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Best Way To Make Your Film Look Cinematic — Light It Properly

When we talk about how to make our indie films look and feel cinematic, often a very basic fundamental gets left out of the conversation — lighting. Before the days of expensive color grading software, LUTS, RED or Alexa cameras with the coolest lens on the market filmmakers were defining what a cinematic movie should look like with good old filmmaking techniques. If you think any of the pioneers in the early days of movie making depending on the trendiest camera or software to get “the movie look” then you had better do yourself a favor and rewatch your favorite movies prior to the HD era 🙂

There are three primary lighting names you will hear frequently: Key Light, Fill Light & Back Light.

Key Light

A key light is the main light in your scene.Think of the most direct light you normally see within a lighting setup. You will normally set this light up first and it will provide the main source for your lighting setup.

Fill Light

A fill light will light the shadows that your key light creates. This light is not as powerful as your key light and you will typically place this on the opposite side of the key light depending on your setup and the space you’re in.

Back Light

This light will illuminate your subject from behind, and it will normally be placed somewhere a bit higher. Use this light to separate the subject from the dark background. It’s purpose is to give the subject a more three dimensional depth.

Anyway, below are some great tips on how you can make your next film project look and feel as cinematic as possible even if you’re shooting on your cellphone camera.

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