Previously we looked at the impact a single light source can have on our subject. What happens if we add a second light source?

Here our model is lit using two lights, placed the same as they were in our first example. While one of these lights on their own produced nice results, together they produce an unflattering result. Both lights cancel each other our, resulting in a thin shadow running down the center of our models face. There is no shadow information, and our model looks flat. Moving lights closer towards the back of our character produces the opposite result.


Now our model is mostly in shadow, with only the edges lit. This is rarely used in film, but is used when we want to imply a character is shadowy or untrustworthy. It can also be used when a director doesn't want to reveal who a character is until later in the film.

Next we have placed one of our lights at a 3/4 angle to our characters face, and the other light roughly opposite our key light. This gives us nice long shadows across the face, but the second light lifts up the shadowed side of the face. This is less dramatic then our single light source, but still more Low-key than high-key. With the smaller light source producing strong shadows, this lighting would still fit in with film noir while illuminating more of our model.

The next lighting setup has two small lighting sources placed in the same side of the face. This produces unflattering contradictory results. We now have two shadows in the same direction, and doesnt look appealing.

Here the top light source has been made larger. This softens its shadow, producing a softer look with only one noticeable shadow. This result looks much nicer and less distracting.

Now lets take a look the most common lighting setup, three point lighting. This is a very common lighting approach as it creates a nice result that can be used in almost any scenario, has flattering results and doesn't implicitly imply a mood.

First lets start with our Key light. I'm going to demonstrate short lighting. This is where the primary light is used to light the short side of the face, or the side of the face closest to our light. 

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Next we add a light from the broadside of our character, 90 degrees from our Key light. This fill light is usually larger, and softer with a lower intensity. This helps bring up the broadside of the face and lift it out of the shadows, reducing the drama and contrast.

Finally we add a kick light 180 degrees from our Key light. This light helps separate our character from the background and add more depth back to our model. This is Short lighting, and is one of the most common setups for portrait and character lighting. The other common setup is broad lighting, where the key light is primarily from the other side of the characters face. Here is an example of broad lighting.

Short lighting helps to make the face look skinnier. With film, it also implies the character is looking towards our scene or action, where as broad lighting implies the opposite. Broad lighting can be used to add drama, or make male characters look bolder, or more masculine.

As you can see a good amount of thought is placed into lighting, particularly lighting for animation, where every light has to be created and placed. The number of lights and placement have a drastic impact on the outcome, but so does light colour. Here are various examples of the short lighting setup with various colours, ranging from warm and cold lighting toward vivid red and blue contrasted lighting.

Thoughts by,
Rich