Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light and a back light for illumination. Low-key lighting often uses only a key light, optionally controlled with a fill light or a simple reflector.
Low key light accentuates the contours of the subject by throwing areas into shade while a fill light or reflector may illuminate the shadow areas to control contrast. The relative strength of key-to-fill, known as the lighting ratio, can be measured using a light meter. Low key lighting has a higher lighting ratio, e.g., 8:1, than high-key lighting, which can approach 1:1.
The term "low key" is also used in cinematography and photography to refer to any scene with a high lighting ratio, especially if there is a predominance of shadowy areas. It tends to heighten the sense of alienation felt by the viewer, hence is commonly used in film noir and horror genres. It is typically used in dark dramas/ thrillers. Low-key lighting is also associated with German Expressionism and later film noir.
Ambient lighting may refer to:
Available light in an environment
Low-key lighting, a photographic technique using a single key light
A type of lighting in computer graphicsIn our basic illumination model, we can set a
general level of brightness for a scene. This is a
simple way to model the combination of light
reflections from various surfaces to produce a
uniform illumination called the ambient light,
or background light.
Ambient light has no spatial or directional
characteristics. The amount of ambient light
incident on each object is a constant for all
surfaces and over all directionsAvailable light
In photography and cinematography, available light or ambient light refers to any source of light that is not explicitly supplied by the photographer for the purpose of taking photos. The term usually refers to sources of light that are already available naturally (e.g. the sun, moon, lightning) or artificial light already being used (e.g. to light a room). It generally excludes flashes, although arguably flash lighting provided by other photographers shooting simultaneously in the same space could be considered available light. Light sources that affect the scene and are included in the actual frame are called practical light sources, or simply practicals.Use of available light is an important factor in candid photography in order not to disturb the subjects.
The use of available light may pose a challenge for a photographer. The brightness and direction of the light is often not adjustable, except perhaps for indoor lighting. This will limit the selection of shutter speeds, and may require the use of shades or reflectors to manipulate the light. It can also influence the time, location, and even orientation of the photo shoot to obtain the desired lighting conditions. Available light can often also produce a color cast with color photography.
Levels of ambient light are most frequently considered relative to additional lighting used as fill light, in which case the ambient light is normally treated as the key light. In some cases, ambient light may be used as a fill, in which case additional lighting provides the stronger light source, for example in bounce flash photography. The relative intensity of ambient light and fill light is known as the lighting ratio, an important factor in calculating contrast in the finished image.Cinematic techniques
This article contains a list of cinematic techniques that are divided into categories and briefly described.Contre-jour
Contre-jour (French for "against daylight") is a photographic technique in which the camera is pointing directly toward a source of light and an equivalent technique of painting. It was also used in paintings prior to its use in photography, where the shadows would fall to the left on the left, to the right on the right and forward in the lower centre. The edges of the subject would show surprising colour effects.
Contre-jour produces backlighting of the subject. This effects usually hides details, causes a stronger contrast between light and dark, creates silhouettes and emphasizes lines and shapes. The sun, or other light source, is often seen as either a bright spot or as a strong glare behind the subject. Fill light may be used to illuminate the side of the subject facing toward the camera. Silhouetting occurs when there is a lighting ratio of 16:1 or more; at lower ratios such as 8:1 the result is instead called low-key lighting.Crossfire (film)
Crossfire is a 1947 film noir drama film which deals with the theme of anti-Semitism, as did that year's Academy Award for Best Picture winner, Gentleman's Agreement. The film was directed by Edward Dmytryk and the screenplay was written by John Paxton, based on the 1945 novel The Brick Foxhole by screenwriter and director Richard Brooks. The film stars Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, Robert Ryan, and Gloria Grahame. It received five Academy Award nominations, including Ryan for Best Supporting Actor and Gloria Grahame for Best Supporting Actress. It was the first B movie to receive a best picture nomination.Fill light
In television, film, stage, or photographic lighting, a fill light (often simply fill) may be used to reduce the contrast of a scene to match the dynamic range of the recording media and record the same amount of detail typically seen by eye in average lighting and considered normal. From that baseline of normality using more or less fill will make shadows seem lighter or darker than normal which will cause the viewer to react differently, by inferring both environmental and mood clues from the tone of the shadows.
Natural skylight fill is omnidirectional and diffuse, with lower rate of inverse-square fall-off than artificial sources. A common artificial lighting strategy which creates an overall appearance similar to natural fill places the fill light on the lens axis so it will appear to cast few if any shadows from the point of view of the camera, which allows the key light which overlaps it to create the illusion of 3D in a 2D photo with the same single source patterns typically seen with natural lighting where the sun acts as key light and the skylight as fill. The use of centered near-axis "neutral" fill also prevents dark unfilled voids in the lighting pattern which can occur on faces if cheeks or brows block the fill source.
The positioning of the fill affects the overall appearance of the lighting pattern. When a centered fill strategy is used the ratio is created by overlapping the key light over the foundation of fill. A key source of equal incident intensity to the fill, overlapping the even fill, will create a 2:1 reflected ratio (1 key + 1 fill over 1 Fill) = 2:1. The same two equal incident strength sources placed on opposite side of a face will work to cancel each other out creating overall dimensionally flat appearance with dark unfilled voids in low areas neither light reach. Part of the learning curve with lighting is experimenting with various highlight:shadow reflected ratios and fill positions, comparing them to baselines and reactions to what is seen by eye, and in doing that learning how to trigger the same reactions in the mind of the viewer.Film genre
A film genre is a motion-picture category based (for example) on similarities either in the narrative elements or in the emotional response to the film (namely: serious, comic, etc.). Most theories of film genre are borrowed from literary-genre criticism. Each film genre is associated with "conventions, iconography, settings, narratives, characters and actors".
Standard genre characters vary according to the film genre; for film noir, standard characters are the femme fatale and the "hardboiled" detective; a Western film may portray the schoolmarm and the gunfighter. Some actors acquire a reputation linked to a single genre, such as John Wayne (the Western) or Fred Astaire (the musical). A film's genre will influence the use of filmmaking styles and techniques, such as the use of flashbacks and low-key lighting in film noir, tight framing in horror films, fonts that look like rough-hewn logs for the titles of Western films, or the "scrawled" title-font and credits of Se7en (1995), a film about a serial killer. As well, genres have associated film-scoring conventions, such as lush string orchestras for romantic melodramas or electronic music for science-fiction films.The basic genres include fiction and documentary, from which subgenres have emerged, such as docufiction and docudrama. Other examples of subgenres include the courtroom- and trial-focused drama known as the legal drama, which is a subtype of drama. Types of fiction which may seem unrelated can also be combined to form hybrid subgenres, such as the melding of horror and comedy in the Evil Dead films. Other popular combinations include the romantic comedy and the action comedy film. Alan Williams distinguishes three main genre categories: narrative, avant-garde and documentary. Genre movies are "commercial feature films which, through repetition and variation, tell familiar stories with familiar characters and familiar situations". Genre affects how films are broadcast on television, advertised, and organized in video rental stores.Films can also be classified by the setting, theme, topic, mood, format, target audience or budget. The setting is the environment where the story and action take place (e.g., a war film, a Western film, or a space-opera film). The theme or topic refers to the issues or concepts that the film revolves around (e.g., science-fiction film, sports film, or crime film). The mood is the emotional tone of the film (e.g., comedy film, horror film, or tearjerker film). Format refers to the way the film was shot (e.g., 35 mm, 16 mm or 8 mm) or the manner of presentation (e.g.: anamorphic widescreen). Additional ways of categorizing film genres may involve the target audience (e.g., children's film, teen film or women's film) or by type of production (e.g., B movie, big-budget blockbuster or low-budget film, such as amateur film). Genre does not just refer to the type of film or its category; spectator expectations about a film, and institutional discourses that create generic structures also play a key role.
Genres are not fixed; they change and evolve over time, and some genres may largely disappear (for example, the melodrama).Gregg Toland
Gregg Toland, A.S.C. (May 29, 1904 – September 28, 1948) was an American cinematographer known for his innovative use of techniques such as deep focus, examples of which can be found in his work on Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940). Toland was voted as one of the top 10 (actually 11 with a tie) most influential cinematographers in the history of films by the International Cinematographers Guild in 2003.High-key lighting
High-key lighting is a style of lighting for film, television, or photography that aims to reduce the lighting ratio present in the scene. This was originally done partly for technological reasons, since early film and television did not deal well with high contrast ratios, but now is used to suggest an upbeat mood. It is often used in sitcoms and comedies. High-key lighting is usually quite homogeneous and free from dark shadows. The terminology comes from the higher balance in the ratio between the key light and the fill light in a traditional three point lighting setup.In the 1950s and 1960s, high-key lighting was achieved through multiple light sources lighting a scene—usually using three fixtures per person (left, right, and central) —which resulted in a uniform lighting pattern with very little modeling. Nowadays, multiple hot light sources are substituted by much more efficient fluorescent soft lights which provide a similar effect.
The advantage to high-key lighting is that it doesn't require adjustment for each scene which allows the production to complete the shooting in hours instead of days. The primary drawback is that high-key lighting fails to add meaning or drama by lighting certain parts more prominently than others.
Shows with bigger budgets have moved away from high-key lighting by using lighting set-ups different from the standard three-point lighting. Part of the reason for this is the advent of new lighting fixtures which are easier to use and quicker to set up. Another reason is the growing sophistication of the audience for TV programs and the need to differentiate.House by the River
House by the River is a 1950 film noir crime film directed by Fritz Lang starring Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman and Jane Wyatt. Originally released by Republic Pictures, the film is now in the public domain.James Wong Howe
Wong Tung Jim, A.S.C. (Chinese: 黃宗霑; August 28, 1899 – July 12, 1976), known professionally as James Wong Howe (Houghto), was a Chinese American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was one of the most sought after cinematographers in Hollywood due to his innovative filming techniques. Howe was known as a master of the use of shadow and one of the first to use deep-focus cinematography, in which both foreground and distant planes remain in focus.Born in Guangzhou, China, Howe immigrated to the United States at age five and grew up in Washington. He was a professional boxer during his teenage years, and later began his career in the film industry as an assistant to Cecil B. DeMille. Howe pioneered the use of wide-angle lenses and low-key lighting, as well as the use of the crab dolly.
Despite the success of his professional life, Howe faced significant racial discrimination in his private life. He became an American citizen only after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, and due to anti-miscegenation laws, his marriage to a white woman was not legally recognized in the United States until 1948.
Howe earned ten nominations for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, winning twice for The Rose Tattoo (1955) and Hud (1963). He was selected as one of the ten most influential cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild. On May 25, 2018, Google honored Howe with a doodle on its homepage.John F. Seitz
John Francis Seitz, A.S.C. (June 23, 1892 – February 27, 1979) was an American cinematographer and inventor.He was nominated for seven Academy Awards.Key light
The key light is the first and usually most important light that a photographer, cinematographer, lighting cameraman, 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.List of types of lighting
Lighting is the deliberate use of light to achieve a practical or aesthetic effect.
Types of lighting include:
Emergency vehicle lighting
Ground effects lighting
Computer graphics lighting
Unified lighting and shadowing
Decorative vehicle lighting
Excessive lighting (light pollution)
LED stage lighting
Urban lightingLow key
Low key as a term used in describing paintings or photographs is related to but not the same as low-key lighting in cinema or photography. A photographic image, painting or movie can be defined as "low-key" if its dominant values are black, dark brown or dark blue.Some authors describe the term "low key" as the so-called Rembrandian light while others describe how to obtain such photographs or paintings.Neo-noir
Neo-noir is a modern or contemporary motion picture rendition of film noir. The term film noir (popularized in 1955 by two French critics, Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton) was applied to crime movies of the 1940s and 1950s, most produced in the United States, which have a 1920s/1930s Art Deco visual environment. It meant dark movie, indicating a sense of something sinister and shadowy, but also expressing a style of cinematography. The film noir genre includes stylish Hollywood crime dramas, often with a twisted dark wit. Neo-noir has a similar style but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements or media.
Neo-noir, as the term suggests, is contemporary noir. The film directors knowingly refer to 'classic noir' in the use of tilted camera angles, interplay of light and shadows, unbalanced framing; blurring of the lines between good and bad and right and wrong, and a motif of revenge, paranoia, and alienation, among other sensibilities.The Medium (1960 film)
The Medium is a 1960 Australian TV production. It was a filmed version of the opera by Menotti.Three-point lighting
Three-point lighting is a standard method used in visual media such as theatre, video, film, still photography and computer-generated imagery. By using three separate positions, the photographer can illuminate the shot's subject (such as a person) however desired, while also controlling (or eliminating entirely) the shading and shadows produced by direct lighting.
The key light, as the name suggests, shines directly upon the subject and serves as its principal illuminator; more than anything else, the strength, color and angle of the key determines the shot's overall lighting design.
In indoor shots, the key is commonly a specialized lamp, or a camera's flash. In outdoor daytime shots, the Sun often serves as the key light. In this case, of course, the photographer cannot set the light in the exact position he or she wants, so instead arranges the shot to best capture the sunlight, perhaps after waiting for the sun to position itself just right.
The fill light also shines on the subject, but from a side angle relative to the key and is often placed at a lower position than the key (about at the level of the subject's face). It balances the key by illuminating shaded surfaces, and lessening or eliminating chiaroscuro effects, such as the shadow cast by a person's nose upon the rest of the face. It is usually softer and less bright than the key light (up to half), and more to a flood. Not using a fill at all can result in stark contrasts (due to shadows) across the subject's surface, depending upon the key light's harshness. Sometimes, as in low-key lighting, this is a deliberate effect, but shots intended to look more natural and less stylistic require a fill.
In some situations a photographer can use a reflector (such as a piece of white cardstock mounted off-camera, or even a white-painted wall) as a fill light instead of an actual lamp. Reflecting and redirecting the key light's rays back upon the subject from a different angle can cause a softer, subtler effect than using another lamp.
The back light (a.k.a. the rim, hair, or shoulder light) shines on the subject from behind, often (but not necessarily) to one side or the other. It gives the subject a rim of light, serving to separate the subject from the background and highlighting contours.
Back light or rim light is different from a kick in that a kick (or kicker) contributes to a portion of the shading on the visible surface of the subject, while a rim light only creates a thin outline around the subject without necessarily hitting the front (visible) surface of the subject at all.