Lighting Research Project

In this project I’m going to be researching:

  • The different lighting techniques used in film
  • Which films have used these techniques to enhance the film
  • How these techniques affect the scene and what is being shown

Lighting techniques used in film:


This is the process of lighting up a subject from behind, creating a glowing outline of the subject while the rest of the shot stays in the dark. The main source of light is behind the subject, therefore silhouetting it. Backlighting is a great way to portray villains as shown in this film still of Freddy Kruger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) which makes as the heavily shadowing means we only see his out line and monstrous looking hand.

Image result for backlighting film

Explore Camera Backlighting’ Kerry. J (2015)

Under lighting

This lighting techniques involves filming the subject from underneath which creates shadows across their face. This is often used in films to create a horror and to make the character’s face seem frightening to an audience and build tension, which is exactly what this image from The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) shows.

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‘Digital light on detour’ Four edges around (2014)

Top lighting

Light coming directly overhead and high enough to get over the head and onto the face and nose is called a top light. This still from the film No Country For Old Men (2007) uses top lighting to create mystery within the character and through making most of his face body  dark and only the top of his face lit up it emphasises his anger and dominance.

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‘Film Lighting’ Lawler. A (no date)

Harsh lighting

This is when a light it pointed directly onto a subject, creating a bright single source illumination. This was frequently used in old Hollywood films and as shown below is used to light up the character’s whole face and body so that it stands out from the background and the audience is fully focused on him.

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‘3 Of The Most Critical Tips For Lighting Your Talent With Hard Light’ Kroll. N (2015)

Soft Lighting

Soft lighting creates more of a diffused look on a scene as the light is created with less intense lights which are usually reflected off a reflector or part of the set. The soft lighting used in this scene from The Hunger Games (2012) really helps to display the characters emotions as being sad and allows as the soft light is just hitting her face it allows us to concentrate on the area of her face such as her eyes which show her sadness.

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‘See you soon lighting’ Perkins. C (2014)

Interior Lighting

Interior lighting can help to establish an indoor location and the intensity of the indoor lighting can be altered by production. The indoor lighting in this scene from American Beauty (1999) helps to create a night time interior and the lighting almost looks dull which juxtaposes with the mood of the dinner table. The light is created through the candles and on the wall lights which helps to create shadows and build to a moody atmosphere.

Image result for interior light film

‘Explore Beauty Sam, Beauty 1999 and more’ Sandoval. T (2014) Pinterest

Exterior Lighting

Exterior lighting allows you to have natural light on a scene. Exterior lighting can also help to create a certain mood, for example using exterior light at sunset might create a romantic atmosphere. However, using exterior lighting can cause problems while film making as the sun’s brightness can change dramatically through the day. In the image below from the film The Black Stallion (1979) exterior lighting is used effectively to emphasises the weather and create a realistic view of the rain which reflects the mood of the worn out characters.

Realistic Film Lighting Exterior Night

‘style & substance’ Fairytale filmmaking (2002)

Harvard Referencing

‘The basics of lighting’ Kellison. C (2013) – Last Accessed 19/10/16

Explore Camera Backlighting’ Kerry. J (2015) – Last Accessed 19/10/16

‘Digital light on detour’ Four edges around (2014) – Last Accessed 19/10/16

‘Film Lighting’ Lawler. A (no date) – Last Accessed 19/10/16

‘See you soon lighting’ Perkins. C (2014) – Last Accessed 19/10/16

‘3 Of The Most Critical Tips For Lighting Your Talent With Hard Light’ Kroll. N (2015) – Last Accessed 19/10/16

E’xplore Beauty Sam, Beauty 1999 and more’ Sandoval. T (2014) Pinterest – Last Accessed 19/10/16

‘style & substance’ Fairytale filmmaking (2002) – Last Accessed 19/10/16