The three point lighting system was/is the standard approach to lighting in Hollywood films (dominated by the needs for consistent lighting of Stars, the main attraction for Hollywood films – see Richard Dyer Stars). While fairly proscriptive the  system a good framework to begin thinking about lighting. It also permits a broad range of effects merely by the use of different coloured gels in different sources, and setting different strengths for each lighting source.  It can lead to interesting discussions of balanced and directional lighting and to low-key lighting as a repertoire of gangster or films noir.

Assessment of this can be done by peer, Perhaps upload the still and rationale to a wiki and provide a questionnaire for each member of the assessment group.

So here’s the task

Three point lighting

You will be expected to source and use three lighting sources; key, fill and set or back lighting. These must be non-narratively motivated (ie. lights visible within the shot) .


Your task is to research plan and and take a series of stills (with the camera you’d normally use for shooting video) which demonstrate your attempt to express ideas, narrative and or generic, using characters and lighting, you may also use aperture, framing and shot composition to accomplish your goals in the following.


  1. An interior shot with balanced natural lighting ( the initial state of equilibrium -Todorov).
  2. A sinister encounter.
  3. A criminal conspiracy
  4. Ambivalence in a character’s motives
  5. A long-forgotten memory/flashback.


  • You should research how lighting has been used to create different effects in a range of movies appropriate to your intended outcomes for this task, include evidence of your research in the presentation of your work.


  • For each still you must use the three point lighting system, and include a rationale for what you hoped to accomplish and how your research helped you. You’re also expected to evaluate how the three point lighting system aided or or hindered your intended outcome.