Lighting Research

My friend Zoe suggested that I look at a slide show she had come across, as it had a lot of good information about lighting for film. You can view it below:

It was a really great source, providing well condensed information on different kinds of lighting, the different ways of using it, and examples of how lighting techniques have been used in various films. Below are a few of my notes that I made, of aspects that I found important:

Lighting influences the mood and look of a scene, and is responsible for significant effects. It can be used to enhance composition (e.g. through symmetry), can be used as a metaphor, can draw attention to specific areas of interest, and can create dramatic visual effects. It can be used to add texture and detail to a scene.

High key lighting: Scene is brightly lit, with few shadows, achieved by one strong key light.

Low key lighting: Lots of shadow, darker, key light is not as bright.

High contrast lighting: Strong contrast between light and shadow, small amount of in between grey tones. Often used in thrillers, or Film Noir.

Hard Light: Creates sharp outlines, illuminates characters, brings out detail in texture, highlights imperfections, less flattering.

Soft Light: Covers a wider area, more diffuse, minimises shadow, reduces detail and texture. (Can be created with spun glass diffusers, which reduce intensity of light).

The slide show also clarified three point lighting to me: although I had learnt about 3-point in my lighting induction, I had a confused understanding of the technique. The powerpoint gives a clear, and well illustrated account of what it is, and how it can be used to achieve certain effects.

Three point lighting consists of:

Key light: the strongest light, providing hard light, placed to the side of the camera and the subject so that one side is well lit, and the other has a shadow.

Fill light: secondary light, on opposite side of key light, used to fill the shadows created by the key. Softer, less bright, casting softer shadows. Can be used to highlight subject’s hair.

Back light: (Edge light) Placed behind subject, to provide definition, and highlight subject’s outline separating them from the background, making look 3D.

(A 4th light can be used to reduce shadows)

Lighting can be used to make subjects look attractive (by using balanced three point lighting) or unattractive (unbalanced). Playing around with different lights can effect the way a subject is perceived:

Side lighting: can create a sinister effect.

Top lighting: creates deep shadows in eye sockets, and under nose giving sinister/threatening effect.

Bottom lighting: creates shadows and distorts face – looks evil/sinister.

Back lighting: Highlights edges of subject, making it look like they are glowing – creates angelic effect.

Lighting can be used to illustrate a time of day, this can have metaphorical significance.

Mood and atmosphere can be affected by lighting; bright, clear lighting gives feel of happiness, joy and security (is often used for comedy). Diffuse, greyer lighting can make scene look sombre and unhappy.

There are two different styles of lighting:

Naturalism: Uses a key light so the light seems to come from a source in the scene, or a natural source outside the scene.

Pictorialism: Places the key light to create a striking visual image.

Many films use both techniques.


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