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The 10 Film Lighting Techniques Amateur Filmmakers and Videographers Need to Know

You are an amateur filmmaker looking to make it into the big leagues. You’ve decided to take part in your town’s annual film festival to get your name out there and get some practice in. you’ve got your actors, a camera, and stage props.

You can have all the best of these things but if you don’t make it look real, it will pull your audience’s attention to the wrong place. The best way to create a sense of immersion is to use film lighting to your advantage.

To help you get first place in your local film festival, here are ten lighting techniques that you should keep in mind.

1. Natural Lighting

If your film project has a small budget then we have good news for you. Natural lighting is free and you don’t have to move it at all. It’s the light that is already found at the location you’re at.

If you’re going to be using a lot of natural lighting in your project you’ll want to take a look around the area first. Remember the time of day you go. The lighting will be different in the mornings than it is in the late evenings.

As far as using natural light, you can’t move it like you would a spotlight but you can alter its direction with bounce cards.

2. Three-Point Lighting

Three-point lighting is one of the most basic lighting techniques in film. It involves lighting your actor from three points. Key, fill and back lighting all make up this technique.

We’ll get into a little more detail about how these three lighting techniques come together later. What you should know now is that using the three-point lighting system will stop your actor from fading into the background of your set.

3. Key Lighting

Key lighting is going to be the main source of light in any scene and it’s the light that shines the brightest in the 3-point lighting set up.

The main thing that you need to keep in mind when using the key light is to not put it near the camera. If you do, the lighting will become flat which is the opposite of what you want.

You can place the key light behind the actor. Doing this will make the scene come across as a little more dramatic.

4. High Key Lighting

High key lighting is a technique that will lower the lighting ratio in your scene. Using it will allow you to tweak the mood of a scene to your advantage.

High key lighting is made up of a lot of bright white lights to help reduce shadow. You won’t see many dark tones going on. It’s usually used to make a scene come across as a little more hopeful.

5. Low Key Lighting

Low key lighting is the exact opposite of high key. If you need your scene to be a little darker you’ll use low key. It keeps everything in the shadows.

Whereas high key lighting uses bright, white tones, low key uses darker ones. You’ll see this technique a lot in thriller movies.

6. Fill Lighting

The key light will create a bunch of shadows which is where the fill lighting comes in. It’s placed on the opposite side of the key light to get rid of or reduce shadows without overpowering the key light.

It doesn’t cast any shadows nor does it have any other stand out features.

Along with additonal lighting fixtures, fill lighting can also be created with the use of bounce cards.

Film Lighting

7. Backlighting

As the name suggests, the backlight is used to cast a light on an actor from behind. It helps keep your actor separate from the background and gives them a little more depth.

The great thing about backlighting is you can combine it with natural lighting. You can take advantage of the sun. If the sun’s rays are a little too intense to use as a backlight then use a reflector to lessen the impact.

You can change things up a little by casting the backlight at an angle. This is better known as a kicker.

8. Practical Light

Practical light is when you use lighting that’s already at a location or part of the set rather than bringing in a bunch of stage lights. This includes things like candles, lamps, string lights, even a small glare from a television could count as practical light.

Practical lights are used more as indicative lighting to draw the viewer into the frame rather than to light a whole scene. That’s not to say you it can’t be done to great effect, but before you decide to use them, you should always check your light levels.

Film Practical Lighting

9. Hard Lighting

Hard lighting is a technique involving a direct light source. The result is rough lines and shadows. This can be done with stage lights or even the sun.

You can use hard lighting to bring attention to an actor or object in a scene, cast silhouettes, or create a high light effect.

10. Soft Light

Soft light is less of a light source and more of an esthetic. It’s used to get rid of shadows in a scene with a small amount of light.

Using soft light can take a few years off an actor’s face and it can also be used as a fill light.

Film Lighting Techniques You Should be Aware of

You can gather up all the best props, actors, and cameras but without the proper lighting, your film will fall flat. It’s the bread and butter of any production.

Use some of these film lighting techniques to add a little bit of life into all your video and film projects.

Do you want your next film project to stand out? Need some fill or practical lighting solutions? Go here to check out our list of services.

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