Discover 5 Tips for Good Lighting

Fact-checked by Layla Varela
Updated on: June 21, 2023

You can’t replace good lighting. Having good lighting can save you a lot of time and money. It is always surprising how many producers rely on software to correct lousy lighting in post-production. Nothing is better than recording a shoot or taking a picture with the genuine intention you want to obtain. Therefore, we want to give you 5 tips for good lighting.

The GIGO principle undoubtedly holds valid for lights. However, the truth is that your final product will only work if you begin with shaky, dimly lit footage. Regardless of what others say, and irrespective of how excellent your camera and editing equipment may be, your productions will only improve if you are a good lighter. 

Knowing the above, the best thing you can do to improve your video production quality is NOT to get a new camera or color corrector. Instead, it would help if you started by learning how to light. These 5 tips for good lighting can help you with a basic notion of how to start.

Three-Pointer Set Up

5 tips for good lighting
Three-point lighting consists of Key, Fill and Back lights.

A three-point method includes a key light, a fill light, and a backlight. Is the very first tip of our  5 tips for good lighting. In this one, the key light is usually placed slightly to one side before the subject. It is the dominant illumination source in this setup, and its quality and qualities contribute to the scene's mood. The fill light is softer than the key light. It is placed on the opposite side of the key and softens (or fills in) the shadows cast by the key light. The backlight (or hair light) is placed above and behind the subject to illuminate the person's head and shoulders. This gives them dimension and distinguishes them from the background. 

It is easy to learn and apply this lighting scheme. The three-point lighting will make a significant impact on the appearance of your footage as well as the overall quality of your productions. If you aren't already using it, now is the time to start.

Use shadows to set the mood

When a bright key light is placed close to the camera, the illumination becomes "flat." 

A key light at 6:00 gives a bland, "ordinary" image that is devoid of emotion. This style is frequently utilized for lighting news settings.

5 tips for good lighting

Flat lighting has an emotional neutrality. However, if you want to impart emotion to your subject, more than simply flooding it with bright, flat light. Instead, lighting can be used to move and modify shadows on a two-dimensional screen to create the appearance of depth. Position the key light to strike your subject at an angle to enhance depth.

5 tips for good lighting

A key light at 4:30 (or 7:30) creates the appearance of depth without being unduly dramatic. In most three-point lighting setups, this is the recommended position for the key.

Once the key is positioned correctly, apply the fill light to soften the shadows to your desire.

Soften Up

Examining the shadows cast on your subject can determine the hardness or softness of a light. For example, a direct light source throws a dark shade with a sharp edge transfer.

5 tips for good lighting
Picture by Omar Elsharawy, iImage is taken from Pexels.

Hard light has a dark, dramatic shadow and a narrow shadow edge transfer, and Soft light casts a softer, lighter shadow with a wide shadow edge transfer. Therefore, for lighting faces, soft light is usually preferable.

5 tips for good lighting
Picture by Leah Kelley, the image is taken from Pexels.

Lighter shadows are cast by soft light, which has a wide gradient shadow-edge transfer. Soft light is more flattering to the face than hard light and is chosen in most situations. Hard light can make a subject appear intense, even evil. Small, concentrated lamps produce harsh light and cast shadow.

 Handle hard-to-light people

Some people are more challenging to illuminate than others. People wearing glasses, bald hair, and dark complexion are the top three issues you'll encounter. While the remedies differ slightly, the problem remains brilliant reflections and specular highlights that generate unsightly, incandescent hotspots. 

For example: When lighting a person wearing glasses, lights positioned near the camera produce specular highlights on the subject's eyeglasses lenses. Bald heads are less of an issue, although little hard light patches will still appear across the cranium. 

Finally, when dark-skinned participants are sufficiently exposed, hot spots on the tip of the nose, forehead, cheeks, and chin are common.

5 tips for good lighting
Picture by Karolina Grabowska, iImage is taken from Pexels.

Lights near the camera will produce unsightly, distracting reflections on the eyeglasses lenses. Remove specular highlights from shows by relocating lights to the sides and putting them higher on their stands.

The remedy for glasses is to go up and out. Raise your lights and place them as far to the sides as feasible until the reflections disappear. People with bald heads or dark complexion require huge, very soft lights positioned close to them. The idea is to make the specular highlight larger than the subject's face, illuminating them softly.

Illuminate the entire shot, not just the subject.

And finally, the last tip of our 5 tips for good lighting is when your subject is lit, your work still needs to be completed. You're not finished until you've illuminated the entire shot. Save one or two lights for the background. Pinch your barndoors down to produce a sliver of light across the background, or use a gel to add a splash of color. Investing a little more time in lighting your set will significantly improve the appearance and feel of your photograph.


Lighting is vital in all photographic processes; understanding how light works and what can be done to make the most of it will improve your skills as a photographer, and the results of your photography projects will be much better. Additionally, knowing photography software such as Light Room Classic and Adobe Photoshop will help you to get extraordinary results. Learn how to use this software by clicking here to develop your new skills.  

Applying the 5 tips for good lighting can be a good start to enhance your skills.

1. What is the three-pointer setup in lighting?

The three-pointer setup consists of a key light, fill light and backlight. It adds depth and dimension to the subject by using different light sources.

2. How can shadows be used to set the mood?

Shadows can create depth and emotion in a scene. Positioning the key light at an angle enhances the appearance of depth and adds mood to the lighting.

3. How can I soften the lighting on my subject?

To soften the lighting on the subject, use soft light sources or adjust the placement of lights to create a more flattering and gentle illumination.

4. How can I handle hard-to-light people, such as those wearing glasses or dark complexions?

Position lights away from the camera and towards the sides to handle challenging lighting situations, such as glasses or dark complexions. For dark complexions, use large, soft lights close to the subject.

5. Should I only focus on lighting the subject or consider the entire shot?

Entire shot, including the background, to improve the overall appearance and feel of the photograph or video. Adding lights, using techniques like narrowing the barndoors, or using gels can enhance the visual impact.

Camila Marcelo is an experienced online education content creator with over 7 years developing engaging videos and written content on technology. She employs proven teaching methodologies to make complex topics understandable for diverse learners. Camila is passionate about democratizing access to digital skills through emerging tech and optimized instructional design.
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