World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Key light

Article Id: WHEBN0002671685
Reproduction Date:

Title: Key light  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fill light, Cinematic techniques, Rembrandt lighting, Cinematography, Lighting ratio
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Key light

A typical three-point setup with a shoulder or back-side lamp to create contrast between the background and center object so as to give a three-dimensional appearance

The key light is the first and usually most important light that a photographer, cinematographer, lighting cameraman, or other scene composer will use in a lighting setup. The purpose of the key light is to highlight the form and dimension of the subject. The key light is not a rigid requirement; omitting the key light can result in a silhouette effect. Many key lights may be placed in a scene to illuminate a moving subject at opportune moments.

Contents

  • Position 1
  • Lighting a scene 2
  • Lighting choices 3
  • See also 4

Position

The key light can be "hard" (focused) or "soft" (diffused), and depending on the desired setup can be placed at different angles relative to the subject. When part of the most common setup—three-point lighting—the key light is placed at a 30–60° angle (with the camera marking 0 degrees). In addition to the horizontal angle, the key light can be placed high or low producing different effects. The most common vertical position for the key light is at a 30° angle (i.e. slightly above the eye line; the nose should not cast a shadow on the lips).

A key light positioned low appears to distort the actor's features, since most natural or ambient light is normally overhead. A dramatic effect used in horror or comedy cinematography is a key light illuminating the face from below. A high key light will result in more prominent cheek bones and long nose shadows. Marlene Dietrich was famous for demanding that her key light be placed high.

Lighting a scene

Using just a key light results in a high-contrast scene, especially if the background is not illuminated. A fill light decreases contrast and adds more details to the dark areas of an image. An alternative to the fill light is to reflect existing light or to illuminate other objects in the scene (which in turn further illuminate the subject).

In addition to a key light, a back light may be added to "separate" the subject from the background. When the subject and/or camera are moving or turning around, the key light and back light may change roles.

The key light does not have to directly illuminate the subject: it may pass through various filters, screens, or reflectors. Light passing through tree leaves, window panes, and other obstacles can make a scene more visually interesting, as well as cue the audience to the location of the subject. The key light also does not have to be white light—a colored key (especially when used with fill/back lighting of other colors) can add more emotional depth to a scene than full white alone. In mixed indoor/outdoor daytime scenes, sunlight may appear to be a "warm" white, and indoor lighting to be a "neutral" or artificially-toned white. By contrast, moonlight appears to be "cooler" than indoor lighting.

Lighting choices

In many cases, the key light is a stage light for indoor scenes, or sunlight for outdoors. A lighting instrument may also be used outdoors to supplement sunlight or as the primary light source with sunlight or skylight serving as fill lighting. Actual lamps, lighting fixtures, can serve as key lights, provided they are of sufficient brightness. They may also appear within the scene as props — in which case they are called "practicals." Similarly, fire, candles and other natural sources of light can be used.

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.