Tips to Achieve the Look of Film with Digital
Like how do we shoot to get this film look that I'm talking about, right? So, I think one, I'm gonna go for like just the most easy way right now. And again like all rules are meant to be broken but you have to know the rules before you can break them, right? So, I'll stick with like the most basic rule and if you're looking for safe I would go for even lighting, like low contrast lighting. The way I would describe that is like how quickly it goes from shadow to shadow to highlights. For example, if you just look at your shadow, if you're standing like right now I would say this is low contrast light because I don't really see my shadow on the floor. However, if we had the sun right here and it was like shining really harsh on me you would see a very clearly defined shadow, right? So it would go from highlights to shadow like really quickly, right? And so that we would say is high contrast. So, when it's a very gradual fade from shadow to highlights then we say that's low contrast. And...
low contrast lighting is like it's very flattering light especially for skin and portraiture, and it's very soft as well. Couple tips if you're looking for low contrast light, the first thing is a large light source. Right now this is our light source and it's huge, right? It's way bigger than me. And so, as a result I'm getting light coming from this way, this way, this way, right? And so, you don't get, that's why there's not really harsh shadows on my face because it's being kind of filled in a lot in different places. However, you can imagine if I was to just shine, if this room is dark and I was to have one lamp here, right, and if it was just one light bulb here, that light would not be able to hit this side of my face, right? It would come here and then like here and then you'd end up seeing shadow here and shadow here, right? So that's high contrast because that's a small light source. The bigger your light source the more it's able to fill in all the nooks and crannies and crevices. The other way you can get less contrast is if you're closer to the light source. Because the closer you are to the light source in a sense it's bigger now. Whereas when you're far. So if you think about the sun, right, the sun is actually super huge in reality but because it's so far away from us it's almost like, when we look at the sun it's like that big, right? So it's almost equivalent to having a light source that that's big. So that's why it ends up giving us really harsh shadows. And then when you have an overcast day like this it diffuses the light and now it's making that light source really huge and that's why it's soft or lower contrast and it's coming from all different directions now. That brings me into the last point of how to get less contrast is you can do it, manipulate it yourself by either using a diffuser or a reflector. So, if the light is looking a little bit harsh you can always get like either a white sheet, if you're in a room you can throw over like white sheers and then that kind of just softens up the light source. If you are outside like at a wedding and you're trying to shoot something and there's like splotchy lighting on it you can just use, like find a sheet, a big sheet of paper or a cardboard or something and hold it to block off some of the light. If you are outside and you're trying to take a portrait of someone and there's like really harsh light coming on them, you can hold the diffuser up on them or you can reflect some light back as well, and I'll show you that when we do our live shoot in a bit. The other thing just to make your editing easier is if you can avoid mixed lighting and color cast. All light has a certain temperature like sunlight is a different temp, is warmer than cloudy day, right, and tungsten light is like super warm or candlelight, right? So, all those are different light sources but they all have different temperatures. How many of you guys have like tried to take a picture usually on the phone and you're in a room and there's like probably multiple light sources. Usually I feel like it's like fluorescent light going on out there and then there's like lamps that has different light. And what happens is your phone does or your camera, whatever it is, it doesn't know which to white balance to. Well, what's white? And at this point like if it tries to adjust to the fluorescent light then everything else looks super warm and if it tries to adjust to the warm then the other light looks cool, right? And especially if you're gonna have one side like if you're having natural light coming in on this side and then artificial light coming in on this side it's gonna be an editing nightmare. So to make your life easier if you can make it just all one lighting that would make your life a lot easier and then color cast comes from let's say if you're on top of a green field, that green grass is actually putting up like a green, casting up green light. And you're gonna see like this really funky green color on their skin and that's really hard to edit as well. So, we'll go over some of that in a bit. The quickest way to find even light is if you have an overcast day, great. That means the light is gonna be even all around, you can shoot from any angle and it would look more or less the same. The other way is open shade. If you can get them into a large shady area then for the most part the light is gonna be even, contrast is gonna be low and then you know that it will be flattering on their skin tone. If you are in the northern hemisphere you can also find a north facing wall and a north, the sun, and if you are in southern hemisphere you find the south facing wall. That's why they say like oh, to find north find where the moss grows on the tree because that's where it doesn't really hit light. So, if you in the worse case and you're like not knowing where to shoot and it's so bright and sunny, look for north facing wall and chances are you'll find some bit of shade there. And then the one that we're gonna do today is indoor light or window light. I hit that one too fast, fast, that's okay. The one we're gonna do next is window light and that's what we're gonna really focus on today. I think we get a little bit of like playing around with trying to diffuse and reflect and so this will be a lot of fun. But I think this one is if it's a really harsh day and you have the option of bringing your bride in or your clients in, it's an easy way to get some nice, soft light on them as well. And regardless of how you choose to light them I think the key with getting that light and airy look, that ethereal, romantic, filmy look is you have to expose for the shadows. So in this example shot here, I'm exposing for the shadow because I'm exposing for like here, right? If I let the camera do the job the camera probably would have tried to even it out and expose for here and as a result I probably would have gotten a silhouette, right, like especially phones. You deal with that a lot, right? If it's heavy back lighting you end up with a silhouette. So, the nice thing is if you're shooting with your DSLR you can tell your DSLR manually what the settings should be. And so, you can tell it to expose for the shadows and that's how you can get your shadows to be nice and bright and then everything else just kinda fades off. The other tip that I have for you is to shoot as wide open as appropriate. I say appropriate because if I'm doing a group shot like a group of 20 people I'm not gonna shoot at 1.2, right? Like I'm gonna end up getting like a couple people on focus, right? So, as appropriate. Now, there are certain tricks you can do to get as much info because like, like you can see with this one, right? This is super shallow depth of field, I'm focusing on her hand here and everything else is blurry, right? So, how do we get that look? How do we get that maximum pretty blur without sacrificing what you need to be in detail, right? And that's what I mean by appropriate is how much of it do you need in detail. So, I compare, when I think of aperture I think of it in a loaf of bread. (laughs) So, how thick is your slice of bread is to me that means like how, what's your aperture at is my way of thinking. So, pretend I am the camera and this whole room you guys are all in a loaf of bread. I'm picturing you guys as little sprinkles of raisins inside my bread right now, okay? The smaller your aperture is the thinner the slices of bead is gonna be. Let's say you're shooting at 1. or any aperture for that fact, right? What happens is think of the slices of bread as parallel lines to your camera, right? So if my camera's like this all the bread is sliced parallel to the camera. If I rotate this way, the slices of breads are this way and this is what I tell my assistants too when I'm trying to. It's like hey, are they all in the same slice of bread? If you want, whatever you want in focus they all have to be on the same slice of bread. So any of the raisins that are on the other slices of breads will become out of focus. And the further you are from that slice of bread the more out of focus you get, right? Now, how thin or thick that slice of bread is your aperture. So, if I am shooting at 1.2, this slice of bread is probably gonna be like your shoes like right now, right? If I'm shooting at 2.0 maybe the whole front row is on that slice of bread now. If I am shooting at 4. maybe it's a thick cut of slice of bread and maybe rows one and two are on one slice of bread now. So if you wanna maximize the blur and you wanna be as shallow as possible then you wanna make sure that everything that needs to be in focus is on that same slice of bread. Now, I think this is easy to visualize because you guys are literally in rows and you guys, I really see you guys in like bread right now. (laughs) But if you're shooting a portrait for example, if this is a close up picture of me, this slice of bread now and if I'm turning side ways to you like this, this slice of bread is really thin now. The difference between if you're focusing on my ear versus my nose, right, is gonna change the focus. That's where you wanna make sure if it's a person you wanna focus on their eyes because when you're looking at a picture you're trying to connect to them by looking at their eyes, right? You wanna make sure that their eye is in focus. Now, if you want both eyes in focus then both eyes needs to be in that same slice of bread but if you are going for something more soft and romantic and you don't need both eyes then you can have them turn this way. But know that if they're turning this way then only one eye is gonna be in focus. And so, you make that artistic call yourself whether you need both eyes or one eye. If you're shooting two people same thing, they need to be on that same slice of bread or one is gonna be out of focus if you have one back here, right? (laughs) So hopefully you'll think of me every time you see bread now. (laughs) In summary, if you want more blur you can either or these things. I mean and/or, you can lower your aperture to as low as appropriate. You can use a longer lens. So, a 85 is gonna get a lot more blur in the background than say a 35 would. That's why portrait lenses are typically long, like people like shooting portrait lenses with like or portraits with like an 85, 135 or 200. I mean, 200 you'd be like way back there but it does get really nice compression and you get the pretty blur in the background. And then other one is you can either move closer to the subject. For example, if I'm shooting you from back here there's gonna be a lot less blur than if I come really close to you. If I come really close to you then now everything else is gonna go all blur in the background. And then the other way is you can separate your subject from the background. So, that's like basically separating them from the piece of bread or from a different, right? So let's say I want a picture of just you by yourself and I want everyone else out in focus then I will bring her on a different slice of bread. And then I will only focus on this slice of bread and then the further, like the further you are from that focus bread, slice, the more blurry you will get. And so, here's an example of, okay. So, this was right before the ceremony and I saw my assistant take this picture of the boy, of the ring bearer. And I was like, oh my god, what a perfect moment but I knew immediately, I was like, I could get more blur out of this, right? So like I said if I want more blur, if I wanted more separation of the background, more blur from the background what were some of the options that I could do?
Closer, move closer.
Yeah, so bring them away from the wall. So now the wall is on a much further slice of bread than he is, right? I could also come closer to the boy that adds more compression to it now. I could also make it a lower aperture or what was the other one, lower aperture, longer lens, right. Thank you. (laughs) Yeah and so, for me and her we were on the same camera, same lens. So longer lens was not an option for me. I'm pretty sure I was already at the lowest aperture that I possible could have been so that was not an option for me. And so, my remaining options was separate him from the wall and then if I could get closer to him but if I got closer to him then it would be a different, like amount of him, right, and I wanted some of his cute outfit. So, that kind of had to stay fixed. Separating him from the wall, you could see the big difference, right, between the blur. Different slice of breads, okay. So, the other thing that I think can, like helps give that film look is if you slow down your shutter speed. I think there's a very organic nature to film and I feel like one thing that makes something look too digital is sometimes when it's too tact sharp. And I feel like I first experience this with TV like when Blu-ray first came out. And then now, I don't know, I don't watch TV by the way. So, whatever those new TVs are now but whenever I come across a new TV like it's so real that it's not even real anymore. Like it's so sharp and it kind, I feel like it really like messes with my perception a little bit. Like I prefer just like soft and romantic. Actually when I was at the optometrist he was like one or two, right? Like three or four, like between the two and there was two where I was really close for my prescription. He's like, "Which one do you like better?" And I was like, "Well, I don't know." They both work, one is sharper than the other and he's like, okay. Well, he's like, that's kind of a matter of preference. I was like, well, I prefer my world to look more soft. (laughs) So I was like, I'll go for the less sharp prescription but it made me think about shooting. It's like yeah, I prefer things to just not to be tact sharp because I think that's, maybe it's really because I don't wear glasses when I kinda need glasses and so I'm used to seeing the world a little bit blurry. (laughs) But I like it. I think it's more soft, I think it's more romantic and I like that look. And so, I find that when I shoot digitally sometimes, when it's too sharp it just feel so artificial to me. Like it almost feels like CGI. You know, like it's just not real. I feel like real life is like, is imperfect. There's movement to it, there's life to it and I think motion comes with that. So I'm okay with a little bit of blur. I mean, obviously you have to have certain things and I think there's a very fine balance between getting what needs to be in focus focused and then some room for like blur. Like for example that dress that reception shot where she was spinning, her face was focused. It was the dress that was moving, right? And so, this is kind of in general. I just threw out some numbers, so this is assuming that it's not like a really fast moving person. This is like a portrait session you're doing. If you wanna freeze people I usually try to stick between a 1/60 and 1/250. 1/250 does that make, okay. (laughs) So yeah, I try to stick between 1/60 and 1/ because I feel like it's, unless they are running or like jumping like that then that to me is what I'm able to freeze most people at. And again, it depends on again, how much movement they're doing and how much movement I want. If you are shooting someone who's jumping then this is like physics lesson but velocity is zero at the top. So, if you're gonna try to catch them you wanna try to catch them at the very top and that's when they will freeze for you. They are fastest on their, like obviously on the way down, right? Because it gets faster and faster. So, if you're shooting kids jumping or if you wanna try to anticipate to click that shutter when they're at their top. And then if you are handholding your camera to avoid because there's good motion, there's good shake or good blur and bad blur, right? There's artsy blur and there's mistake blur. So, handheld blur is not like I don't love that one and so, I know that when I'm shooting with my camera typically I can handhold up to a 1/30. Sometimes a 1/15 if I need to but I start to get a little bit nervous if I'm doing a 1/15. But that also depends on your focal length too. If I'm shooting with like a 70- then the longer the lens the more blur you're gonna get from it. And so, I try to not go lower than what the focal length is. So I'm shooting with a 50 millimeter lens then I try to stay like at a 1/ because I know if I drop below then there's the chances of blur a little bit, right? So I'll still push it to a 1/ but I'll try to keep it there. If I'm shooting with a then I'm gonna keep it higher, right, like 1/60 or 1/125. And then if I'm doing like a 70- for sure that one like I try to stay at 1/125 or higher otherwise it's gonna start, you're gonna get motion, like handshake from it.