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So you want to give your footages a cinematic feel? If that is the case, check out this article for film lighting techniques every filmmaker should know.

Generally speaking, all filmmakers from amateurs to professionals know by heart that lighting is the key to captivating the audiences. Lighting techniques have been extensively used at various levels to give footages a cinematic feel. Nonetheless, determining what techniques to use in particular scenes is still tough, especially for novices. That is why once it comes to lighting techniques every filmmaker should know nowadays, a lot of issues remain unanswered.

So you need an in-depth summary of lighting techniques that could be used in a wide range of settings? In that case, you have come to the right place as down below, you would find solid techniques that guarantee optimal lighting for your flicks.    

Techniques To Keep In Mind

  • Natural Lighting

Overall, for filmmakers that have to shoot on tight budgets, natural lighting tends to be considered as the best technique. Lights in nature normally move by themselves so you only need to set up at a suitable angle while filming. In times of need, it’s even possible to alter natural lights using bouncing reflectors. However, to get quality footages, it’s strongly recommended that you scout the filming locations. In addition to that, take the shooting time into account to get the ideal lighting.   

  • Key Lighting

To put it plainly, key lighting is the technique that employs a light source that is both direct and intense. Commonly, filmmakers use key lighting so as to illuminate certain objects, characters and so on. It’s of utmost importance to avoid positioning the key light since that makes it flat as well as featureless. All in all, to create a dramatic hood, you should put the key light behind the subjects of the scenes.

It’s also worth noting that the key light is typically the primary light in a basic 3-point lighting setup.

  • Back Lighting

As the name suggests, back light hits the objects, characters, … from behind which keep them separated from the backgrounds. As a result, once filmmakers like to give a couple of frames a distinct three-dimensional, they use back lighting as it adds shape and depth. For your information, the sun is by all accounts an outstanding backlight that you could count on in a shoot. To lessen the intensity of lights coming from the sun, bouncing reflectors again prove handy.      

  • Fill Lighting

In layman’s term, the fill light is used to fill shadows, usually caused by the key light, in footages.  

Editor’s Note: the fill light, the key light and the back light actually make up the 3-point lighting setup used widely by visual media. In numerous articles that cover lighting techniques every filmmaker should know, the time-honored setup is held in high regard. Using lights placed at three positions, filmmakers would be able to eliminate the subjects in virtually whatever way they desire while also controlling the shadows.  Here is how it works:

  • Key Light: Unmatched in terms of intensity, the key light lights up the focuses of the frames directly.
  • Back Light: Positioned higher than what it illuminates, the back light lights up the subject from behind
  • Fill Light: Placed on the opposite of the key light, the fill light cancels out the shadows created by the key light. Moreover, the fill light loses to the key light regarding intensity.

As for the angles between the light sources and the filming camera, 60 degrees is the prevalent option but feel free to apply changes if required.

  • Practical Lighting

Ordinary items like lamps, candles and so on could be used as expedient sources of illuminations in lots of scenes. Known as practical lights, such items markedly boost ambient lights. To light up the subjects, it’s a good idea for you to set up multiple practical lights all around. Of course, you must assess the suitability of the shooting locations before hauling around dozens of lights for some frames.

  • Hard Lighting

Technically, hard light is a souring illumination created by direct beams from light sources that formulate shadows and harsh lines.  By using the hard light, you should be able to draw the attention of the audiences to particular spots on the frames, especially the subjects. Aside from that, the hard light also proves quite useful if you need to make silhouettes, highlights and so on. To stop the hard light, people often rely on diffusers.

  • Soft Lighting

Once it’s necessary to eliminate shadows and recreate subtle shades of light, the soft light is the top technique. In addition, the soft light could naturally add youth to the face of eliminated characters.

  • High Key Lighting

High key light is a style of light dominated by white tones from bright lights. Needless to say, high key light would keep the black shades, shadows, … of the frames down to the bare minimum. It’s originally used to tackle high contrast but these kinds of days, filmmakers use high key light to adjust the mood of a scene.

  • Low Key Lighting

As you guess it, low key light is the direct opposite of high key light: it’s commonly used to encase the frames in shadows. Notable characteristics of low key light usually include dark tones, blacks, shadows and so on. So to give the audiences ominous warnings, low key light is among the film lighting techniques every filmmaker should know.

  • Side Lighting

Fittingly, side light refers to the lights that enter straight from the sides to highlight the focus of the frames. To achieve optimal side lighting, it’s essential to get a strong contrast to underscore the outlines of the subject. Depending on the positioning of the light sources, side light could be used to bring harsh shadows into the scenes.  

Conclusion: Make Your Choice Wisely

Regarding film lighting techniques every filmmaker should know, different people tend to have different ideas. Nonetheless, if you truly wish to put together pictorial footages, it’s widely advised that you prioritize the above techniques so as to obtain the supreme lighting for every frame.

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