On Camera Vs Off Camera Vs Round The Camera

On Camera Vs Off Camera Vs Round The Camera

A friend of mine has commenced making a series of dance videos that go out over the internet on the Instagram site.

They are little video clips taken in her own studio. I hasten to add it’s a dance studio, not a photographic one. They are colourful and musical and have a keen following – but they are lit with an LED system that is normally associated with video conferencing. This is apparently a ring-light tube that encircles a camera or mobile phone.

It’s bright enough and the auto white balance of the recording device seems to be able to cope pretty well with the colours and the contrasts. But the problem is that there is no life to the light…even though there is plenty of life in the dancer.

We’ve all seen the visual convention of the ring-light and the way it renders fashion or scientific photos. Every maker of big studio gear seems to have some solution that is either a real or faux ring light. That 60’s and 70’s shadowless model look. If you see a number of Zoom internet conferences you’ll also recognise it…and it may well be a comfort for these. At least you get to see the other participants clearly without burying their faces in shadow or giving them horrendous bald spot blowouts.

All well and good, but it does nothing at all for a dancer who wants to show flashy costumes, bling, and muscle movements. The same may well be said if one tries to define it with still photography and sticks to an on-camera flash. The product shots I do with just this sort of setup in the CE shop are clear illustrations but there is no glamour to them.

The business of video lighting is far more complex than I could list here, and a lot more technical than I understand. But the principles of getting the lights away from the axis of the lens and providing a main for definition and a fill for shadows still apply. There are more and more video lights coming out that mimic the classic studio flashes’ use of reflectors and modifiers and even better: multi-light LED panels that can entirely substitute for ambient lighting. As many of them can change colour temperature you can match the ambient light while giving emphasis to your main subject.

Methinks it is time to go looking at CE to see what a light panel can do for the dance. Join me, Mr. De Mille, down the back of the Stirling street shop as we get ready for our closeups.

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