Lighting Journal

I wanted the whole Washington Post (scene) to have a pale light simply because the workers were overworked. They smoke, they drink coffee, and probably drink a lot of booze. Their lifestyle was very consuming. The skin was pasty and pale so the lighting had to reflect that.
— Janusz Kaminski, DP for Spielberg's "The Post"

One of the earliest challengers of film school was "seeing light," pretty quickly I realized how much work was ahead. Lighting I. Lighting II. Advanced Lighting. No wonder we had so many classes on the subject. I knew the films I liked but in watching a movie I couldn't identify each light source or describe it’s qualities, much less the impact on the audience. One of our assignments was to observe things like direction, color, quality, and intensity. We were instructed to gather stills from feature films and then describe characteristics of each light source along with mood and tone. (Above I've added some of my slides from that assignment.)

Consider how much information the lighting gives it's audience: where to look, who is important, are they good or bad, what time of day/year is it, what is the genre, is this set in the past/future, is this person trustworthy? And then consider how lighting does all of this. Do hard shadows from a light source placed below a subject's eye line make them appear sinister? Does a twinkle in a character's eye make them seem more trustworthy? Does warm light make us happy or sad? 

Gathering stills and creating a lighting journal are essential homework for any aspiring cinematographer and can only help most photographers. The goal is to create a reference point by observing what professionals are doing in their films. The result is you learn to become more critical of your own work and hopefully more capable of producing images with the desired mood and tone.