The Basics of How to Set Up 3 Point Lighting

Behind every great film is a great director of photography. Even bad movies have a decent director of photography. These professionals are not in charge of taking pictures, but rather managing light. After all, “photo” is Greek for “light.” Major motion pictures, commercials, and YouTube Channels all need to use good lighting techniques so the audience can see what’s going on.

One of the best and easiest techniques is using 3 point lighting. As the name implies, this technique utilizes three light sources. Here is what you need to know to set up lighting for videos:

Key Light

This should be the strongest source of light. If shooting indoors, don’t point the light directly at your subject; an angle works better. 45 degrees to the left or right, and 45 degrees above works well.

For outdoor shooting, use the sun as your key light. You want the sun to point directly at the subject, shining on the back of the camera.

Fill Light

This light should be softer, and its purpose is to fill in shadows on the subject (very important for interviews). Position the fill light opposite of the key light at half of the intensity. If you want some guidance on light intensity, there are many free light meter apps available on your phone. Lux Light Meter is popular.

For outdoor shooting, a white reflector works well as a fill light. Aim it so the sunlight bounces off the reflector onto the subject at a 90-degree angle. Adjust as needed to remove shadows.

Back Light

As the name implies, the back light is placed behind and above the subject, but still out of the shot. The back light provides a soft and subtle glow, providing depth to the shot.

If shooting outside, you will want to use a gold reflector. The angle of the reflection should be small, about 20 degrees.

Now you know a little bit more about 3 point lighting. If you want a better visualization of how 3 point lighting works, there is a great video from Frameforest Film School on Youtube.

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