Hear me out, when you first heard about the word “lighting” as a photographer or videographer, you must have thought it was some sort of magical word, right?
Well, it’s true that lighting can be intimidating for beginners.
This is due to the difference between how our normal eyes see things compared to a digital camera lens.
And you may not understand why lighting is important in your filming process.
It’s never too late to learn something new!
The good news is you don’t have to figure this out by yourself.
I will help you get a firm grip of the effect of lighting on your professional videos.
“Why Is Lighting So Important?” You asked
The number one reason why lighting is super important is because our eyes perceive the contrasts of lighting and objects better than a camera.
For example, let’s say you are filming an interview video. (sounds very professional, right?)
And the only lighting you have at that moment is the ceiling light from above.
When you edit your video in the post production, you realize the whole video is a little dark to see the expression on the face of the interviewee.
That’s definitely not good at all.
It’s why you need better lighting during your filming production.
Understanding the basics of lighting
There are many angles to take into consideration when you start shooting a film or video.
Some of them are:
- Place where you shoot
- The amount of lighting
- Natural lighting (if you have some)
To understand the basics, you must also learn about the 3-point lighting technique of cinematography, which are key light, fill light and back light.
This technique is such a fundamental agreement between filmmakers that it has become a virtual rules.
So how do we do this?
The key point of this technique is to have the key light in front of the subject for main lighting, the fill light to shine on the shadows and background of the subject, and a delicate back light to isolate the subject with the backdrop.
Different film lighting types
When it comes to professional filming and lighting, 3-point lighting technique is not the only way to improve your illumination.
In fact, there are 12 types of on-set lighting to consider in filming:
- Key light
Like I said earlier, key light is the strongest light to put on the main subject
- Fill light
The supporting light for key light, it helps create more dimensions and relax the shadows of the main subject.
- Back light
Always at the back of the subject to strengthen details and separate them from the background
- Side light
A side lighting of the subject, it concentrates on the outline of the face of the subject to create a more dramatic feeling.
- Practical light
It is the emerging lighting from a lamp or window source of the virtual world within the film. The idea is to create a fabricated lighting that brings a realistic feeling towards the audience.
- Hard light
It is a single point of light that creates distinct and sharp shadows, it emphasizes some particular details of the subject.
- Soft light
This is opposite to hard light, which is having less shadows and more of a balanced lighting on the subject. This technique can be achieved by the bounce of lighting on a reflector or through a diffusion panel.
- High-key light
This lighting technique consists of mostly bright white light that dominates the subject and background. It brings an optimistic and youthful feeling out of a subject.
- Low-key light
This one is contradictory to high-key light, where it uses a lot of darker tones and shadows to produce a dramatic atmosphere.
- Natural light
This lighting type depends on your location of shooting. How much you can get from outdoor or indoor will decide if you need extra light sources.
- Motivated light
This lighting technique is using many artificial lighting devices to replicate the existing natural lighting sources in the shooting area, for example outside window sunlight. The goal is to create an appropriate scenario, hence, enhance the mood and emotion.
- Bounce light
As the name suggested, it’s when you throw the light at a reflected surface and it bounces on the subject and also shines the whole background behind as well.
Sometimes, setting up the right lighting for the scenario will take a lot of testing to get the perfect emotional ambience in your video.
However, you should try to get around with the 3-point lighting technique before moving on other techniques. Eventually, you will get a feel for the correct balance of light and shadows of your films or short videos.
The benefits of good lighting
Lighting is not as simple as turning on your room light and being done with it.
Having good lighting can emphasize many angles of filming making, here are some benefits you can potentially get out of these lighting techniques.
Setting the right mood for the scene
Lighting can play an important role in any dramatic experience: horror, comedy, dramatic action, etc.
A typical film/video might not always have good lighting but good lighting will always bring in better immersion for the audience.
For example, with the right implementation of 3-point lighting technique, you can design natural emotional lighting for a game show or newsroom.
Or you can play around with the key and fill light to create a more dramatic and serious vibe.
Or you can try soft, low-contrast and high key for a more comedic scene.
Reflecting the emotion of the actor/subject
A lot of the time, lighting reflection on the subject helps express or enhance the emotion on their face.
For example, how do you tell a scary scene by the look of it?
You put a light source under the actor’s chin, right?
Or another example, how to tell the difference between a protagonist and an antagonist?
With minimal shadows, the character will turn out less aggressive and trustworthy. However, the more shadows a character’s face has, the more cautionary the audience will have towards that subject.
Bringing out the nature of the film
In practice, there is actually no hard-and-fast lighting requirement on any specific genre because it will hinder the creativity of the directors.
However, as a rule of thumb for filmmakers, comedy movies are normally captured in high key, very limited shadows available.
And most scary films are shot in low key because of the dim hue and amount of shadows in a movie.
So… why is lighting important in a film?
Lighting is the foundation of the filmmaking industry because it helps manifest the idea of the directors to the audience.
Lighting can be as important as:
- Guiding the direction of the audience’s vision throughout the film.
- Defining the authenticity in a scene to make sure the environment matches the feeling.
- Making sure the audience brings out the relevant emotion.
For starters, it can be complicated but it will take a lot of right and wrong setups to achieve the best lighting option, which is getting people to not notice the difference but still understand the story.