See How Lighting Position Affects The Mood and Perception of a Scene

Jun 24, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

See How Lighting Position Affects The Mood and Perception of a Scene

Jun 24, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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Lighting is hands-down one of the most important elements in visual production and has the power to single-handedly alter the mood and perception of an entire scene.  On a more macro level, lighting position, more so than diffusion or tone, is probably the most vital aspect to control.  Lighting affects our moods, distorts space and time, and alters our perceptions of what we see, which is why optical illusions can be so baffling to the human mind.

While we have previously published a very helpful portrait lighting cheat sheet, visual creator Nacho Guzman gives us a real-time look at the varied impact of light positioning on the human face in a segment of his music video for Opale.

Throughout this clip which, according to Guzman, was shot in real time, we see a single light source rotating around the subject.  Her face seemingly goes through myriad transformations between the shadows without much actually changing with the subject herself.

The higher the light source, the more soft and relaxed the subject appears.  As the light continues to rotate, the more the subject’s appearance aligns with what we perceive as fearful and then sinister.  A simple half-smile transforms from a look of confidence to an evil grimace.  As shadows rotate, a relaxed jaw turns into bared teeth and posture in the shoulders alternates between that of comfort and that of dread.

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In photography and filmmaking, you are the one who hold’s the viewer’s attention.  Their perception becomes their reality, regardless of what may be truly going on inside an image.  Effective lighting can communicate your intended message, and ineffective lighting can destroy it without actually altering the scene itself.  Use it wisely, and use it effectively.

[via No Film School]

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Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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3 responses to “See How Lighting Position Affects The Mood and Perception of a Scene”

  1. TommySixToes Avatar
    TommySixToes

    Here’s another video from 1994 with a similar lighting technique. This one stuck in my head for a long time. Cool song but the lighting really stayed with me.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0jJi0SlwuM

    1. Allen Mowery Avatar
      Allen Mowery

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ophensive Avatar
    Ophensive

    Anyone know if a loop of this exists? I want to watch it for hours without having to restart it. I have severe mental illness and this does my brain good.