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What's the difference between accent lighting and ambient lighting?


Gerald King
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They tend to be opposites in some ways -- accent lighting is when you put a small (often hard) spot light on some piece of furniture or vase of flowers or picture on a wall to "accent" it, make it pop and stand out a little. Ambient lighting is when you add some very soft non-directional fill to a room to bring up the overall shadows without making it look like you added more light. Sometimes just having some frames of white cards or cloth off-camera will reflect enough light to create more ambience.

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They tend to be opposites in some ways -- accent lighting is when you put a small (often hard) spot light on some piece of furniture or vase of flowers or picture on a wall to "accent" it, make it pop and stand out a little. Ambient lighting is when you add some very soft non-directional fill to a room to bring up the overall shadows without making it look like you added more light. Sometimes just having some frames of white cards or cloth off-camera will reflect enough light to create more ambience.

So would white reference behind the subject be considered accenting lighting or ambient lighting because it seems more natural that it's in the background of the subject?

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I always imagine accent lighting much like accents on letters-- a little extra thing to help bring out a unique pronunciation.

Now; that sounds super confusing when I write it out; but what I mean by that is, let's say I'm filming a scene and there is a bit of production design which in some way informs on the scene, I'd want a little extra light on there to bring a little attention to it when the frame is viewed.

Ambient light is just that light which is there in the first place which you'll either build up on or remove.

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Usually "ambient" lighting is rather directionless and soft, sort of what happens when the practical sources bounce light around and lower contrast, so any additional ambience you add shouldn't feel like a new source, whereas "accent" lighting is meant to point out something in the room, so tends to be a harder spot of light on some area or object that you want to highlight.

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Why would framing a white object behind a subject be a type of lighting? If you put a spotlight on a wall behind an object to silhouette it you'd probably call that an accent light on the wall not on the subject.

 

Usually "ambient" lighting is rather directionless and soft, sort of what happens when the practical sources bounce light around and lower contrast, so any additional ambience you add shouldn't feel like a new source, whereas "accent" lighting is meant to point out something in the room, so tends to be a harder spot of light on some area or object that you want to highlight.

Aah okay, that's understandable. So it gives it more depth in the frame.

Edited by Gerald King
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