Story and photos by Bryan Rodriguez

One of many things I’ve learned as a student in the UO School of Journalism and Communication is that lighting can make the difference between a professional-looking video and an amateurish one.

With that in mind, I decided to check out a lighting kit from the equipment cage to work on a portfolio project. I opened it up, peered inside and immediately closed it.  There was a lot of intimidating gear in there, and I had no idea what to do with it.

Leonard Henderson teaches students to use the three-point lighting set up when video-recording interview footage. Each group of students then works on setting up the lights using this technique.

Leonard Henderson teaches students to use the three-point lighting set up when video-recording interview footage. Each group of students then works on setting up the lights using this technique.

Next, I tried my best to set up the lights with the guidance of YouTube tutorials. Still, my test videos looked nothing like the “20/20” interviews I was trying to emulate.

I found myself in Carolyn Silva Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising Deb Morrison’s office asking for advice. She suggested I add the J-408 Lighting for Video Workshop to my winter schedule. I followed her advice and am so glad I did.

The workshop is a one-credit, two-day course that focuses on building the practical skills to produce professional interview footage using the Lowel DV hot light set. It is designed for students who have little to no experience with cameras or lighting as well as students with past professional experience who would like gain insight from a teacher who has worked in the industry. It’s part of a series of weekend workshops taught by industry professionals that are intended to give students a quick way to build practical skills to supplement what they learn in the classroom. Other workshops include getting familiar with Adobe Creative Cloud programs, working on portfolios and event planning.

The lighting workshop is taught by Leonard Henderson, an SOJC alumnus and videography lighting expert who has worked on music videos, films and commercials; at TV networks such as ESPN and CNN; and on shows such as “Good Morning America.” He has won over 15 national awards for his work and wants to share his knowledge and help students become artists with a camera.

Before student groups head out to work on their final projects, Henderson shows them some work from students who took his workshop in the past. This helps you see what you can achieve and set goals.

Before student groups head out to work on their final projects, Henderson shows them some work from students who took his workshop in the past. This helps you see what you can achieve and set goals.

I cannot say enough good things about this short workshop. According to Henderson, the only other place you can get the skills he teaches during this two-day course are film school or by shadowing someone who has years of experience. Take this course, and you will have more knowledge about video lighting than 90 percent of your peers, which should make you way more competitive when it comes time to apply for jobs.

Fortunately, Henderson is offering the workshop again this spring term, and it’s not too late to register. Look for J408 Workshop Lighting for Video (CRN: 32937).

Here are my tips for making the most of this weekend workshop:

 

  1. You will be busy all weekend.

Be prepared, because the workshop will take up your entire weekend. The course lasts from 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, with an hour break for lunch halfway through. Have breakfast before you go, and pack a lunch or bring money for food at the EMU.

The class is fast paced and intense, but don’t let that discourage you. The first day will be all about the equipment, three-point light theory and opportunities to get hands-on experience. The second day you’ll work on perfecting what you learned the day before. You will be free to walk around campus in small groups for two hours to produce a final lighting project. The class wraps up back in Allen, where Henderson offers his feedback.

 

  1. Learn as much as you can.

At the beginning of the course, Henderson made it clear that his job was to transform us into lighting professionals. Take advantage of the time and his generosity to ask questions, take notes, make mistakes and learn from them.

The first two hours of the course, Henderson goes over various lighting techniques, the do’s and don’ts of professional lighting and previous student works. He says there is no such thing as a stupid question and encourages you to ask away. His goal is clearly to help you learn how to light like a professional.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to get hands-on with the equipment.

My class of 14 students was divided into four groups, and each group was asked to assemble its light set correctly. The small-group environment gave us the opportunity to get up close and personal with the kits.

In each group, be sure you rotate who sets up and operates the different lights in the bag. You want to get experience with the full range of gear, not just one type of light.

 

This is a screenshot of interview footage I shot at the end of the first day. I did my best to practice the lighting skills I learned in the workshop to produce professional-looking footage.

This is a screenshot of interview footage I shot at the end of the first day. I did my best to practice the lighting skills I learned in the workshop to produce professional-looking footage.

  1. You will improve.

I have experience taking photos, but this workshop helped me improve by forcing me to work with different camera angles, practice framing and use the background to get the perfect shot. If your goal is to create professional videos, you need to learn this stuff.

Whether you walk in with no experience or you’ve worked in a professional setting, this workshop will definitely help you improve your camera and lighting skills within two days. If you’re unsure how to use a specific mode on your camera or how to white-balance for a particular shot, for example, just ask Henderson, and he will be more than happy to show you.

 

  1. Increase your production values.

For students interested in documentary film production, photography, videography and broadcast journalism, this course will help you reach a new level of professionalism. The production value of your projects will increase because of the equipment you are using and the techniques you are learning.

 

  1. Practice. Practice.

You should try your best to continue getting practical experience after you leave that Sunday evening. Get involved with small video projects that allow you to build on what you learned. Check out a light set from the equipment desk and film your friends! You will be a pro in no time, or at least create YouTube videos that are the envy of all your classmates!


Bryan Rodriguez is a senior majoring in advertising with a minor in folklore. This is his first year as a digital content creator for the SOJC Communication Office with specializations in photography and film production. Check out his portfolio to see more of his work.