Key light


Key light

The key light is the first and usually most important light that a photographer, cinematographer, or other scene composer will use in a lighting setup. The purpose of the key light is to highlight the form and dimension of the subject. The key light is not a rigid requirement; omitting the key light can result in a silhouette effect. Many key lights may be placed in a scene to illuminate a moving subject at opportune moments.

Position

The key light can be "hard" (focused) or "soft" (diffused), and depending on the desired setup can be placed at different angles relative to the subject. When part of the most common setup—three-point lighting—the key light is placed at a 30–60° angle (with the camera marking 0 degrees). In addition to the horizontal angle, the key light can be placed high or low producing different effects. The most common vertical position for the key light is at a 30° degree angle (i.e. slightly above the eye line, the nose should not cast a shadow on the lips).

A key light positioned low appears to distort the actor's features, since most natural or ambient light is normally overhead. A dramatic effect used in horror or comedy cinematography is a key light illuminating the face from below. A high key light will result in more prominent cheek bones and long nose shadows. Marlene Dietrich was famous for demanding that her key light be placed high.

Lighting a scene

Using just a key light results in a high-contrast scene, especially if the background is not illuminated. A fill light decreases contrast and adds more details to the dark areas of an image. An alternative to the fill light is to reflect existing light or to illuminate other objects in the scene (which in turn further illuminate the subject).

In addition to a key light, a back light may be added to "separate" the subject from the background. When the subject and/or camera are moving or turning around, the key light and back light may change roles.

The key light does not have to directly illuminate the subject: it may pass through various filters, screens, or reflectors. Light passing through tree leaves, window panes, and other obstacles can make a scene more visually interesting, as well as cue the audience to the location of the subject. The key light also does not have to be white light—a colored key (especially when used with fill/back lighting of other colors) can add more emotional depth to a scene than full white alone. In mixed indoor/outdoor daytime scenes, sunlight may appear to be a "warm" white, and indoor lighting to be a "neutral" or artificially-toned white. By contrast, moonlight appears to be "cooler" than indoor lighting.

Lighting choices

In many cases, the key light is a stage light for indoor scenes, or sunlight for outdoors. A lighting instrument may also be used outdoors to supplement sunlight or as the primary light source with sunlight or skylight serving as fill lighting. Actual lamps, lighting fixtures, can serve as key lights, provided they are of sufficient brightness. They may also appear within the scene as props — in which case they are called "practicals." Similarly, fire, candles and other natural sources of light can be used.

ee also

*High-key lighting
*Low-key lighting
*Stage lighting instrument


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • key|light — «KEE LYT», noun. Photography. main source of directed light falling on an object or scene …   Useful english dictionary

  • key light —   the main or primary light on a subject, often angled and off center (or from above) that selectively illuminates various prominent features of the image to produce depth, shadows, etc.; high key lighting (with everything evenly and brightly lit …   Glossary of cinematic terms

  • key light — noun : the main light illuminating a subject in photography * * * (in photography or motion pictures) the main light that illuminates the subject being photographed or filmed. [1935 40] * * * key light noun The main light in a TV or film studio… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Key Light — F/A/V The main light on a subject. (Lighting) VP The main light source …   Audio and video glossary

  • key light — TV Principal illumination source on a subject or scene. Normally positioned slightly offcenter and angled to provide shadow detail. (See back light, fill light, three point lighting) …   Audio and video glossary

  • key light — noun Date: circa 1937 the main light illuminating a photographic subject …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • key light — (in photography or motion pictures) the main light that illuminates the subject being photographed or filmed. [1935 40] * * * …   Universalium

  • key light — noun the main source of light in a photograph or film …   English new terms dictionary

  • Key light — PP The main light on a subject …   Audio and video glossary

  • Sand Key Light — Infobox Lighthouse caption = Sand Key Light, 2005 location = southwest of Key West, Florida coordinates = coord|24|27|14|N|81|52|39|W|region:US type:landmark yearlit = 1853 automated = 1938 yeardeactivated = 1989 1998 foundation = cast iron screw …   Wikipedia