12 Common Lighting Types in Video and Film to Create Cinematic Looks | Bounce, Practical, Soft Light


In video and filmmaking, lighting matters
in every shot. It can help you set the tone and mood of your scene, look
professional and created the atmosphere of your story. The project has to have
that visual appeal if you want your viewers to have a memorable experience.
Using the most suitable lighting methods allows you to convey your story as
effortlessly as possible and is also crucial to great storytelling. Learning
how to shape and utilize film lighting is one of the most important lessons and
trademarks a filmmaker can have in their toolkit and that is more than just
three-point lighting, it’s a cinematic look. Hang on to the end because I’m
going to explain 12 different common lighting types you’ll encounter when
lighting in video and filmmaking. Hi, I’m Jim Costa. I’m a videography, photography and
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photography or video production for you personally, for your business or for
something you know. Let’s begin with the most important light, the Key Light. Key
Light is the main source of light for your scene. It’s the most direct and
intense source of light for a typical scene. It is the first light source to be
set up, typically, and cinematographers use it to cast light on the actor or
subject. If you’re new to video and filmmaking, your Key Light might just be
the Sun if shooting outside or an open window if you’re shooting inside. If
using a lighting instrument, avoid positioning your key light too close to
your camera, otherwise your lighting will feel featureless, washed out and
extremely flat. If your Key Light is placed at the back or
side of your actor, it will call as a scene to look more dramatic and your
image will look dark. In a Three-Point Lighting setup, a Key Light is the
primary light. Although I’m not going to get into Three-Point Lighting in detail in
this video, I will mention the lighting sources in Three-Point Lighting as they
are very important to understand and to relate to this topic. If you want to
learn more about Three-Point Lighting specifically, check out the video I’ve
done on that subject. I’ll put a link to that video in the description below so
you can watch it after viewing this video and you can learn even more about
video and film lighting. The next two lights on my list are actually subsets of Key
Lights. There are High Key Lighting and Low-Key Lighting. Number two: High Key
Lighting. The definition of High Key Lighting is a style of lighting for film,
television and photography that reduces the lighting ratio in the scene. In the
first days of film, it was done to deal with high contrast, but now it’s used by
filmmakers to adjust the mood and tone of a scene as a form of artistic
expression. High Key Lighting is dominated by white tones from bright
lights. It is known for minimal use of blacks and mid-range tones. You use this type
of lighting to set a tone that is optimistic or hopeful. You see this type
of lighting a lot of music videos, commercials, sitcoms and heavenly scenes.
Be careful with this type of lighting as it can cause overexposure in some
sections of the image. The High Key Light is best produced using frontal
techniques and the light quality has a low ratio, which means all of your
light sources will be of equal intensity. Number three is Low-Key Lighting. The
definition of Low-Key Lighting is a filmic lighting style that uses a hard
source to encase your scene in shadows. Low Key Lighting wants contrast and
blackness. Low Key Lighting is a type of lighting you see in Film Noir movies and
in ominous scenes. It has dark tones with lots of blacks and shadows. You will see
striking contrast in Low-Key Lighting. With Low Key you end up with very little
fill light. The focus is on using “Low Key” to create shadow and how that shadow can
achieve mystery, drama or suspense, rather than on the lighting itself, which is why
is great for thrillers or horror movies. Number four is Fill Light. Key Lights create
shadows at some point. The Fill Light, therefore, is used to illuminate these
shadows or fill them in. The Fill Light is positioned opposite of your Key Light
at about a 45 degree angle and is not as bright as the Key. Generally they are
set at about 50% of the brightness (or half the intensity) of the Key Light.
Since the Fill Light helps to eliminate shadows caused by the Key Light, ensure
yours is indistinctive and does not cause its own shadows or characteristics.
Place your Fill a little closer to the camera if you want to create fewer
shadows. A Fill Light can be created from reflectors if there are no other light
sources available immediately. Light falls on the reflector and then is
bounced onto your subject. Photographers use this trick all the
time. Number 5 is known as Backlight, A Backlight gets
it’s his name primarily from its function. It is usually placed behind
this subject and a little higher. Its function is to separate the object of
interest from a poorly lit background. It also helps to enhance an object’s shape
and depth. You can use a Backlight to enhance your objects features and
prevent it from appearing as though it is 2D. If the Sun is your Backlight, use a
foam board or reflector to rebound natural light at a slightly lower
intensity back onto your object or subject. If a Backlight is placed behind
an actor at an angle the Backlight is known as a “Kicker.” Number 6 is Side Light.
As you may have guessed, the Side Light is a light that hits the subject from
one side. The Side Light is used to create “Chiaroscuro,” or a dramatic look. If
you’re wondering what Chiaroscuro means, it’s the type of lighting used in
paintings by Rembrandt. You can create Chiaroscuro using high contrast and
low Key. This was a common technique of filmmakers during the Film Noir era
of filmmaking. To achieve a dramatic feel with your Side Light cast it without Fill or
use a lower Fill Ratio, say, 1 to 8, instead of
1 to 2. A Side Light is the best choice when you wish to reveal texture. If
this is making sense to you put, “I’ve got it!” in the Comments section below.
Number Seven is what’s known as Practical Lights. This type of light is
used within the actual scene. It appears on screen. Practical Lights range from a
TV set, a household lamp, police lights, candles, flashlights, street lights and
more. A common practice in filmmaking is to swap out existing light bulbs with
Practical Lights that are on a dimmer mechanism to allow them to be controlled
easier. These are usually intentionally added in by the set designer or lighting
crew to create a cinematic look to your scene. It may sometimes be used to give
subtle lighting for your subject, such as a desk lamp lighting talent sitting at
a desk. Number eight is Bounce Light. Bounce Light (or just “Bounce,” as it’s known) is
reflected light. There are tools such as foam or soak boards that can help you to
bounce light. You can also have Bounce Light from the ceiling or from the walls
around your scene. The options are endless. To achieve a softer light, use foam
boards. They have a matte surface to help you create a soft reflective light. Bounce
from a reflector surface is often versatile. It is possible to create Fill,
Key and Back Light to illuminate subjects in the scene using Bounce Light
if your original light source is bright enough, like the midday Sun. Number Nine
is Soft Light. Soft Light does not refer to a direction although is a type of lighting
and filming. Cinematographers use Soft Light for situational or aesthetic
reasons. Soft Light helps to eliminate a harsh shadow, replicate refined lighting
from the surrounding areas and create a dramatic effect. All of these effects can
happen one at a time or all together. In essence, Soft Light is used to define the
light spread of your light source and not its placement. A diffusion panel or
light fixture usually generates soft light. Thus, the light from it soft source
creates a soft shadow or none at all. Number 10 is Hard Light. If you’re
looking to have harsh or sharp shadows, use a Hard Light. The best and most
natural source of Hard Light is the midday Sun or you could use a tiny light
source such as a high wattage desk lamp. In most types of cinematography,
Hard Light is not desirable. However, it is the best source to use when you want to
draw attention to a scene or subject. You can also use Hard Light to highlight
contours and create a vivid silhouette. Number eleven is Motivated Lighting. This
type of light is used to represent natural light, like the Sun’s light,
moonlight or street lamps during the night. The difference is that it’s
created by lighting instruments and not the Sun, moon or other actual light. In
real life, it’s mostly used to enhance Practical Light, especially when the
cinematographer wants to adapt coverage or intensity of Practical Light using a
third light source. For a natural-looking Motivated Light, use a filter for window
shadows or a colored gel on your light bulb for a bright warm yellow effect
like that from the Sun. You can also use color gels to come up with a faint
bluish cool light effect such as the light from of the moon. Number 12 is
Ambient Light. Artificial light is the best way to achieve well lit scenes
that look almost similar to what you would see in real life. Nevertheless,
there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of Ambient Light available at
the scene that you’re shooting. When filming during the daytime, try the
outdoors and take advantage of the Sun or the moons natural light. Late evening and
the early morning are the best times to shoot outside if you want to catch some
Soft Light. However, the intensity of light will not be constant when shooting
outside so be sure to plan for the Sun’s placement and for the weather
in general. There are many different types of lighting in video and
filmmaking depending upon what you want to achieve. The beauty of the medium is
knowing which type to use to achieve the desired effect.
My question of the day is, “What type of lighting have you used in your video and
film projects?” Leave a comment below and let us know. Would you like to learn more
about your camera settings to get your shooting like a pro? I’ve created an
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