Key light position

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    • #37271

      In shooting close-ups of subjects looking off camera, many shooters, including some television studio lightingpersonnel, do not know where the key light should be placed. The best position for the key light is the one in which the shadow of the nose is cast on the side of the face nearer to the camera. You watch movies and portraits and this is where the key light is mostly placed. I believe this lighting is called “narrow” lighting and the face is so muchmore interestingto look at.

    • #165032

      Actually, the key light in interviews & most head shots is placed 45 degrees on either side of the camera looking into the talent’s eyes. If you have a choice, place the nose shadow on the side where the talent is looking. If one or the other side of the face is closer to the camera, you’ve screwed up your shot. In a CU of any talking head situation, the primary talent should looking be no more than 15 degrees on either side of the camera. “60 Minutes” is generally a good example of the best relation between camera & talent. The desired effect is to recreate the viewpoint of an individual listening, in a 1 on 1 conversation, to the talent. When you start deviating from these almost direct eye contact shots, viewers become less interested and start feeling the talent is not telling the complete truth. Not usually what your hoping for.

      In storytelling and portrait situations, it isn’t the on-camera talent as much as the context of the shot that determines lighting. And I can’t recall any non-amateur productions where the nose shadow falls on the camera side of the master shot. It screws with good exposure and viewers react negatively to the subject.

      And personally, in video I don’t give a crap whether the shot is interesting to look at. My concern is if viewers understand & relate to what the talent is saying. The shot is made interesting by the background, not weird shadows on someone’s face. In fact, atypical shots tend to interfere with the viewer’s ability to focus on content. And face it, TV is about content.

      Good luck in learning how to light for television. You’re not making a great start so far.

    • #165033

      I am now certain that you have a very wide knowledge of video and television. And I do feel that we are in agreement with respect to key light position. But in the absence of diagrams and/or photographs it seems that we are at variance with each other.

      I see so many examples of poor lighting technique in interviews(eg. broad lighting) practised on local television and by some of my colleaguesthat I want to scream. So I’m hoping that whoever is reading this will pay more attention to key light position. Also when looking at movies, see where the light comes from, in the close-ups especially.

      I am now retired. I started with an 8mm. movie camera in 1969. Then I joined a Film Unit, shooting 16mm and 35mm. I did a two year course at the London International Film School in 77 to 79 where we used a Mitchell camera with a Moy Geared Head and learnt set building. Later when ENG with tape became popular I began television. I used broadcast cameras and I also lit for talk shows in the studio. Now that I’m retired, I freelance. I edit with Avid and Boris. I am also learning After Effects.

    • #165034

      In Portrait lighting, the use of light and shadow, quality and quantity of light, direction and intensity , depth of feild, Sharpness/diffusion and composition, high key/low key, are all factors that are used to convey a mood, and show the subject’s best features (or hide flaws) and charactor. What the original poster described was the defacto standard in 1930’s Hollywood. They were masters of light and mood.

      there is no question that few if any of todays videographers know how to light, in the same league, as those from that era, or many fine portrait artists, in photography, such as Yousef Karsh. or painters for that matter (Rembrant for example).

      I won’t bother wasting my time arguing over this with anybody that doesn’t own a lightmeter.

      So I’ll leave it to individuals to decide what lighting works for them.

      Of course the second poster knows what he’s talking about, and if interview shots have a standard, so be it, but I like to flatter my subjects, so I decide on light, when I understand all factors, from script/subject to location, to talent. I would NEVER light a female executive, the same way I’d light a steelworker. but that’s me….

    • #165035

      You know, as I think about local the local news shows, those folks seem clueless. I’ve had to give up watching local in-studio interviews because I can’t get over those awful ear shots. Which would explain why I’ve never noticed the lighting gaffs. I cannot tolerate looking into someone’s ear when I want to see their eyes. And the director lets this crap go on the air. When I was producing a cable show with senior citizens (called “Senior Off Their Rockers”) I wouldn’t allow that kind of production on the show. Maybe that was part of why we won repeated national & local awards. That and the seniors could do excellent interviews with only a little coaching. But I constantly preached lighting & sound the way it’s done on “60 Minutes” or at least a national newscast or talk show. And we lived in Minneapolis, supposedly one of the top ten media markets. The lack of even basic understanding of the non-technical issues in production was appalling. Now I’m in Des Moines and I expect inept productions. Bit I still won’t watch them.

      And I can’t believe you used Karsh as an example of excellent lighting. I once went to a photo show in an art gallery and had the opportunity to some several of his silver prints. I was ashamed of my best work in his presence. I swear his B&W skin texture was more real than my own flesh while standing there. I wish I still had that paperback book of his portraits.

      As a student of film history, I think I could write a book on how color destroyed the arts of lighting & composition for years. Think of how much of the story in “Casablanca” is told in how the scenes are lit, or more importantly, not lit. Then look at something like “Holiday Inn” to see how the lighting has turned into a wash across the image. Everything is so bright, the color itself is more intense than real life. It was tolerable for musicals, but not much else.

      Thanks for listening. I think you may have touched a nerve I wasn’t very aware of.

    • #165036

      I’m sure you will all get annoyed at me, but I took two TV classes in College and I learned that in realtime shooting with a video switcher, it is hard for the director to switch between perfect shotsand the camera OPs are often trying to get a good shot. One time, the director cut to me during the class and I did a perfect smooth zoom. It was absolutely perfect until i went totally out of focus. My friend who was the director told me after that he’d cut to me right then and my instructor gave me an amused stare.

      Also, I learned sound and editing stuff before lighting and camera and i discovered that you don’t have to have amazing lighting and camera to make a good movie. the Sound and Editing are what people notice first. I made my first couple movies and people told meI was getting really good. Other people I know learned cameraand lighting first and people were not as impressed with their first movies.

      I guess this is also an unknown nerve for me.

    • #165037

      well Chris, I’m not annoyed at all.

      for news footage, the story is everything, and technical mistakes can be forgiven. Even a movie like Cloverfeild, or Blair Witch Project, prove to be exceptions to the rules.

      But in a project where you have total control over everything, you really should strive for excellence in every area. Light, sound, EVERYTHING…..

    • #165038

      Okay, maybe with live news on a breaking event we can forgive some camera instability or zooming in & out to search the scene. But in a studio, there is no excuse. EVER! In school, live or live-to-tape productions are being done by people who aren’t supposed to know what they are doing. That’s why it is school. That is why the director could claim it wasn’t his fault. Whoever messed up did it fine during the rehearsal, so the director reasonably expected them to do it again. Everyone is anxious, so when audio fades the wrong mic, we understand.

      However when you’re paid to do it, there are no excuses. The director is in charge and responsible. The director is the only individual in the position see that it all works together. The director is telling everyone else what to do, if they aren’t doing it they don’t have a job next time. But it is still the director’s fault if the program isn’t perfect. That’s the thing about being a director. If the show turns out great, it’s due to a team effort. If there were problems, they are the director’s fault. If we’re looking into someone’s ear instead of their eyes, the director let that happen. Who else would be responsible? If a microphone fails, the director is responsible for keeping the show rolling and hopefully doing it so the viewers aren’t aware of a problem at all. And all this it because the director is in charge & responsible.

      Now as far as which elements of a program are most important, there aren’t any. Either it is all done right and it’s a “good TV program” or you are making an inferior production. In so far as you are producing programs to show to your friends & family (your supporters) here are the priorities. The audio has to be audible w/o concentration. If you do nothing else, your supporters will give you props for good TV. Mainly because they expected the sound to be like most home video, recorded using an on-camera mic too far from the audio source. The next thing they notice is improvements in the image. Other than cutting out junk between shots, people don’t care about editing. They want it short and audible. Which makes sense since very few people do much other than make radio programs with pictures. There is no video editing, just audio editing using video. Now once you’ve got sound they can understand and a picture that let’s them recognize the on-camera talent, if you add some cut-aways and close-ups. Those supports will start saying things like, “It looks like real TV.” Now put that show on cable and you’ll soon hear a deafening silence. If you put it on a video sharing web site, stuff that looks like real TV will get a few views, especially if it runs less than three minutes. But if your show runs over seven minutes, research indicates less than 10% of the viewers will watch the whole thing, no matter how great it looks & sounds. Only your supporters will actually watch a full show.

      However, if you shoot something with decent camera work & keep your edit rate above six shots per minute (and don’t screw up the audio) you’ll start getting strangers interested in your shows. Personally, I don’t consider my supporters opinions of any particular value. I expect them to think my work is “just like real TV!” But my first professional job was to produce videos that would get people watching & thinking about the city’s new cable access channel. It wasn’t long till I was working out exactly what got strangers to watch my videos. Pretty pictures (with a moving shot) edited at more than six shots per minute drew people in. My audio? I didn’t need anything special. People were attracted to the visual excitement and ignored videos with audio driven stories. This is exactly the opposite of how my supporters reacted to my videos. My most popular video, the one strangers recognized me from, was of me washing the dishes. The audio consisted of dishes clattering intermixed with a couple of songs to provide a beat to edit to. But when viewers were surfing the dial, this video caused them to stop & watch. But I never met anyone who recalled seeing the videos I made with a storyline, even when they had seen the dish washing video.

      Now maybe I have a different standard for what constitutes quality productions. And I do expect professionals to meet higher standards. While I’m content to teach my students how to control the technical details to make their videos more watchable by their supporters, I expect professionals to move beyond technical considerations and address issues of production theory. Unlike those incompetent local news shows that are doing crappy lighting and broadcasting ear shots. Technical competence does not equal production quality. Ansel Adams was not a great photographer because he was, like, the best photo printer ever. His vision made him great (and achieving it required him to achieve technical perfection.)

      Now I would love to discuss production theory, it is what makes one show better than another. It is why one lighting set-up is better than another. And it is why some directors win Emmey’s while others hack their way through a newscast.

    • #165039

      look up a dvd called “light it right” by vic milt.

    • #165040

      Here is an example of lighting used to set an ominous portrait.

      tell me… would using the same effects and lighting in final cut create a dark mood?

    • #165041

      I agree with Shum. Most of my colleagues, the news cameramen have no idea about lighting. They have no idea about many other things. Don’t watch local TV if it stresses you out. I don’t.

      FAQ Video

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