January 28, 2017

Watch: Basic Lighting Lingo for First-Time Filmmakers

These are some essential terms you need to know if you're new to lighting a film.

Lighting is a complex art form that requires a lot of practice to do well, but if you're just starting out, you might be happy to know that getting started isn't all that complicated. In the video below, the team over at Film Riot shares a bunch of terms you should know if you're going to be lighting a scene, as well as some techniques you can use to create cinematic lighting on the cheap with limited lighting equipment. Check it out below:

Below are the lighting terms mentioned in the video. They'll definitely come in handy whether you're working on a professional set or with your no-budget skeleton crew.

  • Lamp left/right: commands that direct where a light should be move
  • Broadside/nearside: side of subject facing toward camera.
  • Shortside: side of subject facing away from camera
  • Side lighting: lighting a subject at a 90-degree angle
  • Rembrandt lighting: lighting a subject at a 45-degree angle
  • Back lighting: lighting a subject from behind
  • Rim light: lighting creates an outline of subject
  • Key light: main source of light
  • Fill light: used to fill in shadows (you can use a bounce, reflector, or light)
  • High key lighting: flat, not a lot of contrast or shadows
  • Low key lighting: a lot of contrast and shadows
  • Cross lighting: using two lights placed in a diagonal line across from each other

It's good to know some lingo, but understanding the important lighting concepts they refer to is crucial if you want to give your film that cinematic look. Luckily, it doesn't require a ton of expensive equipment to light a scene, in fact, you can get away with a lot with a single light and a few modifiers. The trick is finding out how to make the most of what few light sources you have, be them actual lighting units or natural light from the sun. Light modifiers are your best friend when it comes to this, whether they're turning a single light into multiple sources or harnessing the raw power of the sun.

Remember, you don't need a ton of equipment to light a scene, you just need to be a clever light wrangler.     

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2 Comments

Thanks for sharing this. It is really a good help even to the pros. From time to time we need to refresh ourselves with the basics.

January 30, 2017 at 2:41AM

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Dibyendu Joardar
Director of Photography
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This is A good post. nice refresher.

January 30, 2017 at 7:02PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
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