Film Lighting: The Basics of Three Point Lighting

BH-guide-to-studio-lighting1Whether you want to give your set a fun bright color, cast a darkish noir mystique, or even heighten the importance of specific characters or objects, lighting is a subtle way to alter your film. Many large studios have legions of light operators and equipment at their disposal, but this is often expensive and not all that practical for filming small do it yourself video projects. One of the most commonly practiced lighting styles however, is relatively cost effective and simple. This tactic, which uses a key light, a fill light, and a backlight, is known as three point lighting. By using these three lights in the correct way, three-point lighting can greatly raise the professionalism of your video.

The main light that focuses on your subject is the key light. Placing the light directly in front of your subject will instead create an unflattering deer in the headlights vibe, so make sure to place the key light forty-five degrees away from your camera. This angle will also add depth to your subject, adding edges to your subject’s face and shoulders. The key light’s main goal is to illuminate the subject, but there will still be some shadow around your subject.

This is where the fill light comes in to play a key role in softening the subject’s contrast of light and dark. The light is placed on the cameras opposite side, also at a forty five degree angle. Like its name suggests, this light fills in any left over shadows from the key light. This light should be dimmer than the key light, so as not to compete for the subject’s attention and direction. You can dim this light with a filter, a lower wattage light bulb, or even by moving the light further away. This will not totally remove all shadows, but will greatly soften them.

Finally, we use the backlight to make the subject pop out from his or her background. The backlight is set up behind the subject at a slight angle to avoid light spilling directly into the camera. By shining light down at your subject from an angle, it will pull them up from the background, focusing attention directly on them rather than the scene around them.

By following these simple steps in three point lighting, your videos will look more professional, and not to mention, more pleasing to the eyes. If your project needs even more lighting though, make sure to visit us at for professional grade lighting expertise.

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"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." Edward de Bono