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Using Tonal Contrast to Add Depth to an Image

using tonal contrast to create depth in an image - by tyler kaschke, boulder colorado gaffer
Lighting Diagram by Tyler Kaschke, Boulder Colorado Gaffer

Mixing color temperature is an easy way to bring more depth to your frame.

One of my favorite ways to do this is the sort of nighttime blue hour look. Cool light (6000K or so) pushing through the windows and warm light (3000K or so) from the lights inside. Camera is set to 5600K so the exterior light feels neutral-ish and the interior feels warm and cozy. That was exactly the vibe for this intimate recording session with @joelansett

Tonal contrast creates visual interest by adding layers in a two dimensional space. Light is crazy like that, man. Sometimes it’s just a warm lamp in the background to bring a dead corner to life. Other times it’s a whole ass setup like this :)

For me, scenes like this feel like painting with light (cliche of the day™️) where each fixture is a brush with its own characteristics and abilities. I generally light to the LUT on the monitor and use my eyeballs and false color to gauge exposure. Working in a night scene does lend itself to a little more flexibility because there are many more artificial light sources at night to motivate the look. There is no “formula” to create depth, just personal preferences.

This setup was keyed with the LiteMat 4 overhead through magic cloth and bleached muslin, loosely draped and skirted around the back - which set the room tone nice and warm. LiteMat 2L with Snapgrid was used to add dimension to talent’s face from the far side. 300x up the stairs acted as a cool hard edge, 60C down the hall for a cool skip off the floor. An Astera tube in the next room added more subtle cool light in the background. A couple other titans were under a shelf in the hallway. Big light push through the window with the Vortex 8 into ultrabounce. Another Titan tube carrying that cool light from the window onto the subject’s back. A 60C into ultrabounce in the other window and of course a lot of haze 😎


Director @zackwilson_

Sound Engineer @aboyandhiskite

Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with G&E and grip truck rentals based in Boulder, Colorado and serving Denver, Golden, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

For more information about lighting tips and shooting commercials in Colorado, follow me on Instagram @colorado_gaffer

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