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How to make just a single light look like many for photos and video

For some of us, especially when we’re just starting out, we’re limited on gear. Maybe we can only afford a single light or perhaps we can afford more, but we want to experiment with just one before laying down a huge amount of cash. Either way, having just a single light for our work is not uncommon. It is possible to make one light look like many though.

In this video, filmmaker Brandon Li shows us a technique for multiplying a single light using multiple takes and compositing. It’s a technique that we’ve seen used a lot in photography, particularly product photography, but not that often with video – especially when you’ve got a moving camera.

For the technique, Brandon shoots the same camera move (it’s on a slider) over and over multiple times with his Godox LC500R LED light in a different spot for each take.

Then he layers each of the clips in his editor and lines them up so that the camera movement matches for all of them. Finally, he blends them together using a combination of masks, various layer blending modes and some colour grading to get some of the practical lights to match his LC500R.

Brandon does take the technique to the limit in this example by using the Syrp slider to move the camera, but it’s even easier if you’ve got a static camera sitting on a tripod as you won’t have to deal with any motion tracking of your environment.

You won’t be able to use this technique handheld, because it would be impossible to recreate the camera movements exactly each time, but locked off on a tripod, you can add a little wiggle in post to simulate handheld well enough to sell the shot.

Have you used this technique?