Lighting can affect your film more than you realize. It highlights details, draws attention and makes for great cinematography. Before starting your film, know these 4 lighting set-ups.

Lighting can change your film. Try these set-ups to get an expert shot.
Lighting can change your film. Try these set-ups to get an expert shot.
Photo by Ahmed Hasan on Unsplash

1. 3-Point Lighting

As the 3-point lighting set-up implies, you will need 3 lights. A key light, a fill light and a back light. The key light and the fill light go in front of your subject, one on each side. The key light should be the brightest light, with the fill light dimmer, only filling in the shadows.

Behind the subject, you will add another light. The back light. It will create a layer of light between the subject and the background that will make them stand out. This lighting set-up is the basic lighting set-up for any standard production.

Experiment with the lighting set-ups to find out what works best for your film.
Experiment with the lighting set-ups to find out what works best for your film.
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2. Natural Lighting

If you’re filming outside and you want the light to look as natural as possible, you need to focus on natural lighting. Instead of filling your set up with lights, use the light already provided. You’ll need light reflectors and deflectors to pull this off.

Too much natural light could ruin a shot. Not enough isn’t good either. It’s a tricky balance. The other factor is the sun. It moves. You will need someone to reflect the sunlight on your subject. You will also need someone to block out the access light with either curtains or panels that you need to move with the sun.

It might not be a normal lighting set-up, but it’s useful to bring realness to a film. Instead of positioning lights, position people to use the light to your advantage.

Lighting set-ups don't always use a ton of lights. Sometimes, it uses light deflectors instead.
Lighting set-ups don’t always use a ton of lights. Sometimes, it uses light deflectors instead.
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3. Hard Lighting

If you want a dramatic lighting set-up, hard lighting is for you. It creates intense shadows and draws all eyes to the subject. The bright light positioned in front of the subject is likely the only one. Some films might include another light around the subject, just to add more emphasis.

You’ll likely find this lighting set-up in a dramatic film when all eyes should be on a character or prop. One important tool with hard lighting is the distance between the subject and the light. You want to experiment with it, seeing what shadows it creates when you move the light. Keep moving the light until you find the desired effect for your film.

Hard lighting is a dramatic set-up that draws eyes to the subject.
Hard lighting is a dramatic set-up that draws eyes to the subject.
Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

4. Soft Lighting

Contrary to hard lighting, soft lighting doesn’t create noticeable shadows. It’s a flattering set-up for subjects. Instead of using one focused light, you need to use a lot of soft lights. You can put filters in front of lights to soften them, or put distance between the lights and your subject.

We use a lot of fill lights in soft lighting set-ups. Place them anywhere there is a harsh shadow to erase it. You can even use reflectors to erase more shadows. The goal here is to get rid of as many shadows as you can, so your subject blends in with their background a bit. Don’t forget, the color of your lightning and angle can change your film greatly.

Films love soft lighting set-ups for cheerful scenes.
Films love soft lighting set-ups for cheerful scenes.
Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash