How To Improve The Best Look of Your Videos With Bounce Lighting

Highlights – Bounce lighting is a technique for dispersing light over a large area by reflecting light off a white surface. Light bouncing is simple to do and can be done for a low cost with minimal equipment. Bounce lighting works best with natural light, but it can also be done with artificial light.

Functioning with natural light, limited resources, or filming in an enclosed space can pose a lighting nightmare scenario: how do you produce beautiful soft light with the least amount of equipment? Try bouncing light as a low-cost, easy-to-manipulate solution. 

Pretty much all that is required is a large enough white surface. I know it may sound too good to be true, but rest assured that bouncing light is a very useful lighting technique to be aware of and understand. It’s also something you might think about if you’re working on a low-budget project.

How to Improve the Look of Your Video with Bounce Lighting

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What exactly is bounce lighting? 

Bounce lighting reflects light from a single source–often a fairly hard one– and off a large surface to create soft, diffuse light that spreads over a large area.

While bounce lighting is an excellent way to harness and soften natural light, it can also be used with artificial light. It’s especially useful if you’re on a tight budget.

For example, if you’re trying to set up a low-cost YouTube lighting setup, or if you’re working in a small space where a lot of equipment might be too much of a squeeze.

How to produce bounce lighting 

It makes no difference whether you’re working with natural or artificial light; the process of bouncing light is the same.

Using a light modifier, you are directing the light from your key light, which could be the sun or an LED source, over your scene.

While you may want to use a specific piece of equipment, such as a reflector or a bounce board, many other things will work to bounce light back onto your scene.

Ceilings and walls 

Walls are an excellent light-bouncing fixture. You should be able to create soft, diffuse light with gentle shadows by angling your light source so that it reflects back across your scene. 

Given that you cannot move walls but can move people and equipment, you may need to position your subjects or yourself and equipment to make the most of the situation. Remember that the color of the walls will affect the amount of light that comes back. If the walls are, say, pale green, the light will be green as well. 

Ceilings, like walls, can be used to reflect light back onto a scene. Watch the soft, bounced light fall back downwards as you angle your key light upwards.

A white sheet can be used as a diffuser between a light source and your scene, and a white piece of fabric can be used to reflect light back onto your subjects.


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When should you use bounce lighting?

Bounce lighting is useful in both practical and technical situations

In practice, bounce lighting can be used when shooting in a confined space with insufficient space for a full lighting rig, such as a 3-point lighting setup. A strong light bounced off a wall or ceiling, for example, will provide you with plenty of diffuse light.

Gear used or mentioned in the video above:

Natural light should be softened

If you’re shooting on location with minimal gear or using natural light, bounced light will come in handy, especially when it comes to hard vs. soft light from strong sunlight. If the light is harsh, bouncing it will give it a much softer appearance. This is especially true around midday when the sun casts long, deep shadows. 

Furthermore, if you’re using the sun as backlighting but don’t want a silhouette, you can use bounced light as a fill light to create a more evenly lit scene.

Setup of high-key lighting 

The distinction between high key and low key lighting is the difference between light bundles and an airy, positive feel to a scene and extremely subdued and controlled lighting that lends itself to more moody or intimidating footage. 

Bounced light is a simple way to achieve a high-key look. You can distribute a lot of light around a scene and control the shadows by bouncing an intense light source off a large surface, such as a white wall, a ceiling, or a bounce board.

Other sources of light 

Soft lighting is typically created with a softbox or umbrella, but if you have access to one, you can also use a Fresnel light. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have an intense light source and nothing to diffuse it effectively, try bouncing the light. 

Look for a white ceiling or wall, as well as a reflector or bounce board. There are numerous options; sometimes it just takes a little creative thinking.

Conclusion

Regardless of your light source, there’s a good chance you can soften it by bouncing it if necessary. Even if you’re not on a budget or working in cramped quarters, bounced light can be just what you need. Try it and see what happens.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

How to Improve the Look of Your Video with Bounce Lighting

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