Have a look at this shot. Not very good. The eye wouldn’t have seen here like that – but the camera just sees what it sees. It was shot in a corridor, with harsh overhead lights.
Same lady, same corridor, but I moved her a little bit backwards (and moved the camera to match) so that the light was on her face. There’s just the hint of a backlight from the next light along the ceiling.
The two setups.
And I cheated a bit – I got a friend with a white shirt to stand just out of shot on camera left for the second shot. The shirt reflected enough light to soften the shadow on that side.
Here’s another way to get a decently lit shot without spending any money.
An actress in an ordinary sitting room. With standard sitting room lighting.
Again, your eye wouldn’t see her like that; your brain interprets the picture of the subject and adds information based on other sightings of the person and ‘idealises’ the shot. The camera doesn’t do that!
Here she is again, just a few lights added and a plant moved.
The basic lights – a table lamp on a chest for key and ceiling light as backlight.
The plants and things were moved later.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good lighting results. The main thing is to look at the viewfinder – don’t judge things using the mark one eyeball!
Why don’t professionals use table lamps and things? Time. Time costs money, but amateurs have time to spare. Maybe…