Lighting Principles (Week 7 Handouts)

Application of Instruments

Whichever lights one chooses to use, the will each serve one of only four functions:

  1. Key Light: the principle creative light. Creates from, texture, shaping, sculpting.
  2. Fill Light: Serves a purely technical purpose: to control contrast. Usually placed close to and above the lens (on the opposite side of the lens from the Key) so as not to throw its own distinct shadow.
  3. Back Light: Placed at an angel behind the subject so as to help seperate the subject from the background. It is especially useful when motivated by a lamp or window in the background.
  4. Background Light: Usually placed in such a way that it spills light across the surfaces of the background, providing an interplay of light and shadow which defines the surfaces and textures behind the subject.


Lighting and Contrast Ratio (incident measurements) Key Light + Fill Light: Fill Light
Note: Normal is 3:1 ratio See Video Below …You can thank me later 🙂

Formula Lighting Patterns

Side Lighting: Key light at eye level at approximately 90 degrees to head and neck axis of subject. Half the face in light. Half in shadow.

3/4 Front (45 degree) Lighting: Key light placed at 45 degrees to head and neck axis of subject. Half the face in light. Half the face in shadow.

Loop Lighting: Key light placed at approximately 22 degrees to head and neck axis and at approx the same height as the 3/4 Front Lighting. Creates a characteristic loop of shadow at a slight downward angle from the nose. (should not intersect with the upper lip).

Paramount (butterfly) lighting: Key Light placed very high and directly on line with the head and neck axis. The pattern rakes steeply down the front surface of the face, creating shading on the upper eyelids, a catchlight in each eye, accentuation of lashes creating their own shadows, highlights on the upper cheekbones and a gradated shading under the cheekbones, a shadow on the upper lip, a highlight on the lower lip and a shadow under the lower lip. This pattern is typically used as a beauty lighting for women.

Rim Lighting:With the face in profile to the camera, the key light is placed on the opposite side of the subject and at an angle so that it creates a rim of highlight around the features of the face, like a line drawing effect in reverse.

Lighting Pattern Modifications

  • Broad Modification: The camera is placed favoring the key-lit side of the face. This gives roundness and weight to a slender face.
  • Short Modification: The camera is placed favoring the shadow side of the face. This gives a more slender look to a rounder face.
Note: Theses to modifications can be used only with 3/4 Front , and Loop lighting. 

Lighting Principles//

Key Light Angles//

Lighting Patterns With Text b//


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