How to Correct Cosmetic Issues with Lighting

Redheads draw 800W eachEvery cinematographer needs to make the cast look good. Here are some quick tips for minimising blemishes and undesirable physical attributes. To any readers who have been lit by me, please don’t get a complex! These techniques can also be used to make someone who’s already flawless look even more amazing. Conversely, if you have a bad guy, or a character who needs to look ill, or a prosthetic monster make-up, you might want to do the opposite of what I suggest below.

  • Thinning hair – Avoid toplight and strong backlight, which will show up the scalp under the hair.
  • Wrinkles, spots and scars –¬†Avoid lighting that will throw shadows from these features, e.g. cross-light (meaning light from the side). Instead put the key light as close to the camera as possible. Ideally use a soft source. If you’re still seeing shadows, add more fill.
  • Double chins, bags under the eyes, general appearance of tiredness – Use Health Bounce – a reflector placed under the talent’s face to eliminate shadows cast from above.
  • Small or deep-set eyes – Again, use Health Bounce. It will help get light into the eye sockets¬†and put a sparkle of reflection in the eyeballs.
  • Weak jawline – Use three-quarter backlight (a.k.a. “kicker”) to create a rim along the jawline on one side.
  • Shiny skin – This may be a make-up issue, but you can help by using bounced light. Kinoflos, though they are soft sources, are amongst the worst culprits for creating shine.
  • Big nose – Keep the key light close to the camera to minimise the shadow the nose casts.

To learn more about lighting, check out my post on key light angles and my series of lighting techniques.

How to Correct Cosmetic Issues with Lighting