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Understanding three-point lighting
Professional videographers and filmmakers build scenes around the concept of three-point lighting, and we recommend you do the same. "Three-point lighting" refers to the three main light sources that will appear in any scene.

These are:

  • Key light: This is the main, brightest light source. It's positioned in front and to the left or right side of the person being filmed.
  • Fill light: This is a soft light located on the opposite side of the key light, but still pointing towards the front of the subject (e.g.,. If the key light is on the left, the fill light would be on the right). The point of the fill light is to prevent your subject from looking like they have a spotlight on them and to illuminate the face.
  • Back light: This is a smaller light that is placed behind the subject, helping to create dimension and fill out their outline. This prevents the subject from appearing too flat or similar to the background.

These light sources exist naturally in the world and impact your scene at all times. For example, if you film outside then the the sun will be your key light (because it's the brightest light in the scene). If you film inside a windowed room, the sun shining through the window could be a fill light that illuminates your face. Or, if you're standing with the sun behind you, then it would become a back light.

The key is to maintain awareness of the light sources in your scene—whether that light is natural or artificial—at all times. This awareness will help you determine how best to position your camera to get the best shot possible.

Options for properly lighting a scene

Natural light: If your location has large windows that get a lot of sunlight, natural lighting will probably be enough. Your windows will need to be tall so the light doesn't shine only from above or below.

DIY lighting: In addition to natural light, if your location has ceiling lights, lamps, or fluorescent lighting, these can be used to light your scene.

Lighting kit: A lighting kit is a useful and wise investment if your natural lighting situation is lacking. These kits include 2-3 different types of lights on tripods and can range from $50-$300.

Tips for lighting your scene

Regardless of the lighting method you choose to go with, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Choose a good angle: If you're standing in front of a window, make sure that the camera isn't pointing in the direction of the window as well; this will make you appear in shadow. Instead, place the camera between you and the window.

  • Avoid extreme shadows. You can eliminate harsh lighting by adding more light to the location or changing how you're facing your light source and camera.

  • Avoid overlighting. Too much light can make you and the space appear washed out and lacking detail. You can tone down a bright light by placing a see-through piece of fabric or paper over the light, or by pointing it at another surface such as the wall rather than directly at your subject.