In my last post, I talked about some really bad lighting in a couple of movies from the 60s. Lighting has improved a lot since then, but there’s one place where, even today, almost nobody gets it right.
Picture a scene. The hero and heroine are sitting by a window. He’s telling her some terrible news. The camera gives us a close-up of her reaction, and there, reflected in her eyes, are lights that have no business being in the scene. In a bad old movie, the lights are little pinpricks. In a modern, run-of-the-mill movie today, the lights are about the right size, but they’re round, not rectangular. It’s the unusually well-lit movie that makes the fill lights the shape of the window that’s supposed to be lighting the subject.
If you look carefully at a close-up shot, the reflections in the eyes tell you how the scene was lit. You can see all the light sources, their shapes, and get a good idea of how diffuse they are. Movie makers seemingly don’t care. Still photographers should.