All too often students and teachers forget that a camera is a box that records light. It doesn’t matter if it is a still photograph or video, light is something all camera operators MUST be keenly aware of. The intensity, color, and direction of light should be taken into consideration at all times.
When it comes to direction of light, the biggest mistake I see made in yearbook and newspaper headshots, as well as television interview shots, is the reliance on top light. Top light often renders the subject looking tired and ill. The eyes do not sparkle and are often hidden in the shadows. The simple use of front light solves all those problems. If a front light isn’t available, a reflector or fill flash can help!
If you’d like to learn more about direction of light, I highly recommend a video by Joe Edelmann titled “Photography Lighting Lesson – Remember the EGG” https://youtu.be/qM7CcUrUD2g where he illustrates how light direction impacts nearly all aspects of still and moving images.
As far as color temperature goes, the sheer fact that many people forget to white balance a camera often leads to moments where subjects either resemble a Smurf or an Oompa Loompa. Figure out how to white balance your camera pronto! If you forget, do all you can to make those whites white and skin tones less cartoonish by learning ways to fix color temperature in photo or video software. Nearly every platform for editing has ways to correct color temperature.
To learn more about color temperature, I recommend an article by Digital Photography School simply titled “Introduction to White Balance” https://digital-photography-school.com/introduction-to-white-balance/. Reading this can be a lifesaver.
Light intensity can be a little confusing to some people, but I have a scenario that helps my students understand the concept. Imagine you are in the passenger seat of a car on a cloudy day. Suddenly, the sun pops out and it’s BLINDING. The driver is fumbling for sunglasses to cut the glare after they put down the sun visor. That is the difference between soft diffused light and hard light.
From there, we talk about how hard light can come in handy when we want dramatic shadows, but not so much when it causes a subject to squint painfully. Learning when to use hard and soft light is just another skillset to add to the digital storytellers toolbox.
Short Courses has a quick read on hard and soft light http://www.shortcourses.com/tabletop/lighting2-8.html that includes photographic examples to help drive home the point.
Remember, lighting should be first and foremost on the mental checklist when operating any type of camera. I think the inventor of roll film and founder of Kodak, George Eastman, said it best. “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”