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Lighting and How to Arrange It

Updated on April 18, 2016

Why Lighting?

You've decided on a film project. Maybe it's a narrative film, a documentary, testimony, interview or some smaller piece. You instantly start thinking about your budget and what kind of camera and special lenses you will need to get. Cameras and their extras help tell the story that you are sharing with the wold. But remember that lighting is a key story telling element. I used to not care about lighting. When I first started out in the filming business I thought, "let's just film outside or turn all the lights on in the room" that was my knowledge and attitude about lighting! But lighting is much more than illuminating the subject. Illumination is just the first step and reasoning for proper lighting. Lighting is a storytelling element in the same vein as the paint brush, pen, or lens since we're dealing with moving pictures. Lighting tells the audience if the scene is warm and inviting, cool and refreshing, or even dark, cold and scary. Is the story one of tragedy or of triumph? Is the story one of love or of fear and loathing? Your choice of light, color, temperature, and intensity all share in the scene.

Now that we know why lighting is important, I will be discussing types of lighting. In my opinion there are three types of lighting processes.

  1. Umbrella lighting
  2. LED Lighting
  3. Tungston studio lighting

Umbrella Lighting

Umbrella lighting is seen in and is most common with still portrait photography. Umbrellas are used to reflect and throw the light across the subject. Thrown light is important to keep out unwanted shadows or shadow variations. They create a nice touch on the subject to accent the features while not being to over powering. You can also rig a system to use flash photography with your umbrellas. But this system can be used for video production too. I have an umbrella set and I love it. I use it often when I'm shooting videos. Just because something is traditionally used for one purpose does not mean that it can not be used for another purpose.

LED Lighting

The dictionary states, light-emitting diode: a semiconductor diode that emits light whenconducting current and is used in electronic displays, indoor andoutdoor lighting, etc.

LED's are changing the way that film is being made. LED's are lighter, cleaner and less expensive. You don't need expensive gels and filters to change the lighting color or temperature. You can change from 3200 Kelvin which is indoor white light to 5600 Kelvin which is the color temperature of day light.This change is easily applied through the turning of a nob. The intensity of the light can be changed by the turn of the nob as well. It's great! I love using LED light panels when filming.They also don't require you to carry, or change expensive hot to the touch bulbs.I've changed those bulbs and they will burn your skin if you change them with your bare hands. If you get oil on a bulb from your skin that bulb will explode once it gets hot enough. Even more reasons to love LED lights.

Panels can also be fitted with barn doors to help cast and she light. Barn doors are metal flaps that turn in, down or up to allow the filmmaker to be more creative with their lighting choices. Barn doors allow variety and creativity to be brought to the usage of light.

Traditional Studio Lighting

Tungsten or florescent studio lighting is the norm in the business. These lights are big, heavy, hot, and require several equally heavy and obtuse pieces of equipment to set them on or to mount them on. Studio lights are fitted with barn doors to cast and shape light, but they can also be fitted with filters to change the color of light or gel paper which serves the same effect. One can even attach diffusers to lessen the intensity of light. It's certainly my opinion that traditional studio lighting is the most difficult and inconvenient to work with. That being said, if you have a the budget for a gaffer, best boy electric, and grips then you may want to stick with this traditional form of lighting. A good gaffer can really design some beautiful effects with the right equipment. A good gaffer is an artist with light.

What kind of Lighting do You Prefer?

What kind of Lighting do You Prefer?

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How to arrange Four Point Lighting

  • Key Light:The Key light is the main light. It is the brightest and is intended to illuminate and and make the face or subject really pop. The Key light cast the light broad over the whole face. It will be positioned on the right or left whichever is the subjects best side.
  • Fill Light: The fill light is the softer light. It is positioned on the opposite of the key light. it is not as bright, as is intended to soften the shadows created by the key light. It can also soften the features of the face and helps create a more beautiful pleasing image.
  • Hair Light: The hair light is positioned behind the subject. It is often called the back light. It accents the hair and helps to pop the image off the background. If the hair light is too strong the subject will look like they have a halo. You're not looking for strength with this light but for finesse.
  • Background Light: This light helps to bring out the background features. Maybe to fill in shadows or to illuminate the wall. Sometimes you don't want the entire wall to be lit up so just a little streak or slash of light can be desirable. This effect is achievable by manipulating the barn doors.

Watch the video and check out the image below to see this set up further.

That's a Wrap

Lighting can be tough to set up and figure out. But I hope that this Hub will give you some basic idea on how to think about and set up proper lighting for a film. It's very easy to get more complex from there, but as long as you keep the basics in mind you can stretch and create from there. Just remember, key light, fill light, hair light and background light.


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    • Sean Fliehman profile imageAUTHOR

      Sean Fliehman 

      2 years ago

      Thanks, I don't know everything but I understand the basics. I hope it can help someone.

    • Brad Funkhouser profile image

      Brad Funkhouser 

      2 years ago from Plano, Texas

      Nice piece on lighting. Thanks.


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