Sunday, April 7, 2013

3-Point Lighting Setup

Right now I'm Gaffer on a short film for my 423 class. The Gaffer is in charge of setting up all the lighting on the set. As a result I've been reading a lot on lighting, and one of the first things that is mentioned is 3 point lighting. It's a basic lighting setup, but after being on set for about a month now, I'm realizing how crucial learning this setup is. So that's why I figured I'd talk about it now.

The name is kind of misleading because often in this setup more than 3 lights are used (I'll explain in a moment), but there are three variations of lights used. The first one is the key light. It's typically placed between 60 and 70 degrees from the camera, and it causes shadows on the opposite side of the face because it's a harder light (the closer the key light is to the camera, the flatter the lighting).

A key light from the side.

This is why a softer fill light is used, to fill in some of the shadows. The fill is placed on the other side of the camera at a similar angle as the key, although while the key is usually about eye-level, the fill light is usually raised a little higher so that any shadows it makes fall on the ground rather than onto the background. A double shadow is not generally something you want in your image. The fill light is not usually as bright as the key, but it varies because you adjust the brightness of the fill depending on how much contrast you want in your image.

A key light with a little fill from camera left.

The last light used is the backlight, and it goes, predictably, behind the subject. The backlight is raised up high, though not directly overhead, and is used to separate the subject from the background by throwing light onto the back of the head and the shoulders (if the subject is a person).

Just the backlight; also called a hair light.

As I mentioned before, most of the time more than 3 lights are used because although the subject should now be lit, the background isn't. So one or more background lights is used. There are also a couple other kinds of lights, like a kicker. A kicker is similar to a backlight but it's usually placed at an angle and throws light across the side of the face from behind.

Key, fill, and backlights in one image

On set, we use variations on the 3-point lighting setup all the time, simply because it works. The subject may be placed in a different place in the frame, and the lights may need to be adjusted slightly, but the 3-point lighting setup provides a good foundation for understanding lighting.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great, great tutorial, Kenny. Very well done, thanks for all of your work on this