Lighting Operation and Control

 Creative Commons image film set by Alex Lang
Creative Commons image film set by Alex Lang

“People tend to obsess over cameras and lenses, but what they think is a good a camera or a good lens actually is just good lighting.” – Director of Photography William Hellmuth from article at



  • Understand and use common lighting terms and techniques

Light Temperature in Kelvin

Temperature Source
1700 K Match flame, low pressure sodium lamps (LPS/SOX)
1850 K Candle flame, sunset/sunrise
2400 K Standard incandescent lamps
2550 K Soft white incandescent lamps
2700 K “Soft white” compact fluorescent and LED lamps
3000 K Warm white compact fluorescent and LED lamps
3200 K Studio lamps, photofloods, etc.
3350 K Studio “CP” light
4100 – 4150 K Moonlight[2]
5000 K Horizon daylight
5000 K Tubular fluorescent lamps or cool white/ daylightcompact fluorescent lamps (CFL)
5500  K CHS LED Lights
5500 – 6000 K Vertical daylight, electronic flash
6200 K Xenon short-arc lamp[3]
6500 K Daylight, overcast
6500 – 9500 K LCD or CRT screen
15,000 – 27,000 K Clear blue poleward sky
These temperatures are merely characteristic;
considerable variation may be present.

– Color temperature chart from Wikipedia

Standards, Terms, and Concepts

Watch and take notes from the Looking at Movies – Lighting video

Read and take notes on the article: Cinematic Lighting Terms and Concepts by Kodak

Read and take notes from the following terms and definitions are from SparkCharts Film Studies

Most interior scenes are naturally too dark to generate a clear, discernible film image, requiring the use of artificial lighting. The intensity, position, and direction of lights in relation to the action have significant effect on the look and mood of a shot

  • Lighting intensity: Intense lighting, or hard lighting, creates stark shadows and lines of contrast; soft lighting creates a diffuse illumination. •
  • Natural vs. artificial lighting: Realist directors often avoid the use of artificial lights and choose instead to rely on natural light that more closely approximates reality.
  • Lighting setups: The principal light illuminating the scene is called the key light. A fill light is often used to cover the shadows created by the key light. Typically, a three-point lighting setup is used in order to light a scene evenly.
  • Lighting effects: A high-key lighting scheme minimizes the contrast between darker and brighter parts of the image. A low-key lighting scheme creates a chiaroscuro effect, with dark shadows and stark contrasts.
  • Lighting direction creates an array of effects by manipulating the size and directions of shadows.
    • Frontal lighting eliminates shadows
    • Side lighting accentuates features (of the face, for instance)
    • Backlighting creates silhouettes
    • Top lighting creates a benevolent “halo” effect
    • Under lighting makes a figure look sinister or even horrific


  • Blog post with embedded video from YouTube of the various lighting techniques demonstrated and explained


  • Coming soon…


  • Watch trailer for Hugo (2011) – Won Oscar for Best Cinematography
    • Check out the lighting
  • Create blog post titled, Lighting Operation and Control
    • Create headings for:
      • Summary
      • Terms and Concepts
      • Timeline
      • Pre-production
      • Production
      • Post-production
      •  Film (Project Skills Evidence)
      • What I Learned and Problems I Solved
  • Copy and paste the Light Temperature in Kelvin chart under your terms and concepts heading with the Wikipedia citation
  • Read and take notes on the article: Cinematic Lighting Terms and Concepts by Kodak
  • Read and take notes from excerpt of the  SparkCharts Film Studies document, detailed in the Standards, Terms, and Concepts section above
  • Link How to Light the Cinematic Film Look under the Standards, Terms, and Concepts heading, then watch and add to your notes
  • Enjoy Ten Lighting Setups (6:16)
  • Watch and take notes from Looking at Movies – Lighting (9:35)
  • Watch and add to your notes from Lighting 101: Quality of Light – RocketJump Film School (7:24)
  • Watch and add to your notes from Lighting 101: Direction of Light – RocketJump Film School (6:35)
  • Watch and add to your notes from Lighting – Storytelling with Cinematography – DSLRguide (10:40)
  • Watch and add to your notes from Filmmaking 101 – Three Point Lighting Tutorial – DiCasaFilm (10:18)
  • Watch and add to your notes from The Slanted Lens – Laws of Light: Three Objects
  • Watch and add to your notes from 20 Lighting Tutorials for Film and Video – FilmMakerIQ
  • Watch and add to your notes from White Balance & Kelvin Color temp explained (7:37)
  • Watch and add to your notes from Filmmaking: Color temperature & Kelvins Explained (3:39)
  • Include these lighting techniques in your documentary film:
    • Three point lighting (Depth)
      • Key light
      • Fill light
      • Kicker/back/hair light
    • High-key light (Sitcom)
    • Low-key light (Noir)
    • Direct / Hard light
    • Indirect / Soft light
    • Frontal Lighting
    • Side Lighting Back
    • Lighting Top Lighting
    • Under Lighting
  • Write a script for your documentary film identifying each lighting technique and/or tool and state at least one cinematic storytelling reason WHY (feeling) each one of these techniques is used to get a reaction from the viewer
    • The point of the film is to demonstrate what you have learned about basic lighting operations as a reference for yourself in your blog
  • Fill in the Light Settings and Set Up Worksheet (PDF)
  • Light Settings Screenshot

  • Storyboard each shot
    • Storyboard template
  • Block each shot
  • Create the shot list for the project
  • Create an equipment list
  • Practice each shot, update script, as needed
  • Gather equipment; camera, lens, shotgun mic, lights, bounce, diffuser, etc.
  • Create a shot log
  • Shoot each scene
  • Catalog shots
  • Edit shots in Adobe Premiere
  • Publish to YouTube as unlisted and embed in your blog post under the Film heading

ToolsLight Settings Screenshot


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