There are a lot of components that can make a horror movie or photo really scary, and proper lighting is certainly among the most important ones. In this video, Benny from Aputure shares with you five lighting techniques that will make your horror scenes truly hair-raising.
Remember when we were kids and told scary stories with a flashlight under our chin? This lighting effect is used in horror movies and images as well. It’s unnatural-looking and distorts even the faces we’re familiar with. To achieve this effect in your scene, have a single source of light below your subject. Benny reminds you that it’s useful to have a practical reason for this sort of lighting, something to justify it, so to say. It can be a fire, a reflection, even a flashlight.
Although backlighting isn’t necessarily limited to horror, it can be used in several ways to make the scenes extra chilling. It can add the sense of mystery to your set design or mystify the character. It’s simple to achieve: place the light behind the subject. In movies, have them slowly approach the camera or even stand still. And keep in mind: if you add some fog in the equation, it makes the scene look even scarier and more mysterious.
What’s a horror movie without someone exploring a dark room with a flashlight? This kind of lighting slowly builds tension and leads your viewers’ eyes through the scene. To achieve this effect, expose your shot so everything around the circle of light is in complete dark.
4. Saturated red
This type of lighting has been used in horror movies and video games a lot. It adds the feeling of immediate danger, and it’s even more highlighted if you pair it with another saturated color. To achieve this kind of lighting, add highly saturated red gels to your lights. But remember, they cut the light output by 50%.
5. Elongating shadow
Long and creepy shadow makes me think of Nosferatu immediately, and of course – it’s one of the examples. This effect has been used in horror movies for ages, and it sure is creepy. Elongating shadows add the feeling of suspense and immediate danger, without revealing anything to the audience. There are a few ways to achieve them, and Benny suggests using a hard light source that will give you a sharp, high-contrasted shadow.
Just like in other movie or photography genres, lighting can do a lot for you if you want to set the right mood. So if you’re into horror, this short video can be a good place to inspire you, teach you and get you started. And if you already are into horror movies or photos, feel free to share your favorite lighting techniques with us.