What are the Different Types of Lighting in Film?

Lighting is an integral part of the art of the medium. Specifically, filmmaking is one of the powerful storytelling tools. Before setting it properly, one has to know first what are the different types of lighting in the film. This basic knowledge is important to know about various light sources and their function.

When light set up done correctly during the principal photography of a film, it just enough to convey the desired information. Viewers got involved emotionally in the visual when the lighting is perfect. On the contrary, if it is done incorrectly, viewers will not see enough of the scene or see too much and the desired emotional response won’t be generated.

Readers who are eager to know about various light sources and their function in filmmaking are welcome to read the entire article. Here we go…

Lighting Techniques

Lighting has nearly infinite permutations and variations. There is certainly no one right way to light a scene. As a result, there is no chance that we can just make a simple list of proper lighting techniques. What we can do is try to identify what lighting can do for us. We can look for what jobs does it perform for us? What do we expect of good lighting? Starting this way, we have a better chance of evaluating when lighting is working for us.

What are the Goals of Good Lighting?

There is plenty of necessity of good lighting while making a scene meaningful. Among them, I have short-listed some core goals. They are:

i) Color control and white balance.

ii) Create shape and dimension in the individual subjects.

iii) Separate subjects from background.

iv) Create depth and dimension in the frame.

v) Create emotional content for instance, texture, mood and tone.

vi) Create right exposure and full range of gradations of tone.

Different Types of Lighting

There are different types of lighting can be used in film making set or other productions. I am starting with 3 basic lights.

3 Basic Lights

What are the Different Types of Lighting in Film

Key Light

The dominant light on people or objects. The “main” light on a scene. The key light is generally placed in front of the subject and off to the side.

Fill light

The light that fills in the shadows not lit by the key light. Lighting sometimes describes in terms of the key/fill ratio. The main aim of fill lighting is to eliminate shadows. It is better to place it a little further or diffuse it with a reflector placed around 3/4 opposite to the key light. Consequently, it helps to create softer light that spreads out evenly.


The light that hits a person or objects from behind and above. A rim/edge light might be added to separate a dark side of a face or object from the background or make up for a lack of fill on that side. Backlighting is used to create a three-dimensional scene, which is why it is also the last to be added in a three-point lighting setup. This also faces your subject—a little higher from behind so as to separate your subject from the background.

Other Important Lights


Among different types of lighting in film, a kicker can be the ideal one. It is a light from behind that grazes along an actor’s cheek on the fill side (the side opposite the key light). Often a kicker defines the face well enough that fill is not even necessary. It should not be confused with a backlight, which generally covers both sides equally.


Light directly from above. Topper Ceiling Light uses a multi-layered glass, with two cylindrical ring sections fused together onto the flat white glass. The top portion is opal glossy glass with a contemporary polished finish, and the bottom is a clear-blown glass ring. The tranquil glow has a low-key harmonious display that exudes a warm mood.

High Key

Lighting that is bright and fairly shadowless with lots of fill light. High key refers to a style of lighting used to create a very bright visual without any shadow. It is close to overexposure. It often used for fashion photography and beauty commercials.

Low Key

Lighting that is dark and shadowy with little or no fill light. Being the opposite of high key, low key lighting for a scene would mean a lot of shadows and possibly just one strong key light source. The focus is on the use of shadows and how it creates mystery, suspense, or drama for a scene and character instead of on the use of lighting, which makes it great for horror and thriller films.

Side Light

Light comes from the side, relative to the actor. Usually dramatic and creates great chiaroscuro if there is little or no fill light. But, it can be too harsh for close-up/ extreme closeup shots where some adjustment or slight fill might be needed.

Hard Light

Hard lighting refers to lighting in which the shadows are very clearly defined. Shadows are an integral part of film noir, as the physical presence of shadows underlines the psychological uncertainly of characters who combine good and evil to become shadowy figures in the emotional geography of the film.

Soft Light

Light from a large source creates ill-defined, soft enough shadows or sometimes no shadows at all. Soft lighting doesn’t refer to any lighting direction, but it’s a technique indeed. Cinematographers make use of soft lighting when creating directional lighting with the techniques for both aesthetic and situational reasons. In order to reduce harsh shadows, create drama, replicate subtle lighting coming from outside or all of the above soft light can be an ideal choice.

Practical Light

Actual working prop lights, for example, table lamps, floor lamps, sconces, wall lamps, and so on are called practical lights. These lights can double as decorations as well as sources for the light in your scene. Practical lights will also inform the direction of the lighting of your scene.

Bounce Light

Bounce lighting is about literally bouncing the light from a strong light source towards your subject or scene. It might be a wall, the ceiling, a white or neutral surface, a silk surface, or just about anything else. If executed properly, bounce lights can be used to create a much softer key, fill, top, side, or backlighting. Especially if you don’t have a diffuser or softbox.

Motivated Light

Where light in the scene appears to have a source such as a window, a lamp, a fireplace, and so on. In some cases, the light will come from a source visible in the scene. However, it will only appear to come from a source that is visible in the scene. Keep in mind that motivated lighting should look as natural as possible.

Wrap Up

It is nothing new that different types of lighting in a film play a vital role. Perfect lighting is a fundamental requirement in filmmaking because it creates a visual mood, atmosphere, and sense of meaning for the audience. Lighting tells the audience where to look at as well as lighting reflects the psychology of characters. Besides, there are so many functions of different types of lighting. Hopefully, you have enjoyed the reading and found it informative. Furthermore, if you want to know anything else related to film, you can keep your eyes on my film site. Happy reading.