Creating a Beauty Light with a Book Light

How did I start out? What was my path to becoming a cinematographer? How do you recommend going about being a DP? I get asked these questions on a daily basis. My path has been one that only a few have traveled. Most cinematographers started out as a camera assistant, then moved to focus puller, then operator and eventually cinematographer. I came from the lighting side. I was a grip truck packer first. Day in and day out, I loaded grip and electric packages for crews. This was my job right out of film school. I quickly learned all of the names of every grip and electric tool, but not how to use them. That would come with more experience. I feel that this knowledge of the tools of the trade is absolutely essential to being able to communicate to your crew effectively, plus it makes you really fast. You don’t have to say, “Give me something kind of big over there, and a small light over here and bounce into something white.”


“Grip Truck Driver to Cinematographer”

I moved from packing trucks to driving them. I first received my commercial license to drive while growing up on our 350 acre farm in upstate New York. Driving the big 10-ton grain trucks was part of my childhood, so now I was driving the trucks and learning set etiquette. I was running all different types of gear into the set, learning what all of these things do, while keeping my arsenal of gear organized and repaired. I had to learn how to fix everything — HMI’s, Xenon’s, tungsten heads, you name it. I had to learn to solder, understand electronics, interface with the lighting and grip departments as well as production. Talk about immersive photography; this was immersive learning, boots on the ground, in it with tons of responsibility.

My first big job was a small budget horror film called Phantasm II. This summer, the ball is back!!!! I really found my footing on this movie. For me, the light switch was thrown by a best boy electric, Brian Coyne, whom I thank God for every day. One day, he asked me if while I was in the movie theater watching this scene that we were lighting if I would be scared. I said “Brian what are you talking about? I’ve got to get this flag down to the Key Grip.” “Look,” he said, “every nook and cranny is lit, there are no shadows, no mystery, no suspense.” BAM!!!! Right then and there, everything I looked at was light.

I quickly moved up the ladder – becoming a Key Grip and doing several low budget films, then getting a break working with Daniel Pearl, ASC as his Key Grip on music videos and commercials. If you don’t know this man, you should. He is one of the most talented cinematographers I have ever seen. My style and fearless nature was generated by Daniel, one of my mentors. He rode me hard and put me away wet. He gave me an education into the finer art of lighting. He also helped me gain that crocodile skin that is necessary to withstand the relentless hours and intense nature of this business that we love. The Key Grip experience gave me the skill of how to shape light, how to move the camera and how to put a camera anywhere.

From there, I went on to become a gaffer on music vids and commercials with two of my other mentors, Joseph Yacoe and Kevin Kerslake. Kerslake fueled my fearless nature as well as my passion for experimentation filmmaking. We spent time shooting with different stocks, processing the negative ourselves in bathtubs, coming up with wacky treatments to do to the film at the lab and the color correction bay. Yacoe taught me composition and beauty lighting. He was an avid user of the Book Light. I know you were wondering when the HECK I was going to get back to the task at hand. But coming from the lighting side gave me so much confidence that I could walk into any room, stage, set and know how to light it. This is HUGE!!!

When you are thinking about your career path, please remember that you cannot just jump from film school to being a cinematographer. The tools at your disposal give you a huge edge that I never had. With the old system, this could have taken up to 20 years. I did it in five years, which is ridiculously fast. You can shrink this time a little. I got out of film school in 1986. I shot my first music vid for a major label as a DP in the summer of 1991. I was still gaffing and assisting Herb Ritts until I finally made the jump to full time cinematographer in 1995. Experience is what you have to gain however you find your creative path, but know that there is no substitute for lighting, camera and life experience. NONE!!!!


“Beauty Behind a Book”

Joseph Yacoe is such a cool artist. He really helped shape me. A couple of weeks ago, I went into how to light a specific camera blocking, a master shot to a close up. I promised I would give you my Book Light tutorial on how to build it and why it is so useful.

A book light is simply a bounce source that is diffused with another layer of diffusion. It creates an image of an open book. Your light is positioned 45 degrees off of your bounce; then your diffusion layer can be joined at the end of your bounce where your space is limited. You can make a thick book, which will make your light softer because there is more distance between the source and your diffusion layer. Your bounce has now become your source, not your light. So the further you move your diffusion away, the softer the light will get. I like to use many different diffusions as well as bounce sources to create different types of light quality.

Hand Shadow

Book Light Thin

Book Light Thick


“Choosing your Bounce Source Quality

for the Back of the Book”

I use all types of bounces as well as color temperature to create different light quality.

Here are the different types of bounces that I use:
1. Bead Board– a great soft bounce, no sheen.
2. Foam Core– this is a harder bounce source. I use this when I want it to be a more punchier source.
3. Bleached Muslin– the ultimate soft bounce source.
4. Unbleached Muslin– same super soft quality as bleached muslin but changes the color temp of your light 200 to 400 degrees Kelvin.
5. Silver Rosco SS Flex– this is used for a very directional bounce, one that you can throw long distances. It is much punchier than foam core and cools your color temp at least 200 degrees Kelvin.
6. Rosco Scrim– this is a much softer, less powerful bounce than the Flex. Originally used to scrim windows, this has been my go to bounce source to fit in a quality difference between foam core and Flex.
7. Silver Insulation Board– this is something I stumbled onto on Act of Valor in the catacombs of the milk factory in El Centro, CA. Used this reflective source to bounce back the M4 muzzle flashes from the SEALS back onto their faces.
8. White ShowCard– soft bounce that you can easily cut and place in all different configs. In light quality, it would fall in between foam core and bead board.
9. Brushed Silver and Gold Card– this is again a bounce that will not warm up your source, hold color temp and semi directional.
10. Shiny Silver and Gold Card– this is the hardest of bounce sources. It is like a reflector board, which is almost a mirror. You can see yourself in it. This is a very controlled bounce.


DIY Bounce Section

11. White Insulation Board– a Home Depot run gives you the same feel as Bead Board. Just has a little sheen that makes it a little harder. Comes in different thickness depending on what you can spend. Breaks easily and is flimsy.
12. 1/16” or 1/8” Luan– Home Depot run again. This is a very flexible piece of wood that you can cut easily with a box cutter knife. Gives you a very warm soft bounce. Usually warms your light up about 400-600 degrees.
13. White Bed Sheets– gives you the feel of a super soft Bleached Muslin and you have the ability to rip it off your bed.
14. T-Shirt– nice hyper white one gives you the same feel as Bleached Muslin and you can wear it after you wrap!
15. Towel– white and a natural color can give you the same color temp as an Unbleached Muslin.


“Choosing your Diffusion for the Cover of the Book”

There are a million different diffusions out there. I will go into my greatest hits:
16. Hampshire Frost– great to take the edge off of the sun, or any light.
17. Brushed Silk– used to change the pattern of your light like a par lens. You can make your source project horizontally or vertically by rotating the diffusion.
18. Opal Tough Frost– slightly softer than Hampshire. Takes that harshness away.
19. Half Soft Frost– unique quality outside when used to diffuse the sun.
20. Lee 251 (1/4 White Diff)– I use this in 4 x 4 frames as well as book lights. Great to use for close ups when you have already diffused your light with a big 12 x and you move that in really close.
21. Lee 250 (1/2 White Diff)-I use this in 4 x 4 frames as well as book lights. Great to use for close ups when you have already diffused your light with a big 12 x and you move that in really close.
22. Lee 216 (Full Whit Diff)-I use this in 4 x 4 frames as well as book lights. Great to use for close ups when you have already diffused your light with a big 12 x and you move that in really close.
23. Lee 129 (Heavy Frost)– a very thick diffusion that doesn’t yellow your source too much.
24. 1/4 Silent GridCloth– yellows your source slightly and gives warmth.
25. 1/2 Silent GridCloth– yellows your source slightly and gives warmth. A different strength option.
26. Full Silent GridCloth– yellows your source slightly and gives warmth. Thickest strength.


DIY Diffusion Section

27. Shower Curtain (Semi Transparent)– this will give you the same look and feel as Half Soft Frost and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Bed Bath and Beyond, here I come.
28. Shower Curtain (Opaque)– this will give you close to the diffusion quality of Lee 129 but with a little yellow feel. I love the warmth. Some people feel it is a little yellow.
29. Clear Visqueen– a Home Depot run gives you the feel of somewhere in the middle between Hampshire Frost and Half Soft Frost.
30. White Bed Sheets (300 Thread Count)– gives you the light quality of a Full GridCloth and it is silent as well.


“Choosing your Light Source

for the Middle of the Book”

I use all types of lights to blast into my bounce. Here are my favorites:
31. Mini 9 Lite with FCX globes– This gives you a lot of punch under 50 amps. You can easily control your levels by switching separate globes on and off.
32. 2K Open Face– good for low amperage. Easily control levels by spotting or flooding light.
33. Any Fresnel– these are easy to scrim and control with barn doors and can also use spot and flood function to intensify light source.
34. 12 Lite Maxi Brutes– Use these for 12 x 12 book lights to get a punch that will go far and fill a large room. Again, you can use the switches on the individual lights to control levels.
35. Any HMI Fresnel– these are easy to scrim and control with barn doors and can also use spot and flood function to intensify light source. Daylight source.
36. HMI Par Lights– these are a daylight source that can give you a lot of bang for your amperage and budget buck. Lots of punch and level control can be scrimmed or use different lens to spread your light.
37. 1K Par Cans– these are a tungsten source light that can give you a lot of bang for your amperage and budget buck. Lots of punch and level control can be scrimmed or use different lens to spread your light.


DIY Lighting Section

38. 150-400 Watt Sodium Vapor- night exterior source that delivers a warm orange color that will project well into your bounce. Beautiful for ambient feel when you are doing night exterior scenes.
39. 150-400 Watt Metal Halide– night exterior source light that delivers a cool blue green color that will project well into your bounce. Beautiful for ambient feel when you are doing night exterior scenes
40. 150 Watt Halogen Clamp Light– great light that you can use to bounce. Line several up to give you enough light.


“The Book Light”

Building Book Light Set Up

Eli Jane

Book Light Used for 2K Example


DIY Example:

White Cotton Sheet as our Bounce Source

White Cotton Sheet as our Bounce Source

Semi-Transparent Shower Liner as our Diffusion

Semi-Transparent Shower Liner as our Diffusion

DIY Overhead

Backview DIY Lights Off

Eli Jane


Thank you to my assistant Derek Johnson, intern Laura Murphy, and our model Eli Jane (@Elijane007 on twitter) for help with this post.

I would love to hear back on your Book Light creations as well as how you DIY bounces, diffusions and light sources.

  1. Alex Hill 3 years ago

    Great post, Shane – I love using book lights (or wedge lights, as we call them in the UK), too: I do a lot of low-budget work so I mainly use bed sheets for my bounce (sometimes a circular collapsible reflector for a smaller source) and then thin cotton curtains as the diffusion (often doubled up). Cheap and very effective;I use the largest bed sheet I can find and go from there – the quality of light is gorgeous and brings a real touch of class to even the smallest production. The sheets are also great because they can just be folded/rolled up for transport!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Alex Hill, thank you for your kind words and for sharing your insight. Love that

  2. Jason Wallis 3 years ago

    With so many choices, do you have a number one go to? the base line of what you will use for a medium close like the examples?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Jason Wallis, everyone has its place and application, that is why I listed all of them. I use them all. If had a favorite it would be bleach muslin bounce or bed sheets through shower curtain or half soft frost. Love 129 for a thicker diffusion

  3. Dave Dugdale 3 years ago

    Awesome stuff Shane once again! I will have to try this and share a video on what learned from it. I am always trying to learn more about light and this seems like a great exercise to do.

    • David Holloway 3 years ago

      Shane – I agree with Dave – This is great stuff – I cannot wait to try it out as well..Dave – I cannot wait to see what you come up with.

    • Aviv Vana 3 years ago

      Ditto to Dave Dugdale. Whenever BTS style photos are involved showing us the placement of lighting and bounce etc it does wonders. Plenty here to go out, play and improve.

      Thanks again.

  4. JB 3 years ago

    question… how is this different from a large shoot-thru umbrella? OK, the umbrella might have more of a hot spot but that can also be diffused.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      JB, that would work as well as long as the source light is not going directly through the diffusion

  5. christopher kechichian 3 years ago

    I always wanted to know how to give this super smooth light on the face of a model or an actor. I can’t thank you enough for the information you’re sharing with us. But I think when you use very soft light sources, the light will spread everywhere, it would be harder to control in a low-key shot let’s say, right?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      christopher kechichian, the soft light is easy to contain as long as you have some flags, topper, siders and bottomers.

  6. david shephed 3 years ago

    Thanks Shane,

    Great post on book lighting. The term is new to me but I learned the technique from the great photographer, Joe McNally. He employees the bed sheet as a diffuser for shoots all the time, But Joe usually shoot through the bed sheet. I like your layer of diffusion also as I did not think of that. I love the personal history that you have shared also. I personally need to make that trip to the Home Depot to grab some DIY stuff for the next two weeks.

    Much love,


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      david shephed, thank you for your kind words. Yes I have done that before as well, works great. Thanks for sharing. Home Depot bound. Love it

  7. Kelly 3 years ago

    You are awesome man. I love this stuff.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Kelly, thank you so much for all of your kind words

  8. DeanCapture 3 years ago

    Shane, loving the hell out of your lighting tuts. It’s so difficult to find cinematographers who are willing to share even the most basic of info. Thanks much!!!

    Oh by the way, watched “We Are Marshall” for the first time last evening. Excellent work on that sir. Can’t believe that I missed it years ago but as I study more cinematography, I’m discovering little jewels like that : ))



    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      DeanCapture, thank you for the wonderful words of support. I am glad you are digging on them. They do take a lot of time but I think all of you agree there is nothing out there like what the HurlBlog offers. Period!!!

      • mark pommett 3 years ago

        Hurlblog blows all other cinematography resources out of the water! :)

  9. Maxi Claudio 3 years ago

    How are you controlling light spilling to the ceiling or wall beyond the reflector? I’d almost feel like you’d need to block it off. But if it works it works?

    Particularly in smaller rooms

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Maxi Claudio, I will put a 4 x 4 Floppy flag over the top and the sides, just wanted to let you all see what was going on, but all of this requires some shaping with flags.

      • David 2 years ago

        Shane, thanks for the helpful article. Could you do a followup on how to shape soft sources like book lights?

  10. N.K.Osborne 3 years ago

    One of the best post ever. Thinking about testing this out next week with a reflector and white bed sheets.

    Thanks again Shane.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      N.K.Osborne, thank you so much for you wonderful words and support. Let me know how it turns out.

  11. Robert Shaver 3 years ago

    I just discovered a great bounce setup that comes with it’s own stand … a portable projection screen … $5 at a garage sale.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Robert Shaver, ha ha I have used that before. I love that bounce. Great for the book light.

  12. Chris Curl 3 years ago

    Great post, I really enjoy this blog and all the info you are providing, I have learned a ton from it. Looking forward to meeting you in Austin.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Chris Curl, thank you so much for your kind words and look forward to meeting you as well

  13. mel haynes jr 3 years ago

    First off, Phantasm II was probably one of my favorite movies as a kid. I think it was one of the first movie trailers I watched over and over again. Anyway…

    This is probably one of my favorite posts…there are a lot of them of course, but way to bring it down to the DIY level and show us how anyone can create great light.

    As always the work you and your team put into these posts is most appreciated.

    One question: would LED lighting work well for this? I have a few 500watt lights Im going to try this with, just wanted to know your thoughts on their “throw” vs. tungsten lights.

    • N.K.Osborne 3 years ago

      Test it out. I used LEDs as well. I’ll be testing this out Sunday.

  14. Salvador Garza 3 years ago

    Great post, this is one of my favs! Thank you for sharing your extensive expertise and knowledge.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Salvador Garza, you are very welcome and thank you for your kind words

  15. Gabriele Fuso 3 years ago

    Thank you very much Shane Derek and Laura, this post is pure gold.
    Of course, Eli bellissima.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Gabriele Fuso, thank you and I will pass it onto my amazing team

  16. Micah 3 years ago

    Thank you Mr. Hurlbut for taking the time to put together these posts. Its really inspiring to me as a 17 year old. This is the coolest stuff ever.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Micah, you are so welcome and appreciate you support

  17. Willian Aleman 3 years ago

    Thank you for all your helpful posts in cinematography and beyond. They are always very welcome week by week around here.

    A little out of topic but not totally unrelated: I would like to see an article from your point of view about the zone system applied to cinematography: film and digital camera, and your approach to the system and light metering. Thanks once again.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Willian Aleman, you are very welcome and thank you so much for your wonderful words.

  18. ergin ozturk 3 years ago

    I was looking for some soft & bounce light tutorial. This is such a great explanation. Thank you very much!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      ergin ozturk, thank you for your kind words and support

  19. Chris McGuinness 3 years ago


    You are awesome!

    I am self taught as a cinematographer, but really wish I had been able to work under someone with skill while my wife and I lived in Los Angeles. It would have been amazing to work & learn from someone of your skill set, but unfortunately shorty after we got to LA, a car accident caused me 3 herniated discs in my back and 2 years of rehab. I ended up being an editor in LA, but learned a lot from Editing. In 2007, our daughter was born and I thought it would be nice to move back to Maryland so she could know here grandmother and grandparents on my wife’s side, something I never had, which has been awesome… My back has gotten much better and for the last 3-4 years I have been working as a cinematographer. Anyhow, sorry for the tangent, but my situation and love of making images have really made me appreicate that I can do something I truly love. My skill set is continually evolving and posts like yours are amazing, and inspire me to try new techniques. I really appreciate your generosity in sharing your knowledge.

    Thank you Shane!

    Best Regards,

    Chris McGuinness

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Chris McGuinness, thank you for your kind words. Much appreciated. Family first, I try to do it as much as possible.

  20. Bob Demers 3 years ago


    Another rocking’ great blog! Love the book light, and your DIY tips. Reminded me of an old DIY diffusion I used to use. Remember Tough Spun diffusion? Seemed to be a staple of the broadcast studio back in the 90’s. Well, in the fabric store it’s called “sizing”, used to stiffen curtains and drapery. Same exact stuff, with the flame retardant treatment and all, but at a tenth of the cost. And, as you reminded us, a good silent diffusion.

    Thanks for all your info and encouragement.


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Bob Demers, thank you so much for those wonderful words and support. I love that, “Sizing,” never knew that existed. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Nels Chick 3 years ago

    Big thanks Shane! I love when a seasoned pro can give advice to broke wannabe’s like me, and make some real sense. Maybe some day I’ll be able to use it to make some real cents.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Nels Chick, you are so welcome. I am glad, I try very hard to relate this to everyone. Takes a little more time but well worth it.

  22. Really informative lighting post about creating a Beauty light with a book light set up.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      James – United By Photography, thank you so much for your support

  23. Edward Smyła 3 years ago

    Thank you very much for sharing your great knowledge and experience. Could you please share what camera was used. I am very grateful for making the blog such a great school.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Edward Smyła, you are very welcome. Yes, we used the C300 with a 80mm Leica R mount lens.

  24. Nitsan 3 years ago

    Loving your lighting tutorials!
    Probably the best I’ve come across so thank you! Can’t wait for more like this. :)

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Nitsan, thank you so much for those wonderful kind words. We do it different then just reviewing gear. You actually learn something about the art of Cinematography

  25. Mark 3 years ago

    Great information. Really appreciate your list and descriptions of the various bounces and diffusions.

    While its best use might not be for a book light, Reflectix is a great DIY hard bounce source I’d add to your list. It’s an insulation material that comes on 60″ wide rolls. You can buy it at hardware stores by the yard. It’s light and flexible like thin bubblewrap, but with a shiny, stippled, silver surface.

    Very bright, very hard bounce. Easy to mount flat on foam core or even to cut into small custom sizes and shapes. Affordable and super lightweight.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Mark, that sounds very cool. Like the width was well. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Oli Kember 3 years ago

    Great stuff. Thank you for doing this. I loved that you included a ‘poor man’s’ version of the book light too – The best part is that it’s basically exactly the same as the ‘proper’ version. A big soft source is a big soft source I guess. Cheers!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Oli Kember, I love the DIY stuff, I think it takes a little more ingenuity and creative thought which excites me and challenges me as a cinematographer. Thanks for the support my friend

  27. Ken Burris 3 years ago

    A great diffusion material I stumbled on is gardeners row cover, sometimes called “remay”, used to cover a row of veggies when frost threatens. Very light, so easy to stretch between stands (no frame) and cheap. 6′ or 12′ wide. If I need it to be softer I throw an extra layer on. Fairly clean color wise.

    I also have used a silver reflective tape used by HVAC guys to tape up duct work. 2″ wide, adhesive. I use it to make my own harder reflective boards or surfaces, with crazy hybrid patterns of shiny and mat. Just saw a really substantial work light stand at Lowes for $30. Lots of stuff out there, when you know what you want.

    Thanks Shane for all you do!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Ken Burris, thank you for your contribution. Never thought of that. SOunds very cool. I love the DIY way as well, expands your creativity to work around what we know and venture into untested waters. Love that!!!

  28. David Komer 3 years ago

    Wow, thanks for sharing this Shane! I know this is a loaded question, but it might help “flip our switches” too: assuming that we’re carefully reading the script and trying to understand the director’s intent for the characters/scene, do you have some specific guidelines for what to look for in deciding to have the light a little softer or a little harder? Assume that the set design is pretty open- i.e. we can decide to stage it by a window or by a hard practical… this question’s coming purely from a “quality of light” perspective…?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      David Komer, I let the emotion of the characters drive the light quality as well as how it is lit. Everything stems from emotion. What are they feeling, sad, happy, scared,etc.

  29. Matt 3 years ago

    Shane, really appreciate all the tips, videos and wealth of information you share on your site. I have learned so much from you. I especially appreciate how you respond to the comments here on your site. There are people who have not accomplished even half of what you have accomplished on other blogs/sites and never take the time to share as much information as you do, nor do they take the time to respond to others like you do. I just wanted to say thank you!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Matt, this is the reason why I do what I do. You ROCK!!! Thank you for these wonderful words. Thank you for your support.

  30. Tony 3 years ago

    I shoot a lot with bounced light thru diffusion but I tend to have the bounce parallel to the diffusion and then flag of the sides. What are the advantages to having it on an angle?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Tony, I go off to the side with the light so that the light doesn’t block the source, that is why it is off to the side

  31. Iain Trimble 3 years ago

    Hi Shane, This question is of a different subject but what is, in your opinion, the best way to create hazy shafts of light from windows, etc. Is there an aerosol product or something that can be sprayed the bring those light beams to life? Thanks for all that you and your team do for the film/cinematography community. It is greatly appreciated!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Iain Trimble, yes I think Rosco makes a product Smoke in a can. Unfortunately it doesn’t stay around that long so it gets costly. You are very welcome. I do have a wonderful team around me.

  32. Guy Cochran 3 years ago

    Great information! Thanks for so much for sharing. Do you recommend any of the pop-up style diffusion like those from Westcott, Photoflex, Matthews, Sunbounce etc.? Or is it more common practice to just consider it a “consumable item” and only good for a couple uses?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Guy Cochran, all those are good, but tend to yellow over time and are a little thick for some of the book light stuff I like to do.

  33. Randolph Sellars 3 years ago

    Shane, as always your lighting blogs are very informative and educational. Thanks for including such a thorough list of bounce material and diffusion material including the DYI options. When using large bounce sources, I often like Ultrabounce material with grommets tied to frames. It’s a little more reflective than muslin, but softer than a griffolyn or silver reflectors. I’m not very fond of grifflolyn as a “raw” bounce (a little too specular) – but it works nicely in a book light for more punch. I noticed that several commenters were concerned about spill light on backgrounds which can be mediated as you mentioned with large cutters. I’d like add for your readers that depending on how far away the background is from the subject, it often isn’t necessary to further darken the background if the book light diffusion is close to the subject just outside of the frame. It may be counter intuitive to some, but due to the effect of the inverse square law, the amount of light on the background will lessen (relative to the subject) as the light is moved closer to the subject. Of course, if the subject is positioned close to the background – then the ratio difference will not be as great. Thanks again for being a great teacher and sharing your wealth of knowledge.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Randolph Sellars, you are very welcome, thank you so much for your kind words and sharing your knowledge.

  34. Jason Prisk 3 years ago

    Shane, thanks for the great article. Just curious how you would compare this technique to the light of a diffused Kino Flo (4×4 for example) pointed directly at the talent (not bounced). How inferior a result, assuming a closeup such as the one you have lit in the example above?

    Thanks for all the great stuff! Keep it up.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Jason Prisk, A kino flo, even though it is long and seem softer, it is still a very bright source. Maybe double diffusing it would get closer to this same result.

  35. Bud Dickman 3 years ago

    I love posts like this, very informative and it gets into the details. It also reminds me that I have a lot to learn and a long way to go! There are so many different light-reflector-diffusion combos out there for me to experiment with. Thanks for taking the time to share, and thanks for keeping me inspired!

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Bud Dickman, You are very welcome. thank you so much for your kind words. I never stop learning and experimenting it is what keeps me on the pulse.

  36. Clayton Arnall 3 years ago

    Shane, thanks so much for your lighting posts… really enjoy them the most of all your posts. Question – I am curious whether you think it’s worth while to start forcing myself to use a light meter? Or do you just use your monitor instead?

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Clayton Arnall, you are very welcome. Yes using a light meter is essential to train your eye to the ratios of light. Then you can judge you lighting monitor to eye much better.

  37. Erick Aguilar 3 years ago

    This is great! So many options to create a book light and make it look good. I enjoyed how you got into the business, really interesting. I had a chance to meet Daniel Pearl, ASC at Mole Richardson, a great teacher and nice individual.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Erick Aguilar. Thanks fot the kind words and support. Daniel was a great mentor for me, I love his edgy forward thinking photography.

  38. Nap Jamir II 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Thanks again for sharing your “secrets”( which a lot of dps guard so zealously)with us.
    I also use a lot of light diffusion for a cosmetic & hair work in tvcs, and I do a slight variation of the book light.
    I get two pieces of 4×8 styrofoam boards(painted black on one side) stand them up vertically with the black side facing outward, and create a letter V by securing both sides together with a barbecue stick, or if I am not in a hurry, a small door hinge ( so I can change the angle of the V from wide to narrow, thus controlling the wideness or narrowness of the light source)
    I then place a redhead, blondie or even a 1.2K HMI inside the V, making sure that it doesn’t touch the sides so the styro will not burn or melt. I put the light on a low boy stand or an apple box, aim it upwards so that the light doesn’t obstruct itself. Or if I want a stronger source, I put another similar light on a stand, boom it up to the edge of the styro and aim it downwards.
    Now I have a diffused source of light. I f I want it softer, I put a 4×8 trace frame with 216,250 or muslin in front to create different levels of diffusion.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Nap Jamir II. Thanks so much for the kind words,info and support.

  39. Miike 2 years ago

    Great read and thanks for the article. You mentioned that your bounce has now become the source however if i’m not mistaken, wouldn’t the diffusion frame now become the source? So wouldn’t it be better to move the frame back thus creating a bigger source? I guess moving the whole booklight back in this case for a softer light.

    • Miike 2 years ago

      just caugh my errror with that question. Moving the frame back would actually make it a smaller source in itself.

      • Miike 2 years ago

        moving the bounce back like you said would fill that diffusion frame more evenly thus creating a softer light.

  40. Ty Stone 2 years ago


    I love your site and the things you share with us. This might be a silly question but the 150 watt lights used in DIY part are they flood lights you can get at HomeDepot?

    Thank you

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Ty Stone. Yes that is correct. Thanks for the comment and support.

  41. Dan 2 years ago

    Hey Shane!!

    Thank you for yet another gorgeous tutorial.

    I was wondering, since you are bouncing and then diffusing, you will lose a lot of strength on that light, with a 5D mIII as your camera, and only a 2k tungsten fresnel, you would really need to go high on ISO, right?

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Dan. No not at all. We had plenty of light with the 2K fresnel.

      • Dan 2 years ago

        Great, I will try it!!

        Shane, I see that in the examples above you use 2k fresnels, are those HMI’s, or tungsten technology?

        See, I’ve just started into this amazing video world, and I have a pretty good image of how I want my lighting to be (coming from a stills/strobes training), however, when I use difussion or soft-boxes, my light barely shows up on the 5D MIII display, and since 2k tungsten are the most punch I’ve got, I have been cornered to using extremely light difussion in front of the light aimed aggressively at the talent, still resulting in very harsh shadows.

        So basically two questions arise:

        1.- Do you consider HMI’s to be THAT much a difference compared to tungstens in light output?

        2.- What do you consider to be the highest Usable ISO settings for a Mark III? That is, with a margin for making it look good on post and not completely noisy and having to lose detail later.

        Thanks again for your dedicated attention and sharing!! :D

  42. Rod 2 years ago

    Hey Shane

    I want to try this setup to light a dark-skinned subject but only have access to fixtures up to 1K fresnels in size. Do you foresee any issues firing 2 1K’s right next to one another into the bounce in the book light configuration?


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Rod. That should work just fine, be sure to flag them off on the sides to avoid spill. Thanks for the comment and support.

  43. Seph Barretto 2 years ago


    its 2am where we are now. Just came from a 6am shoot that just ended. Saw this post and immediately, I felt the need to try the setup. Wow. I was amazed at how effective this lighting setup is. Looking forward to more setups!

    Thank you very much,


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Seph Barretto. Glad to hear you tried it. Thanks for the comment and support

  44. Sasan 2 years ago

    Thank you Shane. great job everybody.

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Sasan, you are very welcome. I will pass your kudos onto the Blog Crew

  45. Brad Thomson 2 years ago

    Shane thanks for taking the time to share this tip! Generally for soft indoor light I would use either china balls or a 24×24 soft box, I’d never really thought about trying anything like this. I’m definitely going to try this setup and see what kind of results I can get. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Brad Thomson, you are very welcome and thank you for sharing

  46. theplateaufilmmaker 2 years ago

    Very glad that we eventually saw that this article has been translated into Chinese.

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      theplateaufilmmaker, with the new blog we will be translating in many languages.

  47. Ruaraid 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,
    Great post – great blog!
    I was just wondering what light you used for the DIY version – it shows the bed sheet as the bounce and semi-t shower curtain as diffusion but not what you used as the source…?


  48. Robert B. 2 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    thanks a lot for a great post and also for going back to a bit more vertical scroll layout for your blog ;) Would you use Source 4 as light source for this book light setup?


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      Robert B., absolutely. You are very welcome, and yes I am liking it much better as well. You are really able to see all of our amazing content so much easier. I have used them in the past to save on flags, like I have to do with the open face fixtures

  49. JJ 2 years ago

    Hi Shane. I just found out about your blog just a week ago and I’ve been hard at reading all your stuff regarding lighting since then.
    Anyway I have a question, what is the advantage of doing a book light over just double diffusing some 1k fresnel or a 1k rifa softbox for example and pointing it directly to your subject?

    Thanks Shane.

    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      JJ, Double diffusing will never be the same quality because you are projecting through the diffusion instead of bouncing which is a passive non direct source. I love the quality of the book light, I use it with almost everything I do.

  50. JJ 2 years ago

    Thanks for the response Shane. What instances do you normally use a book light? Is it wise to use it on dialogue scenes? Or is it more for glamour shots and interviews?


    • Author
      Shane 2 years ago

      JJ, The story will tell you, the characters emotions will tell you. I light based on the characters emotions in the scene. If I was shooting a love scene or where they have their first kiss, I would use a book light, as an example.

      • JJ 2 years ago

        One very last thing. Could you site more examples when you use a book light? And what are the factors why you chose it.
        I really wanna wrap my head around lighting.
        Thanks Shane. You are changing lives.

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