Lighting Definitions

KEY LIGHT: The dominant light on people or objects.

FILL LIGHT: Light that fills in the shadows not lit by the KEY LIGHT. Fill light is often from the sky, clouds, reflected off nearby objects or created by the lighting or grip crew.

BACK LIGHT, 3/4 BACK LIGHT, KICKER, RIM LIGHT or EDGE LIGHT: Light that hits a person or objects from almost behind that does not hit much of their face (or object) and hopefully not their nose. Any type of BACKLIGHT is NOT the KEY LIGHT. A rim/edge light might be added to separate a dark side of a face or object from the background or make up for a lack of FILL LIGHT on that side. Most types of BACK LIGHT can be over exposed and still record well on tape or film. Adjusting backlight is usually done by eye.

SIDELIGHT: (50/50 LIGHT): A situation where the light comes from 90 degrees to the line from the camera to the person. This is a difficult to handle situation for close-ups. Lots of FILL LIGHT or a RIM LIGHT can help. Side light with no fill can be fine in a wide shot where people are small in frame and the scenery benefits from overall light. People can even be semi-silhouette and be OK.

TOP LIGHT: Light directly from above is a difficult situation. A white SCRIM will reduce this light if the background balance permits it and diffused light from the SCRIM will supply FILL LIGHT for the harsh shadows. Putting people into BROKEN SHADE, under a tree branches, can also work if the background is dark enough to balance with the foreground lighting.

HARD LIGHT: Light from the sun or small source. Hard light creates hard shadows and accentuated detail such as lines in the face.

SOFT LIGHT: Light from a large angle relative to the subject. Skylight is from many directions and is soft. The sun bounced from a wall can be soft, but is hard if bounced from a mirror.

THE I SQUARED R LAW: Light decreases with the square of the distance from the source. In every day terms; it you get 1/4 the light every time you double the distance from the source. Remember across the street is almost the same distance from the sun. The sky is also far away, but as the total amount of sky that lights a person is reduced, the amount of light is reduced.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.