Three Point Lighting

Date: November 3, 2016

Subject: Three Point Lighting


Birn, Jeremy. “Three Point Lighting.” New Riders, n.d. Web. 03

Nov. 2016. <>.


Completing my third interview with Mrs. Becky Hohmann, the Wakeland High School Broadcast teacher, I was left with a plethora of topics that I would need to heavily research in order to ensure quality in my original work. However, as the question I prioritized during this interview was “how can I combat poor lighting?”, Mrs. Hohmann offered me a platform to expedite my research process. She suggested that I start with the most fundamental lighting strategy: three point lighting.

This article discusses in detail the three points in three point lighting, as well the steps in order. It is comprised of three different light sources: key lighting, fill lighting, and rim lighting. These lighting aspects in combination parallel effects of classic Hollywood lighting, which is preferable for my documentary purposes. The key light is essentially the most powerful and dominant light in the video and is typically 15 to 45 degrees to the left or right of the camera (with the subject as the point of origin). The fill lighting is the supporting light, on the opposite side as the key light and typically at a lower height. The rim, or back, light is the final light source in the three point lighting. This gives the three dimensionality to the subject in a two dimensional screen. This light comes from behind the subject, illuminating the rear side of the subject.

One stumbling issue I came across was regarding the rim light. I could not figure out how to avoid capturing the rim light in the background without using the ceiling as a method of suspension. As including the rim light in the background can be extremely distracting to the overall video, hindering the audience from focuses on the main message, this article revealed one main contention: three point lighting is just a suggestion, a platform, for standardized lighting. I realized that there are so many more possibilities, each producing completely unique effects and results. Some include deriving a rim light from a window facing the camera, intentional decorative lighting, or excluding the back light completely.

While I found the three point lighting to be greatly helpful for my original work, it seemed financially impractical. One thing I realize as I continue to research is the heavy financial investment to produce quality work, as multiple cameras, lenses, lighting, and audio all add up to be quite unreasonable for my level of skill. However, this made me question, “are there cheaper alternatives – or “loopholes” per se – that I can implement in my lighting and audio?”. There must be some sort of “Plan B” for non-professionals – particularly freelance. Especially as I already have a camera, tripod, and a variety of lenses, the more uncompromising (price-wise) are already taken care of. Therefore, somewhere in the world someone has found a solution – which will be the next step in my research.