Jump to content

Lighting in Layers


Recommended Posts

👉🏻How do you Light in Layers? (Background/Midground/Foreground)


👉🏻 What all to be careful about lighting up in layers 


👉🏻 Is there any rule that can help? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You commonly use different lights on each area, 

Need to set the light levels so that they're appropriate to the overall look of the scene/shot.

Use your eyes, what looks right for what you're trying achieve, probably is.

There are a number of books on film lighting, it's worth reading those.



  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

Not sure that's a helpful way to think about it -- sometimes it works out that way but every situation is different. If the best way to light a small room is to bounce a light off the center of the ceiling and it looks great, then how is that lighting in layers?  Or any space lit with a single light?


  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

it can vary case by case but in most situations the foreground lights need to be moved most often and if you have small g/e team then it can mean that the foreground lights need to be relatively small and lightweight. if having a bigger team, then you may have possibility to tweak it better and use larger/more difficult to handle gear for the foreground.

I see it like this:

background: stays mostly the same all the time. big lights which don't need to be moved often. large hmi or multiple smaller units can be possible because you need to build it once and then it stays relatively the same.

foreground: this is where most of the action often happens and you need to tweak the lights shot by shot. the units need to be able to be moved quickly even with minimal crew. On smaller shoots this often means Led units, possibly battery powered

midground:  often you only need to add some accents unless some of the actors move a lot in this area. So if actors on the midground, then you need to light it... otherwise, only add what you absolutely have to. this way you save lots of time

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that thinking of it in terms of “layers” is maybe not the best way to conceptualize lighting.

Here are some other roads to explore:

Additive or subtractive: do you add lights or take away light from a bigger source?

Ambient vs.directional? What’s the ambient lighting in the space, and then what are the different directions from which light can come from? How do they bounce around to create the ambient?

Lighting space vs lighting objects? Do you create pools of light for actors to evolve in and then shoot freely, or do you create very precise lighting for specific positions?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Sustaining Member

@AdarshSo there's a couple ways you can consider lighting. They've already been brought up here: Lighting the space, or lighting for specifics, like layers you mentioned.

A great way to look at it is both. Light for the space, then if the character is moved past that set, you can either choose to continue the gag with new lights (think interview setups on a long lens) or fill the new space with whatever natural/practical sources you like.

Sometimes with relying on just lightingvthe space, you'll find holes of underexposure. So you can either add more to the space (somwtimes creatively hidden), or follow the character with a light (such as an out of frame lantern at night on the beach).

You can also do this backwards: Light for the character first, then motivate those sources by extending them to the rest of the room. Your talent's kicker can apply to the background as sunlight through the window, for example. This manifests as a FG + BG lighting approach (layer lighting). I'd advise against this. The resulting image can look artificial.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


Forum Sponsors

Film Gears

Serious Gear

Metropolis Post

Abel Cine

Tai Audio

New Pro Video - New and Used Equipment

VidGear.com - Broadcast Video Warehouse

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International


Wooden Camera

Cinematography Books and Gear

TripdsVideo CamerasLightingVideo Camera LensesMonitors


  • Create New...