What Is Cinematic Lighting?

Cinematic lighting is a film lighting technique that goes beyond the standard three-point lighting setup to add drama, depth, and atmosphere to the story. Cinematic lighting utilizes lighting tricks like bouncing light, diffusing light, and adjusting color temperatures.

Why Lighting Is Important

Lighting is a fundamental to film because it creates a visual mood, atmosphere, and sense of meaning for the audience. Whether it’s dressing a film set or blocking actors, every step of the cinematic process affects the lighting setup, and vice-versa.

  • Lighting tells the audience where to look. The lighting setup guides the eye to a specific actor, prop, or part of a scene.
  • Lighting reflects the psychology of characters. The amount, size, color, and harshness of light surrounding a character can be adjusted to match their emotions.
  • Lighting defines and supports the genre of the film. Lighting is the tool that conveys mood most clearly. For example, one of the film genres most known for its distinct lighting style is film noir, characterized by stark contrasts between light and dark, dramatically patterned shadows, and unique framing and composition choices.

Who Determines the Lighting Setup for a Scene?

  • The director shares visual inspirations and ideas for cinematic lighting.
  • The director of photography or cinematographer: creates the lighting plan with input from the director.
  • The gaffer designs and executes the cinematographer’s lighting plan and oversees the crew that brings the lighting plan to life.

Leave a comment