Lighting Setup Checklist

Good lighting is the key to capturing great footage.  Here are some considerations when setting up lights for filming:

1)    Position

Positioning is based on the light’s length, direction, and the potential shadows cast. A light source positioned near the video camera creates what is known as “flat lighting.” As a light is moved farther to the side of the subject it becomes increasingly more dramatic and emotional. When a single light source strikes one side of the subject’s face at a 90-degree angle in relation to the camera, it creates a very dramatic look. And when it is pointed at the wall behind the subject, the result is a dramatic silhouette.

2) Brightness

The overall brightness of a scene is often referred to as being high key or low key. High key lighting floods the entire scene with high levels of light so that everything is brightly lit. It is used for happy or upbeat scenes. By contrast, low key lighting is dark. It makes greater use of shadows than illumination and, as a result, it creates drama and suspense.

3) Quality

A light’s hardness or softness determines its quality. Hard light has a sharp, defined shadow edge and a deep, dark shadow. Hard light draws attention to wrinkles and creases. Under hard light, a subject can look strong, weathered, wicked, or intimidating. Hard light is primarily created with a spot. Soft light has a broad, gradual shadow edge and faint shadow. Soft light is more flattering, concealing wrinkles and face lines. Soft lit subjects appear friendly approachable, and trustworthy. Soften light by adjusting the lamp from spot to flood, or by adding diffusion material.

4) Shape

Shape is about controlling and focusing a light. In most cases, light shouldn’t just wash evenly over everything in the scene. It should only go where it is wanted. The lighting designer selectively shapes light into shafts and pools to highlight certain parts of the scene while allowing others to fall into the shadows. Light can be shaped using household items like foam core, window blinds or even an artificial tree branch.

5) Color

Light color is a huge consideration that is often overlooked in video production. Light color can be easily altered using color gels, and light color has an immense influence on the look and feel of a scene. Yellow or amber gels give a scene a warm feeling. They can also create the look of a morning sunrise. Shots tinted light blue feel cold; like winter. Red or orange light hints at evening, especially when combined with a light position that creates long shadows. Lighting an entire scene with navy blue lighting creates the looks of nighttime. Shots can be tweaked by using a small amount of color, or completely changed by bathing them in gelled light.



Nulph, R. G. (1999 January 1). LIGHT SOURCE: CRAFTING THE KEY LIGHT [Videomaker]. Retrieved from

Peters, C. (2014 March 4). LIGHTING VIDEO: FIVE IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF ANY LIGHTING SETUP [Videomaker]. Retrieved from