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    • #4177
      Laura Berlage

      While your background setup and your off-camera stash of all the supplies and materials you need can be constantly evolving with you, needing to get your lighting right should be a top of the list priority.  It can be the difference between students enjoying their time with you or being frustrated, or whether or not you come across as polished and professional.

      This is where my training in theater has been very helpful, so here are some of the highlights from that discipline that will help you get your lighting right.  There’s so much more to this subject than buying a ring light and propping it on your desk!

      Lighting appears best on a human, especially the countours of their face, when it is directed at the presenter from 45 degrees on each side plus 45 degrees up from eye level.  Higher than this, and it’s all top-lighting.  Lower than this and you’ll have a constant headache from feeling like you’re looking into headlights all the time.  Too dead-on center and you’ll lose the interesting nature of your face, too far to each side and hard shadows will appear.  To help differentiate you from your background, a top light (steep backlight) is helpful, as it will highlight the top of your hair and add three-dimensional pop.

      The images below show the perils of having your light source all from one direction:  side, top, and bottom.


      You may need to purchase more lights for this, or you may already have what you need.  In my teaching space, there are can lights on two tracks in the ceiling.  I was able to simply move these around and reposition them to create an even wash of light from the right angles.  Watch for “hot spots” or places where there is too much light all in one spot.  These will cause areas to “wash out” on the camera and read as white with no definition or color.

      Beyond lighting you, it’s also essential to have lights that are focused on your background, so this doesn’t become lost in darkness or hard shadows cast by you.  This is known as background lighting.  It should appear warm and not as bright as how you as the presentor are lit.

      Using the right temperature of light can also be very important.  Warm or yellow light will appear cozy, but it’s terrible when it comes to accurately representing colors as viewed by the camera.  Cold or blue light is also the same as well as chilly.  Give flourescent lights a hard pass!  Ick!  The best lighting for teaching the arts is daylight, which does not add a color to what is being viewed.  If you must lean one way, lean warm on you and your background but daylight on your work space.

      When lighting your work surface, I have found that flexiblity is especially important, as one project may require more or less light at a certain angle than the next, or you may need to change your position or angle of the camera, and you want the light to follow you.  classroom lightsOften, for the camera that is looking at your hands and work surface, you want the light source to be coming from the direction of the camera (usually a variation of overhead), so this will be at a very differen angle from the lights aiming at you.

      At the right, I have a bar style Ottlite, which hits both my hair highlights and washes my work surface.  At left, I have a smaller (gray) gooseneck light that I can easily move around and adjust to bring light from a second angle to my work.  Both these lights have the option to be brighter or dimmer as needed.

      What type of lighting is currently available in your potential teaching space?  How might you improve it?  What shadows might need mitigation?

      What quesitons do you have about lighting you and your space?  This facet is often overlooked, but it’s soooooo important.  Let’s rock this one.


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