gave me the idea to write an entry about the little I know of lighting on small film sets, so here goes
There's three basic lights needed to light an actor well; the key light, fill light and back light.
Just above is a standard three-point light set up that uses the key, back and fill lights.
I'll start with the key light. The key light is the main illuminator of the object or actor that you're lighting. It is important that it is 45 degrees from the front of the object. However, key lights cast harsh shadows, which is where the fill light comes in.
The fill light is placed 45 degrees from the front of the object you're lighting opposite to the key light. It's purpose isn't to match the brightness of the key light, simply soften the shadows. The fill light is to provide a light that is 25-50% dimmer to the key light. You can do this either by using a light that is dimmer (which is is normally placed lower down than the key light) or you can use a reflector, something that I'd recommend for lower budget productions. A reflector is basically something with a reflective surface that is used to bounce light from the keylight. You can buy reflectors that are foldable and don't crease (these I love!) but if you don't have the money (which I didn't for my films) you can make them with cardboard and tinfoil (extremely make-shift, I know!)
You can normally get cardboard for free from supermarkets of an evening, they're more than happy to give it away, and then just glue the tinfoil to it, being careful not to get any creases. One thing to note is that tinfoil has one side that's shinier than the other (I'd never realised until I tried making a reflector), make sure you glue it shiny side up!
Which brings me to the back light. This is basically used to add a sort of halo effect n the edge of the object. You place it 45 degrees either way from the back of the object, it just improves the overall look of the scene.
However, you don't always want your lights to be as bright, which is where diffusers are handy.
They're basically a filter to place in front of your lights which dims them. As with most things, you can buy diffusers, but there is always the make-shift option (that I normally use) of tracing paper. Tracing paper works exactly like a diffuser, it's best to find tracing paper in A3 size. If one piece of tracing paper isn't enough, simply double them up, use as many sheets as you need!
Though just a word of warning, normal paper DOES NOT work. It will burn and set fire - I'm giving lighting tips here, not pyrotechnic tutorials!
Now for lighting, not many small films can afford 'proper' lights or ever rent them, so the next best thing would be to use desk lamps. Sounds ridiculous, but they actually work quite well, whereas most bulbs give off uneven light, desk lamps don't. Also, they're a lot more portable, a nifty little benefit.
But if you are using lamps to light your set, try to only use lamps. Mixing the types of lights you use can look awful, so if you're indoors make sure the rest of the lights are switched off and that the natural light from the windows doesn't interfere.
Although, natural light is the best possible light, especially at 'Golden Hour'. Golden hour is when the sun gives off that orange glow, just as the sun rises and just before it sets. If at all possible, film outdoor scenes during this time, your shots will look gorgeous!
That is the extent of my knowledge of lighting, I've still got lots to learn!
I hope that this helps others a bit, but also, anyone who has more advice with regards to lighting, I'd love to know!