Let’s Talk Lighting
Lighting in Video Production
Lighting is one of the most crucial aspects of your video production. It can influence the mood of your video, emphasize or de-emphasize certain elements in the frame, add texture and color, make people look a certain way etc. It is therefore important to know the differences between types of lighting and when or why each is used.
The Basics: 3-point lighting
For video production shooting, the best place to start is three-point lighting. This requires a backlight, a key light and a fill light:
- The backlight brings some depth into the shot, thus separating the subject from the background. It is usually 45 degrees off the axis and shines down on the subject. Your backlight should be as bright as your key light, if not brighter.
- The key light is the main light you are going to be using to film the subject. You should position this light as if it were the only light you had. The key light is usually placed 45 degrees to the subject, either to the left or the right and is usually above and aimed down at the subject at between 30 to 40 degrees.
- The fill light is used as a supporting light for the key light and should be two to three stops dimmer than the key light. It fills the shadows created by the key light and is typically placed at a 45-degree angle on the opposite side of the camera, level with the subject’s face.
Side lighting is when your main light is directly off to the side of the subject. This will split the subject’s face in half and is typically used in films to convey the fact that the character is feeling conflicted. This type of lighting is also used to reveal texture and make the shot look more dramatic since side lighting brings out shadows. As a result, it is not to be used if you want your subject to look beautiful, since side lighting is not particularly flattering.
Back lighting is used when you want to capture the subject’s silhouette, since back lighting reveals form. However, you will struggle to see any details or texture with regards to the subject’s face or clothing.
Light quality refers to how hard or soft the light is. A hard light creates hard-edged shadows while a soft light creates soft-edged shadows. Typically, soft light is more flattering, making it an important lighting technique in video production. Soft light is created by enlarging the light source. Consequently, the smaller the light source, the harder the light.
Light intensity refers to the amount of light that is falling on your subject. The closer the subject is to the light source, the more intense the light. Sometimes you will be able to dim your light rather than having to move it away in order to lessen the light intensity. You can also make use of a neutral density gel to achieve the same effect.
The color of your light can be changed by making use of color gels. These are semi-transparent, heat-resistant sheets that you put over the light to add the desired color. Colored light can serve to change the mood of the shot in both subtle and obvious ways.
High Key and Low Key Lighting
High key lighting refers to shots where there is very little shadow, producing a happy and optimistic shot. Low key lighting, on the other hand, refers to shots with plenty of contrast and shadows. This is useful in creating suspense and horror or when dealing with serious topics.