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Multi-fixture Location Lighting, for Interviews or Portraiture

The classic concept of 3 point lighting, for interviews or portraiture, uses 2 lights as the Key (main) and Fill (secondary) illumination on a subject. A third light is usually placed to create a sense of separation between the subject & background.

This can make it sound like all 3 point setups look basically the same, when actually there can be a number of creative options. A variety of looks can be created, depending on the type of fixtures used, lightcontrol accessories to shape and affect output, even available mounts for positioning the lights.

Many professionals consider the 3 point set up to be just a starting point. They often add additional lights for accents, edge lighting, or to highlight a part of the set.

It is also not unusual to place a small low output focusing fixture directly next to the camera lens, pointed at the subject to bring out a sparkle in deep set eyes.

kitchen light balance before
Before
kitchen light balance after
After

Looking at cropped versions of our Before & After shots, you will see immediately that the color temperature of the lighting has shifted from the warmth of overhead of the kitchen ceiling light to a cooler daylight color. This was a creative choice of the production, and resulted in our choosing to use daylight fixtures for the lighting setup. But, looking closer, the Before shot looks flat, with noticably less sense of depth than the After shot, where our subject is lit more brightly than the background.

This not only gives the illusion of depth, it also helps lead the eye to the subject. Leading the eye is an important part of the act of storytelling whether in still photography or filmmaking. Our subject is also more dramatically lit in the After shot. With less light on her body, our eyes are more easily led to her face and expression.

In contrast to the conventional 3 point setup approach, there is no fill light on camera-left side of her face. The key light is carefully positioned to light both her eyes. Notice her neck and shoulder on that dark side - a back light carefully placed and trimmed is adding a nice edge illumination that gives shape to her shoulder and separation from the background.

orange dot Lights Used...
pro power leds
light kit used

LOWEL PRO POWER LED's

  • Daylight or Tungsten color model
  • Dimmable without color shift
  • Fresnel lens with wide focus range, Spot - Flood
  • Output comparable to 200W tungsten halogen fixture with same focus range & beam angle
  • Flicker-free Slo-mo, to 2350 + fps
  • Can be p owered by AC or DC Battery
  • Light Controls include: Barndoors, gel frame, softbox, umbrella, & screwthread filters
  • 2 & 3 light compact kits available
orange dot Techniques Used...
lighitng postion chart

LIGHTS AND POSITIONS

1) Key Light - Daylight PRO LED with Accessory Softbox.

2) Back Light - Daylight PRO LED focused to full Spot

3) Edge Light - Tungsten PRO LED focused midway Spot - Flood

4) Accent Light - Daylight PRO LED focused to full Spot

We have lightened the shot of our set to better see the fixtures. As the lights and their positioning are described below, refer to this wide shot for context. We will show the seperate components of the lighting setup in reverse, starting with just the 'practical' lights of the kitchen that we used. Then we will add Back Light, Edge Light, Accent and Key.

kitchen light balance
kitchen with no added light

OUR FINAL LIT SHOT

Shown in in the full frame camera composition. Notice how the mixture of daylight and tungsten color create an interesting visual contrast, and help reinforce a real world setting.

OUR SET, WITH NO ADDED LIGHT

We decided to turn on 3 tungsten ‘practical lights’ in the background, to create the warm accents contrasting the cooler output of our Daylight PRO LEDs.

The practicals were 2 small table lamps and the light over the stove, all with lower wattage tungsten incandescent lamps (25-40W).

back edge and accent points
edge and accent lights

2) BACK LIGHT

A Daylight PRO LED is focused to spot, and dimmed down to a subtle level. It will provide separation without calling too much attention to itself. Looking at the full setup shot above, you will see that some black wrap foil was added to the bottom of the back light to trim the spill on her shoulders & neck.

3) EDGE LIGHT

A Tungsten color PRO LED was used at a low level to give a warm glow, giving the illusion of coming from the practical table lamp on the right side of the frame. Subtle but it reinforces reality.

4) ACCENT LIGHT

A Daylight PRO LED, focused as a narrow spot and dimmed down to add a little highlight illumination to the dark area of the stove. Lights like this can help control the amount of depth you want the shot to have.

EDGE LIGHT & ACCENT LIGHT

A look at these 2 fixtures shows that each has their barndoors expanded and closed in almost fully, to allow just a slice of illumination to be used. This helps trim the output to only hit the parts of the set you intend. Also note the addition of a gel frame and light diffusion to our Edge light. It softens the light to reinforce the action of the table lamp shade we are trying to emulate.
Key Light
soft light spill

1) KEY LIGHT

We wanted a softened look for the Key light so we added the Accessory Softbox to the Daylight PRO LED. Soft lights are flattering because they create a larger light source, which has less shadow as a result.

But compare this image to our final lighting shot, posted above. You will see what adding a Soft Key does to our lighting. The softbox’s wide beam angle (aprox. 80-90 degrees) causes it to spill onto the rest of our set, destroying some of the contrast, depth & mood we had created.

SOFT LIGHT SPILL

Because of the wide beam angle nature of soft light, barn doors are ineffective in trimming spill to any great degree. We needed another solution. Something that would trim our 80+ degree beam to something more managable.

Enter the 30 degree honeycomb, a grid-like assembly that allows light to pass straight thru, but blocks any beam wider than its cells will alow to pass. We mounted a 30 degree honeycomb in front of the Soft box diffuser with a grip clamp.

TRIMMING SPILL OF SOFTLIGHTS
SOFT KEY WITH ADDED HONEYCOMB

TRIMMING SPILL OF SOFTLIGHTS

This graphic illustrates the changes to a soft lights beam angle with the addition of a honeycomb

SOFT KEY WITH ADDED HONEYCOMB

Because of the wide beam angle nature of soft light, barn doors are ineffective This graphic illustrates the changes to a soft lights beam angle with the addition of the honeycomb. Notice how the Key light is now confined to lighting our subject. The background is again more dramtaically lit.

All lights are now trimmed and in place. We are ready to shoot.

Multi-fixture Location Lighting
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