How Lighting Changes the Messages

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Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Bill Truby

A “behind the scenes” story from Truby Achievements

There’s an old saying, “The clothes make the man.” Kind of cheesy, right? But think about it…

I’ve read research and seen documentaries about how the SAME person in the SAME situation gets completely different reactions based on how they are dressed. It doesn’t matter what gender the person is, when they dress a bit sloppy or unkempt for a job interview, or even just sitting by people in a crowd, they will get a certain reaction – usually unfavorable.

But put that person in that same situation with clean, stylish, appropriate clothing, and the reaction is completely different – usually positive. So, it’s probably true – “The clothes DO make the man,” or woman, or boy, or girl, or….!

There is a psychological reason for this. Our mind, especially our subconscious mind, is “programmed” to put meaning on things we look at – be they people, food, pictures…whatever. This happens in lightning speed, and certainly before we get to use any of our other senses to evaluate the situation.

Chefs have experimented with this. Put blue food coloring in mashed potatoes, green in corn, white in the steak – and the food will be repulsive. However, the SAME food, prepared the SAME way, with a different (“normal?”) look makes the food taste just fine. These culinary experts amplify this principle by taking ordinary food and “plating” it in a beautiful and creative way, making it taste BETTER, so say the patrons. Again, same food, same preparation, presented more beautifully. The taste is affected simply by the presentation.

I tell you all this to lead up to something I do when making training videos. When I’m in a professional recording studio, this is all taken care of for me. But what about when I make a “Just a Minute” video that doesn’t merit the time and expense of hiring the professionals? Well….I’ve learned a lot from them and try to mimic their techniques.

There are MANY factors in a video that a viewer doesn’t notice in their conscious mind, but certainly do notice in their subconscious mind. And it has to do with how it all looks. Before a word leaves my mouth, the viewer notices the “look and feel” of the video, and it creates a willingness to look and listen, or, if I don’t do it right, creates a barrier or hesitancy to watch.

In other words, how my video looks affects my message. And it affects yours too. Have you ever been on a Zoom meeting where the person is looking down at their camera that is on the bottom of their laptop screen? The result is, you get to look straight up their nostrils during the entire meeting. That is bound to affect their message.

This is true in all aspects of videos you generate – from a Zoom meeting to a short video for social media. I’ll tell you one aspect I give attention to that has significantly influenced the success of my videos.

The extremely important aspect I’m talking about is lighting – a science in and of itself. I’m not just talking about having enough lighting, but the type and placement of lighting. In fact, I use six lights in my small office to get the effect I’m looking for. And the good news is, many people have commented on how my videos stand out – which, obviously, makes my message stand out, too.

There are three types of lighting I use. The first is to get the base presentation effect. A brighter scene makes it more “industrial.” A darker scene makes it more dramatic. And a mid-tone, medium-type lighting makes it more cinematic, warm, comfortable, and believable. I have one light that is my dominant, or key light to achieve this. I have some gentle filters on it and set it to just the right level of brightness.

The second type of lighting is my accent lighting. That creates the beginning of “depth,” which gives the scene MORE of a cinematic feel and actually makes it look more realistic – thus believable. I have three lights I use for this effect. I have a backlight, a warm color light focused on one side of my face, and a gentle light in a corner off my left shoulder to highlight a small item for visual appeal, and accent a dark spot.

Then, the most intriguing and subtle effect comes from two lighting schemes I learned about. It’s sometimes called the “blockbuster movie lighting effect.” Depth and subtle contrast are very appealing to the viewer. Lighting with orange and teal do create the effect nicely.

Orange and teal are in the same color pallet but are opposites on that spectrum. When you take a moment to focus on the coloring of a movie, you will see an emphasis on the orange/teal lighting. Orange in the foreground, teal in the background.

I purchased some inexpensive lights that are remote-controlled and have a full spectrum of colors. I place one a short distance in front of me, then dial in the most effective orange color to enhance my face and the wood tones in my office. I then place a second light focused on the background, dial it to the perfect teal tone, and the entire scene “pops.” There is more depth. It also gives it a more professional feel.

There are times when I’m on a zoom call where I’m using my lighting system and my viewer compliments my video, my “set” as I call it. I will tell them about the lighting, then demonstrate how effective it is by just turning off one of the lights – the teal, or the orange, or the accent light, etc.

Invariably, the person says, “Wow, that makes such a huge difference. It changes the whole feel of what I’m looking at!” And, I’m thinking, it affects your engagement with me, too.

The message in this lighting lesson is no different than the lesson in many of our teachings and trainings – always be “other-centered.” In this case, it’s about considering the viewer of your video, be it a zoom meeting or a social media creation. Understanding your presentation from the eye of the viewer is always the epitome of other-centeredness.

So…If you “clothe” your video in the right lighting, you will undoubtedly be more credible, liked, listened-to, understood, valued, appealing…wait a minute… did I just discover that lighting correctly gives you the same things you might be looking for in therapy? That will be $125.00 please.

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Tanya Quinn

COO, Truby Achievements