Lighting for photography, TV broadcast & video productions

The drawings in this article are by Luke Knight, our in house illustrator.


01.This is the start of the rig showing Victoria on the stairs. I lit the back wall with the Lupo LED 1000 and a ‘Crunch’ Scattergel shown on the right at the top of the stairs. I picked up the statue on the half landing with this light too. The light at the top of the sketch plan shows Victoria’s backlight. Another Lupo LED 1000 in full spot mode rigged two floors up pointing down over the balustrade. The third light in the set is Victoria’s key light. It is a Lupo LED 650 with an ‘Alto’ Scattergel. This light picks up on the lion and the stairs too.

Here are the shots from the shoot together with the back story, the lighting plots and the strategies I use for lighting sets.

Camera: Fuji X-T1 with 23mm lens
Models:Donatella Hazel Lilian Peglar and Victoria Lindsey Coutts
Designer: Molly Mishy May
Makeup and hair: Vicki Waghorn

A recent phone call from a client for a rush photoshoot led to a great opportunity to use the lighting skills I learned many years ago at the BBC. All I knew was we had the Bristol Museum available for 2 hours and we needed a couple of wow shots for an event campaign.

I suggested a few models and together with designer Molly Mishy May, we worked out the plan. Vicki was to do Victoria’s hair at my studio ahead of the shoot to save time on set and while I rigged lights she was to work with Donatella. It was a great plan and it worked perfectly.

You have to start with the end in mind. As soon as I was on set with my clients I established the fact they wanted one shot with portrait orientation for a poster and leaflet campaign with space at the top and on the left for text and one landscape orientated shot for body copy. Both shots needed to show the museum as a classic building suitable to hold functions. The models were to be in dramatic poses as if playing roles in a performance rather than just looking pretty.


02. My first still was taken using the lighting rig shown in the sketch above. This was not on the client’s list but I shot it for me while we were waiting for Donatella’s hair and makeup to be completed. I’m in love with classic film lighting from a bygone era and use every chance I get to recreate it.

I needed the house lights in the museum turned off so my first job was to rig a Lupo spotlight for Vicki Waghorn to work on Donatella’s hair and makeup. I then established the camera position and rigged my tripod. Working from a tripod enables me to see at a glance what is in shot and what is not. That enabled me to set the lights in the right places from the start.


03. This is my first shot for the client and included both girls. See the lighting plot below.


04. This is the lighting plot for shot 3 above. I added the second key light for Donatella. I used a Lupo 650 tightly doored in to keep the spill off Victoria. You can see Donatella’s shadow from the light on the back pillar in picture 3 above.

I chose to use the 23mm lens on my Fujifilm X-T1 because that focal length gives a wonderfully natural perspective. The relative size of objects in the frame is completely natural. The Fuji 23mm f/1.4 prime lens exhibits superb 3D rendering.

Using the wifi feature for this kind of job is wonderful too. The backlight on Victoria (in the foreground) was rigged on the second floor balcony and I could see exactly where it was going using my iPhone 6+ screen in real time without the trial and error of point and guess. I used a Lupo LED 1000 for this job and rigged it on full power and in full spot mode. It was lighting Victoria from about 30m away and that’s the beauty of using lights with lenses, they have a decent throw.

There was no mains power close to hand where I rigged the light so I used a V-mount battery instead. The Lupo 1000 can run for over 2 hours on one moderate 130Wh battery.

Lighting strategy

When lighting big spaces I either:

a) Light the space in the building and let people go where they want in that space. Good examples of this strategy are reality tv programmes like Big Brother, shows like Grand Designs and the TV coverage in the Houses of Parliament.

or b) Light the walls and fabric of the building separately from the people within it. This technique is more often used for big budget TV dramas like 24, NCIS and Downton Abbey plus virtually every feature film since the 1940s.

I went for strategy b. I set the lights on the walls of the building in the background and then lit Victoria and Donatella separately.


05. This, the most complicated setup required me to shift a key light into an alcove on the left just tucked out of shot. This became Victoria’s keylight in her new position high on the stairs. There was no power in the alcove so I used a V-mount battery to power the Lupo LED 650. I can get over 4 hours use on full power from a 130Wh battery between charges.


06. This is the lighting plot for the shot 5. above.

It’s quite possible to make a small lighting kit go a long way when working in big locations. I rigged all the lights myself and the super rugged, ultra-lightweight construction of the Lupo fresnels means they are a doddle to cary and rig.

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