Top 10 Alternative Light Sources for Video

by Caleb Rexius

There’s never just one way to do something.

I’ve always loved finding nontraditional ways to light scenes and subjects. Today I get to share some of my favorite lighting tricks.

#1 – Computer or Tablet Screen

That isolated glow on someone’s face or hands in the middle of a darker set can be just what the doctor ordered. 

#2 – TV/Television

I’ve used TVs in so many ways – data reflections, space travel ambience, face illuminations, and much more.

#3 – Light Wands

Specifically, the battery powered light wands have saved me so many times either as a quick and dirty key light, or as a background detail, and a lot of these can change colors too. They’re highly useful.

#4 – Light Tube

Similar to the light wands are what I call light tubes, which are basically just corded LED utility lights. You can daisy chain a bunch of them together, and they are so easy and very cheap. 

#5 – Light Pad

Maybe more commonly known as a light box or light pad – these are great for table placements, and they illuminate subjects so well especially in darker situations.

#6 – Lamps and Fixtures

I’ve got a huge supply of different styles. They really are more of a set design piece, but can allow for some nice added light too when placed correctly.

#7 – Projector

Projecting visuals onto walls or a person, or switching perspective and actually filming into the light source, gets some very cool video.

#8 – Car Headlights

The classic scenario is you are filming in a dark alley, and you have no lights, just your car…well you have all you need right there. A strong practical backlight. 

#9 – iPhone

Don’t underestimate an iPhone light with a paper towel.

One time, I got stuck filming some car details and my main light actually broke, and all I had was my phone, so I wrapped it in a paper towel to diffuse it and was able to get some pretty good shots.

#10 Natural Light

Last but not least: natural light.

This is an obvious one. Maybe not even considered “alternative” but hey, it’s on the list.

The sun, or sunlight diffused by clouds, is the ultimate alternative light.  When in doubt, find a window, and let the universe light your subject naturally. 

Follow @filmpac on social media for more filmmaking tips.

Caleb is the Founder and Lead Cinematographer at Filmpac.

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