I'm new to film making as I have just purchased Canon 600D. I also have a tripod. What else do I need to get the low-key lightning often found in Noir films?

From the film Whisperer in Darkness : http://aleatoriclove.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/whisperer_in_darkness.jpg


How do I achieve this look?


1 Answer 1


The big thing is to use harsh direct lighting. Normally in lighting, you are trying to diffuse light to soften shadows, but in this kind of look, hard and dark shadows is actually what you want. On a budget, place a couple of unshaded lamp bulbs out to light the scene. The brighter the lamps, the darker you can get the shadow. Note that you will also want a room with fairly dark walls so that light isn't reflected in to the shadows or you may need to use guides to keep the light directed towards your scene.

If you want a slightly less dark look like the second link, you may also want a base of dim diffused soft light. If you are using something to direct the direct lights towards the scene and away from the ceiling, you can accomplish the diffused lighting by pointing a light at the ceiling and blocking it from hitting the scene directly. This gives you a large surface area for the light being reflected in to the scene which makes it very soft and should fill in the shadows just enough to keep detail in the darker parts of the image.

I also highly recommend checking out the link Scott Walter posted in the comments on the main question as it is a fantastic tutorial that shows what you are getting from each light.

  • Work lights are a great approach to cheap high intensity lamps and should work fine for the main lights. Just be sure to keep them away from anything sensitive to heat as they will put out a lot of it. The LED bulb I'm less sure about. It depends on what spectrum of light it produces. Some LED lamps don't work well with video because they produce light on different spectrum from the ones that cameras recognize, but as long as it is dimmable and produces proper light for the camera, it could be used for the low intensity diffused light source possibly.
    – AJ Henderson
    Aug 20, 2014 at 17:19
  • One more question: How many of that work light do I need? ( for example: exposing a clock ) . Can I use these outdoors? (okay, this is actually 2 questions)
    – user6353
    Aug 20, 2014 at 18:25
  • 2 Minimum, probably no more than that either. You will also need the ability to rope in the light they produce a bit (things to block some of the light from reaching your scene) since worklights tend to overly flood and aren't dimmable, so it will take a little work to get just the way you want. Shadows are your friends, but work lights tend to throw light everywhere.
    – AJ Henderson
    Aug 20, 2014 at 18:30

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