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How to light a kitchen for DSLR video?

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Tim Schultz
How to light a kitchen for DSLR video?
on Sep 21, 2014 at 5:53:29 pm

I am just learning to shoot video on DSLR.
I am dumber than a sack of hammers so have a million really stupid questions.
Please have patience with me.

I am trying to produce videos of kitchens that my cabinet shop produces. I am working with a Canon 70D camera. I have two primary lenses. One is the 18-135 kit lens that shipped with the camera and one is a 14mm2.8L lens that I use for still photography.

The quality of the videos I have taken so far are not very good. The images are not very sharp. I have experimented with shutter speed & ISO but they are still quite a bit grainier than what I am used to with still photography. My normal workflow to photograph a kitchen uses speedlites to augment the ambient light. When I add a lot of light I can use fairly low ISO and the shots come out crisp and clean.

MY QUESTION has to do with whether lighting would h help the cause and if so what the best way to light these kitchens might be? I am trying to do as close as possible to a 360º pan. The tripod will usually be in a corner of the kitchen so I could possibly stick a light behind the tripod and aim it at the ceiling.

Another approach would be to add some kind of wide angle light and mount it to the hot shoe of the camera. This approach runs contrary to everything I have learned so far about lighting still photography because that format looks best when the light is off the camera axis.

How would you light a small space like this? Would a light mounted directly on the camera kill all the shadows and create too flat of a video?

Does anybody have any other suggestions about how to light a kitchen?

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Al Bergstein
Re: How to light a kitchen for DSLR video?
on Sep 22, 2014 at 3:59:03 pm

Tim, it really doesn't matter whether you shoot for HDSLR or Hollywood. Lighting is got a few basics for this kind of work. There are many lighting training videos on the web. I assume these are kitchens already assembled in people's houses? If so, get yourself some decent portable lighting kits. The main issue is getting enough wattage to light for depth of field. Not long ago hot lights would have been your choice. Now you have fluorescents and LEDs, neither of which put out quite the light that hot lights do for the price.

B&H sells a kit of three Fluorescents with stands and case by Impact Soft for $348. I can't vouch for their quality. I personally own a Lowell Rifa kit that has interchangeable heads, so I can use a Tungsten/Halogen for just the kind of work you describe, where I need massive hot light bounced off ceilings. I have two large 66's and one 44. But the heads also can use fluorescents, and they are ok, they just take time to warm up. I give them about 15 minutes to reach maximum light output.

I like the interchangeable heads, and though they price is quite higher than the cheap lights, since you are making money on your shots, you could justify the higher price and versatility, IMHO. The Lowells also have umbrellas with front diffusers that are very easy to setup and strike. I literally can be ready to go in minutes.

If you want to put up with halogens, which I don't recommend as a steady way of life, you can buy used Lowell kits for cheap these days. But you have to be very careful with them, as they are super hot and you can't strike them quickly without endangering your gear.

I'm sure others will have other choices,there are hundreds of ways to do what you want, but that's what I've chosen.


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Tim Schultz
Re: How to light a kitchen for DSLR video?
on Sep 23, 2014 at 3:05:47 pm


Thanks for all your help.

I have the basics of lighting figured out for still photography. I typically expose for ambient light then add key or fill with small speed lights and modify them as necessary. What I am trying to learn about is lighting for video. While the principles are the same I suspect there are some nuances I need to take into account.

From experimentation I have noticed that video I shoot on my DSLR is a lot more in focus if the ambient light is bright. From this I have deduced that if I add more light to the scene I will get sharper output.

A particular challenge right now is how to light a space when I want to do a 360º pan of the kitchen I built. I need to find a way to light the space but keep the light from showing in the video. I am thinking initially of mounting a small LED on the cold shoe of the camera and then possibly mountain some kind of light on the tripod that aims straight towards the ceiling. I am hopeful that the light bounced off the ceiling will amplify and spill properly to evenly flood the room without producing too many hotspots of light.

Thanks again for your help!

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