How To Light Subjects That Move

October 6, 2015


On video productions, filmmaker and educator Eduardo Angel recommends continuous lights with adjustable color temperatures for balancing mixed lighting. 

Photographers and video makers have shared their techniques for lighting moving subjects. Their advice covers not only how to choose lighting that can freeze a splash or capture action on location, but also advice for getting believable, consistent and cinematic lighting when working on a video production. Full interviews with these photographers, and other step-by-step details on lighting still and video productions, can be found at

How I Got That Shot: Capturing Perfect Scoops of Ice Cream

Beauty and still-life photographer Lisa Shin frequently lights luxury items and cosmetics in a way that creates “sexy, dramatic shadows and glowing highlights.” For a campaign for Haagen-Dazs, creatives at Team One hired Shin to apply the same technique to shooting ice cream. The job required her to capture a pour of chocolate syrup and bring out its sheen, shooting at 1/7500 of a second. “It’s very much like photographing a shiny, metallic mascara bottle,” says Shin, who explains all the steps she took to freeze each flavor of ice cream at the proper temperature, and make sure her products didn’t melt on set. 

5 Lighting Design Tips for Video Productions 

Photographer and filmmaker Eduardo Angel shares his tips for lighting videos, including his favorite methods to maintain consistency when shooting over extended periods of time. That typically requires him to minimize the effect of the ambient, natural light on the scene; he explains how he and his crew do that.  

How Storyboarding Can Make Your Video More Cinematic

Cinematographer Ryan E. Walters says that one of the most important steps in the pre-production process leading up to a video shoot is creating a storyboard based on a careful location scout. He explains how he evaluates the light available in the location and how it might shift, and the apps he uses to map the sun at any location. This information goes into a detailed, frame-by-frame map of all the shots he needs to fully tell a story with video.

Christa Renee’s Sun-Chasing Kit

Advertising photographer Christa Renee is known for her lifestyle shoots for swimwear, travel, fashion and athletic brands. She describes the essential gear—including lights, light modifiers, lenses, plastic bags and weatherproofing—she packs for her action-filled shoots to ensure she can bring back the shots her client needs, even when a sudden downpour ruins her best-laid plans. 

Photographing a Shiny New Ferrari

Tim Damon has been an automotive photographer for 25 years, but he says being given the keys to a new Ferrari for two days with instructions from the client to take “cool pictures” was “a dream job.” In addition to making shots outdoors and in his own shooting bay, he also photographed the car in a dark parking garage that he transformed into a studio. Using multiple lights and a camera rig of his own design, he shot a long exposure that showed the contours of the car in detail, but showed the dark walls around it as a blur. That required adjusting the lighting to accommodate the car’s movement. “When you’re doing a rig shot you don’t put a light here and there,” he explains. “The only way you’re going to get it is to start doing your exposure, and then moving your lights. It sounds tedious but it’s fun.”

How I Got That Shot: Creating a Question Mark Out of Champagne

Bill Cahill has extensive experience shooting liquids and splashes. Creature in Seattle hired him to shoot an ad for the Champagne Bureau, the trade association, that required him to sculpt the effervescent liquid into the shape of a question mark. He worked with a prop maker who crafted tubing, and tested different splashes as well as lights and cards. He was most concerned with lighting the outline of the model and bringing out highlights in the droplets on the edges. He notes, “Champagne is a fairly pale color liquid. It generally just looks like bubbly water against black if you don’t light it properly.”