Tired of the Boring Old Three Point Lighting? An Alternative Setup To The Rescue

The headshot, the interview, the portrait lighting we all have to film time and time again . . . it can get quite boring, and often my instincts tell me that you just can’t light by a standard formula. Lighting Techniques should be fluid.

Three Point Lighting Rule Be Gone

The best cinematographers don’t follow a formula. They trust their eye and rely on years of “rules” which they followed long enough until it was time to break them.

Nothing is better then seeing a master give the middle finger to the “rules” and create awesome stuff. It lets me know that above all we need to trust our instincts, trust our eye, and have our own opinion.

Watch below to learn an alternative method to the boring old three point lighting technique and then keep reading:

Tired of the Boring Old Three Point Lighting technique? Try the following lighting setup!Tweet: Tired of the boring old Three-Point Lighting Technique? Try the following lighting setup! http://ctt.ec/e2Eke+ @BLFSchool

So as you noticed you can get a wonderful contrast on the face by having your fill light on the SAME side as your key light.

Also, negative fill is something you should be experimenting with since taking light away is just as much a necessity and a science as adding light. Check out Bruce Logan’s interview, [email protected]:20 where he discusses negative fill for more on that.

Don’t forget, highlights and blown out windows in the background, though you need to be careful to keep it tasteful, is completely acceptable and can look gorgeous.

Three Point Lighting Be Gone

Three Point Lighting Be Gone

This method is more natural since all the light is coming from the one “source” and at the same time there is a natural fall off of light and wrap around effect that is happening. Even though there are two lighting fixtures doing the job I consider this one “point”. The second would be the hair light.

So although three-point lighting is the dominant method out there, don’t be afraid to shake things up by trying alternative methods – maybe you’ll come up with something ground breaking! Trust your eye and let that guide you, not some stinking boring “rule”.


P.S. CineSummit 2014 is in the works and will come quickly! So if you’re not on this email list make sure to do so to get notified when registration opens up.

  • jose

    awesome tutorial, man.

    • coachaviv

      Glad you liked it Jose!

  • I loved this tutorial, wow! I am a professional videographer with years of experience and this is the first time that negative fill has come onto my radar (always filling in the gaps of being self taught!).. Beautiful setup here, I love the final result, and some great tips.. Thanks so much as always, Aviv, your videos and interviews are AMAZING!!

    • coachaviv

      Yosef, once you start taking away light, “cutting light,” you open up a whole new level man. Show us what you got!

  • Really great lighting. It looks [email protected]#$% amazing, Aviv.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • coachaviv

      Thanks Shmuel!

  • David

    I have never really liked traditional 3 point lighting. I have been using a similar light set up with out the negative fill. The negative is a nice addition. It adds a nice flavor. Thanks for the tutorial!

    • coachaviv

      Thanks David!

  • Great. Thank you for all the hard work and enthusiasm!


    • coachaviv

      You’re welcome Alex.

  • Sylvester Ravi

    Thx a lot ….

    • coachaviv

      You got it!

  • Would this work with a three person shoot

    • coachaviv

      That would be tough for sure! But the concept of making the light wrap around from the same side is one that you can keep in mind at all times.

  • Wonderful tutorial. I’ll give it a shot next time I’m shooting an interview.

    • Aviv Vana

      Thanks Jason! We’d Love to hear how it goes.

  • Just just as i plan on doing a lot of indoor filming for music videos this shows up!!! awesome stuff.. thanks man!

    • Aviv Vana

      Don’t forget to share with us what you’re doing Z-Axis! Good luck!

  • Randolph Sellars

    Nice tutorial Aviv! Your subjects looked great with that lighting set-up! This technique is often referred to as “filling from the key side.” I would like to add some additional methods to achieve this look that uses your principle of gradual fall off. #1. Shine a light through a larger diffusion source such as a 6′ x 6′ frame with a silk or full grid cloth. Place the frame so that one side is closer to the lens. To get the light to “fall off,” add a double or single net between the diffusion and the subject, closer the camera side of the diffusion to diminish some of the frontal light wrap for the desired look.

    A low budget alternative to the 6 x 6 frame is to hang a large piece of white drafting paper from an extended C stand arm. I like to slide the whole roll of paper onto the arm and pull down what I need. Less waste. Drafting or tracing paper is much cheaper than Lee or Rosco diffusion. #141 is medium density and #1000H is heavy diffusion and creates a beautiful light. Use with a net as described above.

    #2. Use a larger bounce source such as 4′ x 8′ foam core or styro bead board. If necessary, use 2 – 4 x 4 bounce sources side by side. Bounce 2 lights into the bounce board. Cut down the intensity of the light closest to camera by using a smaller light or by adding a double or single scrim to the light source bouncing closer to the front of the subject.

    #3. Use a 4′ fluorescent light (Kinoflo) as close to the subject as possible. Add a net to the camera side to get desired the fall off or try adding a small piece light diffusion material (opal frost) to the doors of the light. Only cover 1 -2 feet of the light closest to the camera. You can also try adding the “grid” to the light. By playing with the angle in relation to the subject, you will get less light coming from the edge of the light due to the angle of the grid blocking some light. This only works when the light is closer to the subject. Kinos give a slightly different look – more horizontal spread, less vertical. This results in stronger shadows under the chin.

    I love what you are doing with the Cine Summit. Art Adams and Ryan Walters are both old friends of mine. Great job with all of your teaching!

    • coachaviv

      Awesome additional points Randolph! I hope everybody takes the time to read it. Thanks for contributing your knowledge!

  • Awesome Aviv!

    Thank you so much!

    • coachaviv

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Oren Arieli

    Thanks again for putting these together Aviv. This will be the year I take my cinematography to the next level. Most of in involves education and unlearning some older shortcuts. Keep up the good work.

    • Aviv Vana

      You’re welcome Oren. “Unlearning older shotcuts” is a big deal. We have to learn to trust our eye to achieve the look we want and worry less about the “rules”.

  • Love this tutorial. It looks stunning, Aviv. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aviv Vana

      Thanks Shmuley!

  • stayhigh_247

    Good work Aviv, u da man!

  • VNM

    Nevertheless is 3 point lighting. You have Key+Fill+Back/Rim = 3 light sources. The only thing changing is the position not the amount.

  • Karl Stelter Studios

    More than anything I have to say I’m impressed with how you’ve grown Big League Film School since I first found it. Great video, and I really applaud the work you’re putting into this.

    • Aviv Vana

      Thanks Karl! That is very kind of you. I’m hoping this is just the beginning!!

      • No doubt – you’ve earned a follower and a fan here! Look forward to watching where you take this 😉

  • Ezybon Msuya Daud

    Hey big league I’m ezybon From Africa tanzania ,I wish i had have access to join your film school,But I’m broke all i do is to just look for tips online hehehe lol,i have a cannon camera that helps me to understand some tips sometimes but I dont know where to start in order to be an awesome cinematographer.