The Three Point Lighting Technique – Add Dimension to Your Videos

The Three Point Lighting Technique – Add Dimension to Your Videos

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On today’s Reel Rebel video production tip, Stephen Schweickart discusses the importance of good lighting for video and gives a brief overview of one tried and true lighting technique called “three point lighting”.  Using a good lighting set-up will help you make your online videos graduate from looking as if they were homemade and amateur, to looking more clean and professional.  Good lighting can provide a more interesting and dynamic image where the subject is seen with more dimension and where you have more control over shadows.

The Basics of Three Point Lighting & Definition

If you want a well lit video (and you should), it’s essential to use a good lighting set-up.  Three point lighting is one of the oldest lighting techniques used in shooting video and essentially it consists three lights (wouldn’t you know it) – a key light, fill light and back-light.

The Key Light

The primary light is the key light.  It’s there to bring light directly to your subject so that whatever you are filming, the subject is well illuminated in the shot.  Key lights should not be placed directly in front of the talent or subject, but instead slightly off to the side.  While just having this light may look like enough light, if you want a well lit piece, you’ll want to include the other two lights to provide the subject in shot with more dimension.

The Fill Light

The fill light fills the dark side of your subject.  The fill light allows you to control the overall feel of your shot depending on how much you dim or lighten the fill light.  A dim fill light will give you more of a harsh, film-noir type of shadow, while a having the light brighter will help give your subject a more even look.

You should always have a fill light in place even if you want a shadowy look to your talent so that you are able to see a little detail on the dark side.

The Back Light (also called Rim Light)

The third light is the back light.  A back light will put another element to the image of your talent and will push him or her off from the background, again adding another dimension.  For this all you need to do is place a light behind your subject pointed at the back of their neck and high enough to be out of frame.  Watch that you don’t have the light too bright or the effect you get may not be the look you were going for.

That’s it for a very basic overview of the standard three point lighting technique.  If you have a fourth light, you can use that to help light the background of the scene when required.

Question: What tips and techniques can you recommend to help creators produce more professional looking video?

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Hi, I’m Stephen Schweickart from Vscreen where we make videos for companies, and today we’re going to talk about this awesome thing called three-point lighting.

If you want to shoot a video that doesn’t look like it was filmed by you 86-year-old grandmother at your family’s 1998 family reunion, you gotta know a little something about lighting. You can’t just grab a camera and start shooting, most of the time that’ll look like crap. Applying this simple three point lighting technique is the easiest way to take your piece from home video to, well, better than home video. Let’s get into it.

Three point lighting requires, you guessed it, three lights: a key, a fill, and a back light. Your number one light is the key. It’s there to be the main light on your subject so who or whatever you’re filming doesn’t just look like a black splotch in your shot. It should not be placed directly in front of your talent, but slightly off to the side. For an amateur, this light may look like enough, but don’t stop there! The other two lights give your shot much more dimension.

The fill light does exactly that, it fills the dark side of your subject. This is where you can control the overall feel of your shot by dimming or brightening the light. Leave it dim to create a harsh film noir style shadow on your talent’s face, or crank it up for a more even look that lends itself to more light hearted stories. You don’t want to just leave this light out or you might look like you’re filming a Law and Order interrogation. Always have a fill light in place, even if you want a shadowy look to your talent, so that you can see a little detail on the dark side, and if you place it right you may even get a nice glint from the light in your talent’s eye. It’ll look cool, trust me.

Finally we move onto the back light. Just like throwing your background out of focus, a back light adds another element to your talent and really pushes him or her off the background. Simply place a light behind your talent pointed at the back of their neck and high enough to be out of frame and BLAMMO you’ve got yourself a rim light. Be careful you don’t make it too bright. You don’t want people thinking you’re talent is being abducted by ETs, but putting a little kick on your talent makes a huge difference.

There are a lot of ways for your video to suck, follow these three point lighting guidelines to make sure your lighting isn’t one of them.


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