneous. You never know what fear you can overcome, what adventure you’ll find, or the people you could meet along the way.

Does Your Lens Matter?

Arguably one of the most important aspects in Photography (other than the camera) is the lens. To many new photographers or those wanting to learn more about photography this topic can be quite daunting.

Today I will share with you a budget guide and lens comparison test to help get you started on photography! Choosing the right lens comes down to the right situation, and the look that you want to go for. Each lens is unique with different characteristics.

To keep this budget friendly for all new photographers I will keep this under $1000 for one camera body and one lens. The links to buy the gear will be at the end of the blog post!

In 100% Fairness I will be keeping all photos 50mm f/5.6 Take a look below. You can also click and zoom on each picture.

Rokinon Cine DS 50mm f/5.6

Canon Stock 18-55mm f/5.6

Sigma 18-250mm f/5.6

Vintage 49mm f/5.6

Hard to tell huh? I thought so when I was starting out too, but if you click on each image you will begin to see each lens has a subtle difference.

Painting Photo Taken With Rokinon Cine DS

We’ll start with the Rokinon, the most expensive lens on this list. Keep in mind these lenses are designed with video on the mind and I will be doing a lens test for video next month! This lens has a very sharp characteristic to whatever you want in focus, but the more shallow your depth of field, you can see a nice soft flow to the background. You may also notice that the edges have a bit of a sharpness falloff, which can be good for creating a softer look on your subjects face. I use this lens a lot for video, but also for artwork photography because it is one of the sharpest lenses that I own and can really capture the detail the artist wants you to see.

Going down the line we take a look at the Sigma. This lens is our workhorse lens. It has been to Africa, and on so many hikes, and because of its 18-250mm range, it is in my mind, the perfect travel lens if you are looking to travel light. The bokeh characteristics as you can see in the background are wonderfully swirly and can give quite a dreamy image if that is what you are going after. It has pretty good sharpness around the edges although you can notice some of that sharpness falloff around really jagged edges.

Photo Taken In Colorado with the Sigma 18-250mm

Photo Taken With Canon Stock Lens

The next lens we’ll look at is what will probably come with your T5i (or any Canon Rebel) and that what I lovingly refer to as the Canon stock lens. Now this lens has a very fine focus, although it can be hard to control if you are shooting manual (unlike the Sigma and Rokinon before which has a very smooth and easy focus to control). I will say this lens keeps its subjects very sharp, however, nothing particularly stands out other than that. It is a great lens to start out using, but the purpose of this blog post is for you to see that you can find some great characteristics if you experiment with new lenses. I haven’t used this lens in a professional setting so there isn’t a recent photo other than the test photo to show.

Photo Taken With The Vintage 49mm Lens

 Last but not least is one of my favorite photography lenses. I do not know the official name of this lens, but it is a lens that I found off of a Vivitar v4000s that I found at Goodwill. Finding these old lenses are super easy and honestly a ton of fun to shoot with, however you will need to get a lens adapter if you want to use any of these older lenses on modern cameras. This lens has quite a unique look to it, with its hexagon shaped bokeh, but it also has a nice soft quality to it, giving it quite a dreamy vibe. If you also look at this other image I took with this lens you can see that it has some interesting swirls with it’s bokeh in certain lighting situations.

 Overall, your lens does matter, but if you are just starting out there is no need to buy that $2,000 lens. Practice with more budget friendly lens solutions and learn to appreciate the characteristics. Don’t be afraid to use something other than your stock lens, photography is an art form, one that you can play around with and create some really interesting visuals with. Experiment, have fun, and learn to love your lens and go outside of the box. When you start to feel comfortable with what you have then you can start upgrading your gear and really seeing what the world has to offer in the world of photography. (I can’t wait to get my hands on some Zeiss lenses to try those out). The next lens test will be strictly for video, and we will be using the Canon C300 with the lenses listed down below!

‘Till next time!

 - Jesse


The gear I used in this test are:

Canon T5i - ON SALE Amazon $485 : https://amzn.to/2IptUxf

Rokinon 50mm Cine DS - ON SALE Amazon $499 : https://amzn.to/2SYGh7z

Sigma 18-250mm - Amazon $269 : https://amzn.to/2twfwss

Canon Stock Lens 18-55mm - Amazon $199 : https://amzn.to/2GNHDvk

Vivitar v4000 Vintage Lens - Found At Goodwill