Lighting A Kitchen


I am a newbie student filmmaker and have a project where I need to light a typical household kitchen throughout the day. The dimensions are approx 20 ft by 12 ft by 8 ft. Walls are beige, ceiling is white...all flat latex paint. One window approx 3 ft by 6ft.on wall facing south.

Have to light in morning, through mid-day to evening. Will be scenes shot during each of these times.

Lighting in the kitchen consists of 12 50W in ceiling halogens.

Will be shooting DV on XL1s.

Any suggestions on best basic lighting set-ups (for each stage of morning/midday/evening) would be most appreciated.

I know this is basic, basic, but I am simply trying to learn.


Peter Robertson
Toronto Canada

Hello Peter,

I would suggest that first and foremost in any lighting set up / scene you need to create a look which you think supports the story, characters etc. The story may call for a 'naturalistic' lighting style or something more stylised. Take a look at some references. Is the lighting in these references high / low key, cool / warm etc.

Don't lock yourself down in realism. Many films will break certain lighting 'rules' in order to create shadows, light sources in areas that it really analysed would not really occur and are cheated in some way for dramatic effect. Have fun and play with ideas but have a strong idea before you start about how your lighting, and lets not forget camera work, is serving the story. This is our job.

I would also advise you to 'know your location' wherever it is. Visit it a few days before and really get a feel for what happens naturally in this environment. Go at different times of the day. Turn off all the interior lights and really 'look'.

How does this space behave at different times. What natural lighting occurs which can inspire you to emulate / manipulate if need be. This will help you to see the location as another character.

I would also avoid using the interior halogens as they will most likely not be strong enough to light with and will produce unflattering overhead lighting and a possible strange colour temp. However, if this is what you want then by all means see what they can give you. I have lit plenty of films short with available / practical lights which was appropriate for certain films.

There is no real right or wrong and a lot of it comes down to personal taste but I do think that you should be able to back up your lighting / camera choices with good solid thinking.

This does not tell you how to light it but I do think you should 'know your space' first and then think about lighting it.

Good luck and I'll keep adding.

Lol Crawley

Peter Robertson writes :

>I would also advise you to 'know your location' wherever it is. Visit it a >few days before and really get a feel for what happens naturally in this >environment.

Peter -

What great advice from Lol.

Do what is called a light study. It you record the environment of the natural lighting before you shoot, it optimises your coordination with the natural light. Be sure to check it out at in different weather conditions as well. Bring a digital camera to record the light, time of day and search for angles.

I used to gaffe for a commercial director who would travel to the location a week or two before the shoot and photographically record the light during different times of the day. We would come to the shoot and he would have hundreds of stills he took during this time. He edited them down to where he knew exactly where we would be placing the camera at exactly what time.

His work was visually stunning because he used the natural light to such great advantage.

Good luck.

Jim Sofranko

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