The importance of Film Lighting

One of the other many important factors when filming a movie is the lighting. There are many reasons as well as techniques behind this aspect of filmmaking in which i will share with you my research on it.

For on thing, lighting has a deep affect on how viewers perceives the film. The basic forms of lighting stems from first understanding hard and soft lighting. From an article called, Basic Lighting Lesson: Understanding Hard Light and Soft Light by Joe Marine, lighting is described as such: “While you need a certain quantity of light to give your movie the proper exposure, it’s actually the quality of the light that creates the look for your film.”

There are a few techniques to keep in mind of when incorporating and conducting the lighting of a scene which pertain mostly to the soft and hard lighting.

Hard lighting in film creates harsh, hard-edged shadows. This type of lighting occurs when your light source is relatively concentrated. This is what creates the hard dark shadows because the areas behind the light source are blocked off from the light. Examples of this light would be direct sunlight, light bulbs, and flash light bulbs. Hard lighting can also be created artificially for example, one can use a spotlight to create hard lighting.

On the other hand, soft lighting is more diffused and evenly spread out. Examples of soft lighting would include clouds in front of the sun which causes the sunlight to spread out more in the scene. Soft lighting created artificially can be done by a gentle overhead light with lamps all surrounding the area to help fill in shadows. When illumination of light is scattered it softens the lighting which is why having clouds or other light tone surfaces help to create this diffused appearance.

The reason behind the importance of lighting in film making is to set up and persist the mood of each scene as well as to create the shape the subjects. According to an article titled Light Source: In the Mood? Creating Mood with Light, “If they are about the same intensity, the scene will be perceived as bright and happy. As the fill becomes less and less intense, the scene becomes more dramatic. The back light also plays a role. The more intense the back light, the more dramatic the effect.” There are several steps to the types of moods you can create with the quality of lighting such as: emotionally neutral lighting, dramatic/serious lighting, strong/emotional lighting, intrigue lighting, silhouette lighting, and matching the light with the actual mood.

This video from the article Basic Lighting Lesson: Understanding Hard Light and Soft Light, explains the differences and importance in the quality of light in film in a detailed and visual explanation:

Here is an example of hard and soft lighting in a photo.

Hard and Soft light

This quality of light can definitely be seen in photos and snapshots of a film, however, the difficulty in maneuvering it and keeping it a certain way can only be seen physically in the actual film. This video first, is a tutorial on creating this just to show how technique and patience is key to getting your lighting right:

These next videos will show a few examples within actual scenes from a movie to demonstrate how it effects the entire mood.

This video shows an example of hard lighting and how it helps to portray an intense mood and shapes the characters.

This video shows an example of soft lighting in which the spread of light gives off a lighter almost happier feel to the scene as well as the characters.


Basic Lighting Lesson website

Example # 1 Website

Tutorial website


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