Top 5 Lighting Techniques

One of the most important tools in staging a scene is lighting. Lighting develops the mood and setting in any production. It captures the audience and draws them into the storyline just by looking at the scene and the lighting techniques that are used.

This post will highlight the top 5 lighting techniques used in film production and their purposes for a scene.

Number 1: Soft Lighting

Soft lighting is commonly used for its aesthetically pleasing effect. It eliminates shadows and recreates subtle shades of light that has no strict definition of a light source. The purpose is to make the subject or object look less harsh. An example of this technique would be in the movie Restless (2011) where you can notice the soft light with no clear distinction between light and shadows, and has a calming effect.

Number 2: Hard Lighting

Hard lighting uses a direct beam from a light source or from the sunlight. This lighting creates shadows and harsh lines. It can also create silhouettes and highlights. An example would be in the movie The Dark Knight (2008) with the harsh tones of the subjects faces and the overlapping shadows to add to the mood of the scene and the intensity of the character.

Number 3: Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as “practical” lighting, consists of the lights that are present and natural, so this could be sunlight, lamplight, or an overhead light. Ambient lighting can add depth and dimension to a scene if used cleverly. It can also add a sense of realism to the scene that draws the viewers attention. You need to account for ambient light, especially when shooting outside.

Number 4: Three Point Lighting

Three point lighting is a media standard form of lighting, as in it is highly used in all forms of media such as film, video, and photography. Three point lighting includes key light, fill light, and a back light.

The key light is the primary light source. It is the most intense and direct light in the scene. The key light will illuminate the form of the object or actor. Secondly, the fill light cancels out the shadows created by the ket light. It adds softness to the shadows. Lastly, the back light hits an actor or object from behind. This is used to separate the object or actor from the background.

Number 5: Motivated Lighting

Motivated light seeks to imitate natural light sources, such as sunlight, moonlight, street lights, head lights and more. This technique is used to emphasize the natural lights effect to help set the story or scene. It allows the audience to believe the world that is being presented.

Lighting as a whole is complex and broad. There is so much terminology and techniques that even choosing the top most common techniques was difficult because everyone has their own interpretation. This post was a simple introductory article about the diverse world of lighting in media, specifically in film.