You are here

How to Create Professional Video Lighting with Three Point Lighting

The foundation for all professional studio lighting for video. This tutorial provides step by step instructions on how to light your subject like the pro's with three point lighting.

Start Your PLUS Membership To View This Video

Learn, Create, and Share like Never Before

Better Training for Better Video

We'll be your guide to mastering techniques and learning the tricks so that you can unleash your full potential.


Videomaker PLUS

$19.95/mo

Unlimited Access To:

Our entire library of training and product videos

Every article, ever. Even ones that haven't hit the web

Our expert hotline, to help with all your video needs


7 Day Free Trial

Learn More

Video Transcript

Three-point lighting is a key foundation of some of the more complicated lighting setups, and one of the most important pieces of the puzzle to creating professional looking video.

The main goal of three-point lighting is to get a nice, even distribution of light across a subject avoiding deep shadows while allowing the subject to pop a bit from the background. To do this you are going to need three lights.

The first light that we're going to be talking about is the key light. Much like its name suggests, it's really the key to the whole setup. The key light functions as the main source of illumination in your scene. Traditionally, the best spot for placing your key light is at a 45-degree angle from where a camera is set up. The reason that this light is not placed directly face-on to your subject is because you want to add some definition to the edges of the face and shoulders.

While placing the light straight on gives your subject an unflattering deer in the headlights look, similar to if you used a flash on a still camera. Once you have your key light set at the proper angle, you can see how well defined your subject is and how the light tends to wrap around the face. However, you're also seeing severe dark shadows on the opposite side of the face and the scene itself looks pretty gritty.

What we need to do now is to fill in those shadows. For that we use the appropriately named fill light. The placement of the fill light is again 45-degrees from the camera, but this time 45-degrees opposite from the key light. You also want to make sure that the fill light is less intense than the key light so it doesn't compete with it. There are a few ways of doing this. One is to use a lamp or a bulb with less wattage. The other is to move the light further away. The intensity of light is exponential so by moving the light back just a little, it has a large effect on the intensity of the light.

The third way is to use a neutral density gel or diffusion in front of the fill light. As you can see, when both the key light and the fill light are turned on, you get a much more even light around the whole face. The shadows from the key light are still there. The idea is not to get rid of all the shadows, but to soften them greatly leaving them to a pleasing natural appearance.

Now we have an even pleasing light, but the overall result is a bit flat. The subject tends to blend into the background. To get our subject to pop out of the background, we're going to use our third light, known as a backlight.

The placement of the backlight is appropriately enough behind our subject. Set off to an angle where the light itself is placed above and out of the frame so the light only spills onto the subject, not into the camera lens. This light should also be a fairly low intensity. The idea behind the backlight is to shine down on the subject and create a rim of light around the shoulders and head. When combined with the other two lights, this backlight makes a subject stand out a bit more from the background and focuses your attention where it belongs, on the subject.

Let's go over each light and their role in three-point lighting again. First, the key light or main light to illuminate the scene. Second, the fill light to fill in the shadows. And third, the backlight to make our subject stand out from the background.

When we combine all three, you get that pleasant all around good lighting that makes a subject look great.

Three-point lighting is a fairly simple concept, but once mastered you can use the knowledge of lighting properties to address any lighting setup you may find yourself needing.

Three-point lighting can be used as a good base to setup your even most complicated shots. Join us in the next segment because we'll be showing you even more tips and tricks on lighting.

[End of Audio]