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The 3-point lighting technique is mainly used in movies and photographs, but also in 3D rendering.

Its aim is to properly light up an object in an eye-catching way by a simple combination of three different lights.

Which types of lights do you need?

  • Key Light: it’s a luminous light placed near the camera. Its purpose is to highlight the form and dimension of the subject and to create the main shadow;
  • Fill Light: it’s a less bright light, usually set up opposite the key light to illuminate dark spots. It disables the string shadow that the key light casts on your image;
  • Back Light: this light is positioned directly behind the object. It’s used to highlight shapes and make details more distinct by adding a thin glow to the back of the subject.

Three Lights Types for 3P LightingThe three types of light in single use and in combination.

Tips & Tricks to set up each light the right way

Great lighting results can be achieved relatively quickly.

The setting up of each light is extremely important because it gives an appealing appearance to the object. Furthermore, it will enable you to illuminate it, by having the highest control on highlights and shadows. Basically it’s the secret for a stunning result.

The position of the camera is fundamental too because it influences the point of view of the whole scene. If you put your camera in a low position, the model will appear taller, threatening and majestic. On the contrary, a higher camera position will give your character a smaller and more submissive look.

A very common mistake to avoid is setting the intensity of the fill light much too high, which can cause the subject to get blown out. Try to set it to a low luminance.

Make sure that the back light doesn’t provide any frontal illumination to the subject. If you were to hide the key and fill lights, you would see that the subject is darkened all around, except a small light around the subject’s edges.

Depending on the scene you want to light up, if there is a background for example, you may want to adjust the lights in order to only illuminates the subject and not the background.

Conclusions

By using 3-point lighting, you have the complete control on how the subject is illuminated.

Here are a list of clear and concrete benefits of the 3-point lighting:

  • It creates a more interesting and dynamic image.
  • Three-point lighting gives the scene depth.
  • It allows you to control shadows.
  • This lights combination also helps shape an object to bring out the best or worst of them, when you want to underline a specific attribute of your character.
  • Your camera and lights are the narration of your scene. They can emphasize the story you want to tell.

Keep Learning About 3-Point Lighting

If you want to know more specific details about 3-point lighting, we strongly recommend watching this video where you can learn the fundamental and important principles about how to work with lights.

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