Production Lighting: Men vs. Women

In a video production, lighting is one of the most important elements because it is responsible for the look of the work. What is particularly important is how you light the actors. You want them to look their best, yet every individual is unique and requires their own special lighting. While this difference is subtle between individual actors and actresses, there is a big difference overall in how you light men and women.

Lighting Men

Men are easier to light because you often do not want them to look too glamorous. With men, you can have a little shadow on their faces to give them some depth and soul. There can be a little contrast. You can use the key plus fill method. 

The key plus fill method entails placing a bright key/source light to one side of the actor's face. This makes one side considerably brighter than the other. You then use a smaller light or bounce card to light the other side of the face. The result is that one side is slightly brighter than the other, which creates a little shadow on the face. It adds a little depth and dimension to the subject.

If you were to raise the key light and shine it down on the subject, then the result would be a bright cheek. This is known as the Rembrandt Cheek-Patch lighting, made popular from the portraits created by the famous painter.

Lighting Women

The key plus fill method is fairly standard for all men and for younger women. But, older women begin to experience wrinkles. These actresses are also very self conscious of this and know how important lighting can be to their image. In fact, they sometimes become so insecure that they might always think they look bad when in fact they're still very beautiful. It's a very sensitive subject, and there have been quite a few DPs and gaffers have been fired because a famous older actress wasn't happy with how she looked.

So how do you light these women? You use very soft and flat light to minimize the shadows and make them look great. This can be done by placing a soft box or chimera over a light and then placing it directly above the camera. The soft light then wraps around their face, making them look great.

The Overall Difference

When lighting women use soft light, and when lighting men, the light doesn't have to be as diffused.

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