3-Point Lighting - Notes


3-Point Lighting - Introduction

  • The Three Point Lighting Technique is a standard method used in visual media such as films, still photography and computer-generated imagery.
  • It is a simple but versatile system which forms the basis of most lighting.
  • The technique uses three lights called the key light, fill light and back light.
  • You need these lights to utilise the technique fully, but the principles are still important if only using one or two lights.
  • As a rule:
    • If you only have one light, it becomes the key.
    • If you have 2 lights, one becomes the key and the other is either the fill or the backlight.
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3-Point Lighting - Diagram

A simple diagram showing the positions of lights using 3-point lighting.

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3-Point Lighting - Key Light

  • This is the main light.
  • It is usually the strongest and has the most influence on the look of the scene.
  • It is placed to one side of the camera/subject so that this side is well lit and the other side has some shadow.
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3-Point Lighting - Fill Light

  • This is the secondary light and is placed on the opposite side of the key light.
  • It is used to fill the shadows created by the key light.
  • The fill will usually be softer and less bright than the key.
  • To achieve this you could move the light further away.
  • You might also want to set the fill light to more of a flood than the key.
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3-Point Lighting - Back Light

  • Placed behind the subject and lights it from the rear.
  • Rather than providing direct lighting (like the key and fill), its purpose is to provide definition and subtle highlights around the subject's outlines.
  • This helps separate the subject from the background and provide a three-dimensional look.
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3-Point Lighting - Extra Light

If you have a fourth light, you could use it to light the background of the entire scene.

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