Lighting a studio is not something that most of us do much…if ever. There’s a huge selection of strange looking lamps from an endless list of brands. Before you get started with the rest of the studio building task, here’s a few tips to know before you light a studio.
1. Know Your Subject Matter
I always ask the same question first when helping a client with a studio lighting project: “What is your application going to be?” This single question can cut the time it takes to design the right lighting package down to a fraction. If you’re primarily using the space to film a single subject sitting behind a desk, the lighting you need will look different than a studio designed for multiple subjects, or multiple cameras, or even larger subjects like cars for example.
By knowing what it is that you’re going to be pointing the lights at, it makes it much easier to answer some of the questions that will come later. For example:
- How many lights do I need for my studio?
- Where do I place my lights?
- How do I power my lights?
- What color temperature should I get?
- What type of light fixtures should I buy?
Just knowing your application will give a very good clue to the answers to these questions. So before you hammer a single nail of stage or hang one c-clamp, figure out what you’ll shoot when you’re all done!
2. Ceiling Height Matters
This may actually be the biggest factor to consider when doing a permanent studio lighting install. Sure, there are a lot of other things to consider that seem like they may be more important – but ultimately, you just have to have room!
One thing that most people don’t consider is that the best type of light to use will change with how high up it needs to be placed. If your lighting grid is 25 feet from the talent, it makes more sense to use a longer throw light fixture such as a high powered fresnel. Conversely, many people do studio lighting installs in small spaces that have an 8-foot drop ceiling, which leaves very little clearance and requires some creativity to do well. In this case, a good option would be a panel light with a side mount yoke to push the fixture as close to the ceiling as possible.
Finding the right fixture can seem like a chore with all of the choices that exist. Knowing which tool works best for the space will make choosing the right one much easier.
3. You Probably Need More Lighting…
Of course the lighting guy is going to say this… No, but really, it’s true. I learned very quickly when I started doing studio lighting designs that you need to inform a client that in the end they will probably need more fixtures than they think they do, and also that it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind and let your lighting designer figure out if and how they can make the budget work.
The alternative is usually someone who wants to build their studio design around a fixture that they picked out, and then change the design or reposition lights to lessen the number of fixtures needed in order to fit their budget. We have many repeat customers that have come back because they didn’t buy enough output the first time and they were set on using a specific fixture. Let the lighting designer struggle with that! If it doesn’t fit into the budget, make them go back to the drawing board until they find a solution that satisfies their expertise AND your wallet!