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Three-Point Lighting

If you have more control over the way your scene is lit, try to use a basic three-point lighting setup. This allows for plenty of light to illuminate the scene, while also reducing deep shadows. A three-point setup consists of a key light, a fill light, and a back light (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 A basic lighting setup involves three lights, though of course you can use more (or less).

The key light is the primary light source in your scene, and usually the brightest. The fill light is softer, filling in the shadows and adding texture, and is often dimmer than the key light to avoid washing out the image and flattening it. The back light is often small, focused, and used to help separate the scene's subject from the background.

As an easy example, let's say you're setting up to shoot an interview (Figure 4.5). Remember, this is just a basic configuration—you can position the lights any way you choose.

Figure 4.5

Figure 4.5 You could use just a key light, a fill and key, or any other combination of lights. Shown here is the progression of adding lights.

To set up three-point lighting

  1. With the camera facing the interview subject, position the key light to the right and slightly forward of the camera. Raise the light so that it's at a 35- to 45-degree angle, pointing down at the subject.
  2. Position the fill light to the left of the camera and subject, approximately halfway between the two. The fill prevents deep shadows caused by the key.
  3. Place the back light behind the subject, raised a bit higher than the key light, and aimed so that it illuminates the back of the subject's head and shoulders.
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