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How do I light a white room?

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    How do I light a white room?

    I have to shoot a dramatic scene in a white room. I have to shoot in the room. I cannot paint the walls. I will repeat. I have to shoot in the room. I cannot paint the walls.

    So, my question is, how do I light it to look like this?

    or like this...

    And not like this.

    I understand there is very little light in the vimeo clip and a lot of light in the stills. I just don't understand the application of light. Please explain in simple terms. I understand wattage (2k, 1k) but am not familiar with all the kinds of lights.

    The two stills you showed us, are lit by a great amount of ambient light reflecting from the outdoors through the window.

    In the first photo, any direct light coming inside is diffused by the window, while in the second photo, the light rays are just not able to come inside and the light is instead just ambient bounce.

    Either way it's very soft bounced light and lots of it. If you think you have this setup but it's still dark inside you will have to use some lights to replicate the look. To do this, just fill the room with as much bounced and/or reflected light as possible. No hard light unless you want to replicate light rays coming into the room, which none of your examples have.

    Most important is your color temperature. MAKE SURE IT IS BALANCED. Have it match the daylight source and then properly white balance the camera. Notice that the video of which you dont want it to look like has that yellow/orange color temperature. We can tell that room is lit by incandescent lights. Color balance.

    To get soft light, use diffusion. If you don't have diffusion point the light at the ceiling and let it bounce back around the room. If you don't want to do that, you can go buy a piece of white foam core board. You can bounce the light off of it as well. I prefer the ceiling because I think it showers down in the most believable way.

    To get your tungsten light to match the daylight you will have to use CTB but depending on the time of day and etc, the strength may vary.
    Last edited by Ryan Patrick O'Hara; 12-19-2007, 11:29 PM.

    If cinematography wasn't infinite, I'm sure I would have found the end by now.


      Thanks Prodigy. Okay, so I bounce as much light as I can off walls. And then in my close-ups, I can further more specifically light the subject.

      I'm a little shady on color temperature and balancing. I've read a lot about it, but it isn't really starting to click until now that I have to apply it. That just means throw one of those blue gels on my lights source, right?

      And as for the real lights (like the lamps), I understand that I have to change those bulbs to match the light (so they aren't orange?). If that's the case, are those bulbs expensive? Where can I find them? Can you get them for both lamps and chandeliers (chandeliers have those special flame-shaped bulbs). What are they called?

      Thanks for the response.


        Color temperature can come in all degrees but in common practice, sunlight is rated as 5600* kelvin, and tungsten is rated at 3200*.... but these are arguable depending on opinion and, for daylight, time of day. The lower the degree's kelvin, the more orange/red. The higher the degree's kelvin the more blueish, the light is.

        To make tungsten match the daylight, (depending on the time of day outside, and depending on your light bulb), you will need some CTB (That blue gel) to equal them out. CTB comes in many forms, 1/8th, 1/4th, 1/2, full and so on.

        As far as 'real lights', are you referring to ones you are using to light the scene, or are they lights we see in the scene like a table lamp? If they are lamps you are using to light the scene, then don't replace the bulb and just use the gels.

        If you are referring to the lights in the scene, (set decoration, practicals, or props), I would like to know why they are on. If you are going for a middle of the day, bright white room look, a lamp would not be on. The ceiling lights would not be on. Notice all the ceiling lights in your examples are not on. Usually lights turned on in a house means it's dark outside or etc.

        If you must have a lamp on, and so forth, you can find some bulbs that are rated in the daylight spectrum. I'd expect they are more expensive then average bulbs, but probably not more then energy saving light bulbs and other high end consumer bulbs.

        If cinematography wasn't infinite, I'm sure I would have found the end by now.



          I'd assume this white room has at least one window ? This is your light source.

          If the sunlight is bright enough; I'd use that light as your primary and then fill in your talent using bounced light

          The room is going to look like crap if you start spraying light all over the place; flat.

          If you need to bounce due to the light not coming in strong enough, try bouncing off the floor (Put down a large white sheet) and flag off the main light source; even if soft, try and control it somewhat.


          For the lamps (practicals), I'd use those simply for effect and not as a light source. You can replace incandescents with little Floros from Home Depot; they come in more daylight friendly colors.


            JR is correct. You start bouncing light all over the place and you will be sad. This kind of situation calls for controlling the light and a lot of flagging. Start with the question, how many windows in your room, are you going to see them in the shot? With those answers you can determine if you can shape any of the light coming thru those windows. In a feature we would build a tent outside of the window (controlling the natural light from changing), and use lights from outside the window. You could also add diffusion on the window. Be creative, use paper if you can't afford gels.
            You could also knock the outside light down a lot and add light in the room. Again, the key is control. Keep as much light off the walls as possible. Sure, bounce some light off the ceiling, but use duvatine (or just black fabric) to create a skirt that hangs down and flags the light from hitting the walls directly.

            Good Luck


              You could setup an HMI outside the window and gel it to match your daylight source. Or have the HMI inside bounced off the ceiling. Or you could put CTO on your windows and bounce your tungsten lights off the ceiling or off b-board.

              Or CTB your tungsten lights to match daylight temperature. It's pretty flat lighting in those pictures and pretty easy to replicate. I think it looks pretty undramatic, you're gonna want to create some contrast by controlling where your light spills.