How to become a Lighting Engineer

Lighting engineers are known for setting up and operating lighting equipment in both television and film. They work across all types of projects and can cover productions inside studios or outside on location. A lighting technician’s job is an important element of film and TV programmes coming together and these people must ensure that the lighting creates the right atmosphere to set the scene wanted by the Director while also helping to evoke a certain response within the audience.  The work they do requires long hours and they need to have good technical and creative skills in order to follow instructions to ensure the lighting is at it’s best standard.

Key job roles:

  • Design the lighting set up to create the look of a scene. This involves placing the lights in the right place to create the best look for a scene. For example lights may be placed directly in  front of where one character will sit so that the spot light is on them and to assert that they are the main character. They may want to set up a large number of lights to create a bright light for a happy scene, the same way that for a horror scene they may design it so there a few dull lights to create low lighting and a dark atmosphere.


  • Maintain the lights. Lights are most likely going to be used a lot during the making of a film and therefore are likely to break or have issues. It is up to the lighting technician to ensure they can fix the lights quickly so that it doesn’t disrupt the filming process. They may also need to  regularly check the quality of the lights to ensure they don’t break in the middle of filming and also make sure there is spare back-up lighting equipment for if this does happen.


  • Set the lights up to the agreed design. This involves the lighting engeneer getting to the studio early and before the filming starts to ensure all the right equiptment is in place ready for the actors and Director. They may need to listen to any changes or adjustments that the Direcor has regarding placement but overall they will need to follow their own plan which will usually be a storyboard drawing they have created showing an overview of the set and where the lights need to be placed.


           Image result for lighting film

                                                           Cinema Production Lighting (2009)

Career path – Ways to become a lighting engineer:

  • Work experience – This evolves a short term experience of employment in the media industry, usually lasting a couple of weeks. A work experience placement may lead to an internship or apprenticeship and your work experience may write a letter of recommendation to future possible employers which may help with your career further down the line and getting jobs.


  • University – University is a great way to gain experience in your  hosen area, for example it may allow you to work with different pieces of lighting equipment, preparing you for what using them in a job would entail. It can also allow you to create a great deal of connections with various people that may end up working in the same field as you in the future.  Carrying out a university course can also help to give a detailed understanding of specific topics hat you are interested in such as lighting and when you  graduate gives a provable level of education.


  • Internships – An internship is ultimately  unpaid on the job training in the industry. Although the unpaid part may be off putting, it can help you to gain a great deal of experience in an industry. Not only this but it will look great on a CV if you are applying for jobs in the media and they know you have past experience.


  • Apprenticeships – An apprenticeship is very similar to an internhip, however in this case the experience isusually paid traineeship so not only do you get paid work but you can gain on the job training in the industry. You will also receive a qualification at the end of the apprenticeship and there is always the possibility of the company hiring you at the end.


  • Freelance – Freelancing ultimately means being self employed, which usually for people in the media means bein hired to work solely for one particular assignment. For example this could mean being paid only for one TV episode you are asked to work on. Being a freelancer usually involves going large amounts of time without work, then working constantly on one project when you are hired.

Harvard referencing

‘Cinema Production Lighting’ (2009) – Last Accessed 19/09/16

Creative Skillnet’ (2016) – Last Accessed 19/09/16 

‘Freelancer’ Wikipedia (2016) – Last Accessed 19/09/16