Lighting a face

Early film was lit by natural light. Artificial light sources were introduced for greater production flexibility and economic reliability (e.g. to keep filming whatever the weather). A system of lighting faces (often the most common subject in feature films) was devised using three-point lighting (see figure and text opposite).

The quest for a ‘natural’ look to an image produced a fashion for using large areas of bounced light. Modelling on a face was reduced or eliminated and the overall image produced was softer and less modelled. To heighten realism, and because of the availability of very sensitive cameras, many shots were devised using available light. This is often necessary when shooting documentaries because not only does ...

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