Three Point Lighting

Traditionally, Filmmakers use three types of lights.

  • A main key light in front of and/or to one side of the subject
  • A fill light, half as bright as a key light. Usually placed on the opposite side to reduce and soften the shadows
  • A rim light, to make the edge of the subject stand out from the background setting.¬†Backlighting is also used as a forth source of lighting.


The image to the right is how each of the lights work on their own. Each create their own type of dramatic change. Fill light being soft and smooth. Rim light as well as backlighting creates the hard and/or soft edge around the characters body from behind, and key light is a very dominant light which lights up the entire setting of the shot, but can create shadows depending on where it is placed.


These are diagram versions of a basic 3 point lighting set up.

Each of these set ups are made to create an even spread of light on the character. This particular set up can be found in interview, live air or even large house/restaurant settings which allow the audience to see a wide, even spread of lighting.


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) also used the three-point scheme throughout the film. There is enough contrast in the backlight and highlight, that the people in the crowded scenes are distinguishable from one another.

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