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  • How to light house plants on set?

    Posted by Vic Noseworthy on July 9, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Hi, fellow filmmakers.
    Just wondering if anyone has any tips on how to light house plants in the background of a set, without causing too much spill light. My current set-up doesn’t include lights aimed specifically at the plant(s), and they look rather dark… almost black. Is there a trick to getting better light on plants? Thanks so much for any advice you can offer.

    Mark Suszko replied 2 years, 7 months ago 3 Members · 2 Replies
  • 2 Replies
  • Brandon Lanski

    September 3, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    A good way to combat bad highlights and spill before trying anything else is usually to raise or lower the light. Using hard light will also increase spill so try to soften it.


    So far as I know however, spill is mostly an issue of light intensity on the subject (the object that is being spilled onto) and physical separation from that object.


    For example: You have a guy sitting in a chair with a plant next to him and the plant is making his face green so the director says “Gross”


    In a perfect world, you could move the plant a little further away. But the directer in this case really wants that plant to be right next to the actor so what you need to do is make sure there’s so much more light hitting your actor than whats reflecting off the plant, that it A.) Barely shows up and B.) (Hopefully) At least gives the colorist what they need to fix it.


    I just want to leave a last note to say that this is why set design is so important. These are things to think about when picking camera angles, setting light intensity and deciding where exactly that damn plant should go. 😉

  • Mark Suszko

    September 3, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Random thoughts off the top of my head:

    Consider a color gelled light on the plant? If you don’t have a pin spot, maybe use black foil to create a snoot on an existing light?

    Are the plants real or fake? Plastic ones, you could dose with gloss or matte sprays to adjust reflectivity. Even airbrush new colors onto them. If they are real, maybe shine them up by misting them with water just before the take.

    What’s behind the plant matters, too. Just like when trying to light and shoot a bottle. If there’s brighter material behind the leaves, the whole thing will pop better with a lighter backdrop than if there’s neutral, densely busy, or dark area behind it. The irregular shapes and angles of random leaves and branches means you will get a less “flat” look by side-lighting to enhance contours and textures.

    If the shot is locked-off, you could tweak the plant in a masked off window during the color correction step. If the shot moves, you could animate the mask, but that’s more work.

    Are you daylight or tungsten balanced? Theoretically if you white balanced under either, it shouldn’t matter, but something like a plant might read better just the same if the balance is daylight.

    Crazy idea: if it’s green, is it key-able? Could you add chromakey to the leaves and matte in a brighter leaf color, with a blend mode and opacity adjustment to mix the two? Using a color replacement tool is probably a more elegant way to get there.

    Finally. You could buy a very cheap light just for this. Like 20 bucks or less. It will be some work to rig it.

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