Visual Literacy
How do I make meaning


Lighting

Lighting plays an important part in creating the atmosphere in a film. The amount of light and the direction of the light source can give meaning to the viewer of the film. For example, lighting is used to indicate the time of the day.

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Angle

Description

Purpose

Example

Back lighting The main light source comes from behind the character. It is used to create a silhouette. The character can be made to look mysterious due to the effect of the shadows. It can create a sense of impending doom and is often used in horror movies.

Key and fill lighting It is the main light source in a particular scene. It is usually directed onto the main character. Fill lighting can be added to soften the effect of shadows.

Under-lighting The main light source comes from below the character. It can be used to disfigure the face. Horror films make use of this technique.

Top lighting The main light source comes from above the character. It is used to remove shadows produced by the key lighting. It can also create the illusion of a bright, sunny day.
Side lighting The main light source comes from one side of the screen. It is used to light one side of the character’s face and produces shadows across the set, creating a sense of mystery.