Three Point Lighting

Three point lighting is the standard lighting technique for video and photography.

Using this technique will perfectly light your images and photographs and it will also give you generally more understanding in lighting methods. It is a simple system which forms the basis of most lighting setups.

Using light and shadow, you can create the illusion of a three dimensional subject in a two dimensional image.

The three points in three point lighting

The three points consists out of three lights

  • The Key Light
  • The Fill Light
  • The Back Light

The Key Light

The key light is the main light that illuminates your scene. It usually is the strongest light and shines directly upon your subject.  The key light is placed on one side of the camera so that side is brightly lit and the other side has some shadow.

For indoor shots you will use a specialized lamp or spot, for outdoor shots the sun can serve as key light.

The Fill Light

The fill light is placed on the other side of the camera and often placed in a lower position that the key light. The fill light is used to balance out the shadows of the key light, like the shadows under the eyes of the nose.

This light can be softer and less bright than the key light. If you see two shadows, the fill light should be reduced. In photography, often a reflector is used instead of a fill light.

three point lighting - 3 point lighting

The Back Light

The back light is placed behind the subject on the side, above the head or hanging from the ceiling. This light is used to separate the background from the subject and gives some subtle highlighting contours.

If this light is attached to a dimmer, you can brighten it up if your subject is quite dark. For blonde or bald people, the back light may be reduced.

You can be creative with this type of lighting, move the lamps around, play with their heights and change color filters or cellophanes for a different intensity or ambiance. By manipulating these lights you can alter the look and feel of almost every setting.

If you are shooting indoors, make sure to turn off all other lights and cover the windows.

Four Point Lighting

Sometimes a forth light is used shining directly on the background. The background light is placed behind the subject, usually lower to the floor. This light will eliminate shadows cast by the foreground elements onto the background.


I hope this information can be useful to you and will help you to correctly light your scenes.

More questions on lighting? Don’t hesitate to post a reaction.

Rebekka Deforce



About the author
Rebekka Deforce is the owner of Working over 18 years in the audiovisual sector and developed a great passion for internet marketing, she now helps on- and offline businesses to get magnificent conversion results through video marketing and social media marketing. She also loves to help people with the technical aspect of the video production process.
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