When you do plan the lighting, how much thought do you give the photographers or videographers?
Regardless of what you might think - us photographers and film makers really love light. They are lying if they say they don't need light.
Sure, a bunch of hipster, sock-less, skin-tight jeans wearing people will tell you that their cameras can shoot in zero light but they cannot defy the laws of physics.
No one is going to argue that gathering images whether it be still or moving is not all about light- but what I’ve noticed over the years is that people really fail to consider anything or anyone other than the overall aesthetic when setting up and lighting a venue.
Sure, we need less light than we used to 'back in the day.' Cameras are very good now at dealing with low light, but we do still need some. It might look pretty having the walls washed with a lovely purple and green uplighter, and some tea lights on the table, but it’s really not conducive for image making.
I understand that the lighting designer, the event company and the client want to have the ‘wow’. I’m not disputing the need for creating a killer atmosphere - but then this leaves us other bunch of image making creatives in a little quandary.
Without going into the technical reasons - we are usually left with some choices. All of which involve the basic principal of adding more light. Somehow.
- Use a flash
- Use a higher ISO (sensitivity) on the cameras
- Use a light on top of the camera
There’s pros and cons of each method but none are ideal.
A flash or a top light can annoy people, they can be very intrusive and possibly ruin the atmosphere anyway. If we pump up the sensitivity on the cameras then you get more ‘noise’ or grain on the images - which can impact clarity but will enable us to get more ‘atmospheric’ photos as the trade off.
It’s a balancing act. One which I deal with daily. Which method will look the best- but which method will capture the moment best? There is a trade off.
Also, even if you’re told by the hipsters that their camera is the latest and greatest - the laws of physics demand that to freeze action you need a decent shutter speed. One which is tricky to get in low light levels - unless that is, you have some more light, so you can increase the shutter speed and freeze the action. This is why you see photos that are nice but people are blurry if they even move slightly, or clapping their hands at an award show. Slow shutter speeds are ok if people are static.. not when things are moving.
Now…what if (I’m going to throw this out there) the event designer/production company/planner liaised with the photographers/videographers et al to get some level of light that would provide a happy trade off between balance of light and atmosphere.
We are almost NEVER consulted - yet a lot of importance is placed on images and keepsakes from the event.
It’s also the same when it comes to lighting on a stage - whether it be for a gala dinner - or a conference. The stage lights LOOK good - but they can be too low for nicely exposed shots without cranking up the settings or flashing away as I mentioned before.
It’s a stage - it should be lit well. I don’t really see a creative reason for having underpowered lighting on a stage.
Then we have a projector. Please consider this too. If you have a projector shooting out over the stage and people wander around when they talk and present, you WILL get the projector splashing over their faces. It looks rubbish on camera, and incredibly hard to get a decent shot when half of the CEO’s face has part of his Powerpoint presentation splashed over it. Back projection is the way to go. It might cost more - but it’s very very worth it. The projector is behind the screen not in front of it. It’s much better visually and gives us cleaner, nicer shots too.
Finally - haze or stage smoke as it’s known as. It’s going to make the photos of people on stage look washed out - especially if we have to use a flash to get the image. A flash will illuminate certain types of haze particles in the air and cause all sorts of nasty looking images.
Ideally - if there’s a lot of stage based activity, ease off the haze during the awards or presentations. Get it nice for the walk in, get it nice for the disco after but try and keep it a little more clear at least some of the time.
I would also suggest setting time aside for a lighting run-through of each setup. I always try and have 10/15 mins to go through with the tech crew the different lighting states.
This gives me a heads up on what I’ll have to deal with when the doors open. I’ll ask them to step through each ‘scene’, so walk in state, dinner state, awards state etc.
What I can do at this stage is limited but I’m often able to ask them to pump in a tiny bit more ambient light to the room - barely noticeable to the guests and client but enough to give me a little more oomph with the images.
I also ask to do a run through of the stage lighting - and get an idea what the presentation will look like - so take the speaker from their rehearsal and pop them in position. Ask the lighting folks to show you the state of the lighting and the set the camera up - I usually set my camera up to this in a preset so I can flick in and out of it as needed. Sometimes I mark the floor with tape so they stand in the right spot when it comes to the 'handshake-slap-on-the-back-stand-in-a-group-award' presentation shot.
There we have it - think of us and consult us when you’re planning your event and you’ll get even better memories because you’ll be able to see people.