Video Production Tips

Footcandle—Video lighting basics you should know

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Have you ever watched a film or looked at a photo and wondered how the people behind the camera got the lighting just right? They likely used a footcandle. 

Lighting is a crucial element of filmmaking and photography. It establishes the mood in a scene, symbolizes themes, or foreshadows what is to come. 

When you're shooting a video, you'll want to use them too. That way you don't get to the video editing stage and realize your lighting was unintentionally over or underexposed. But what exactly is a footcandle exactly? 

Read on to learn about this measurement and its importance in photography and cinematography.

Young woman in studio lighted by footcandles

What is a footcandle? 

A footcandle (FC) measures the light intensity on a surface area one foot away from a candle. 

This measurement uses candle lighting because it was the original light source videographers and photographers used for their work.  

How do footcandles work?

When you understand how the footcandle works, it's easier to figure out how much exposure you'll need when shooting. From there, you can figure out how to play with the lighting. Challenge your creative brain by creating shadows or overexposing a subject. 

Lumens vs footcandles

While Lumens (lux) and footcandles both measure the amount of light hitting a surface, a lumen measures the amount of light a source emits. 

Lumens are part of the metric system, which most countries in the world use. Footcandles are part of the imperial measurement system, most commonly used in the United States. 

One footcandle equals 10.76 lumens. However, many videographers and photographers do not usually convert footcandles because it's meant for cinematic and photographic purposes. Lumens are commonly used in the architectural and engineering fields to figure out what lighting industrial buildings will need.

How to measure a footcandle

A light meter is a tool that allows you to measure the footcandles and footcandles in a room.

Every time you visit a set, bring your light meter with you to make the lighting process easier for you and your team. All you have to do is point the light meter at the light source, and it will give you three numbers—one for the ISO, the aperture, and the shutter speed. 

Then, adjust these settings on your camera to match these numbers. If you want to change the ISO, aperture, or shutter speed, the light meter will adjust the other numbers accordingly. 

Measuring light from studio lights with flash meter close to face

If you want to brush up on your understanding of these terms, check out this guide on aperture.

Want to learn more about film production?

If you thought this article was helpful, there is so much more to learn in Clipchamp's glossary of video editing terms. Check it out and continue expanding your film vocabulary.

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