Stage Lighting: Shadows On Faces

Note: This question appeared on the old website (no longer working.)

Q: We have overhead recessed lamps just about every six feet on the ceiling as well as four large ceiling fans with four normal 100watt bulbs in them. Our problem is that this lighting is sufficient for the overall sanctuary, but the faces of the people on the platform are shadowed because the overhead lighting doesn’t reach past their foreheads. =)

A: PARs are good for broad washes.

You do not want to eliminate shadows. You just want them to work for you instead of doing their own thing. That is one of the key arts in lighting. Proper shadowing creates modeling for a person’s face, giving it appropriate depth and dimension. Front lighting should be no more than 45º down angle to your subject’s face. I would even push as low as 35º if circumstances permit; not everyone would agree with me on that.

If you able to budget for it, allow for backlighting as well. Backlights can be hung 45-55º above and behind your subject. You can also use PARs for this. Good backlighting will create a “rim” of light on your subjects hair/headline and shoulder line. This breaks them loose from the background, again creating a sense of depth and dimension. This is more important for television lighting, but I believe it is still very beneficial even if you aren’t lighting for cameras.

If you can budget for them, I really like ETC’s Source 4 PARs. Easy to maintain, easy to change lamps, and they come with multiple lenses. Well made, very durable.

If you need low-heat, you need to look at color-corrected florescent or LED. Florescent will often skew green if they aren’t the right lamps. “White” LED (especially inexpensive ones) will often skew magenta, I am told. LED PARs would be good for wall washes, though; lots of potential color options that way!

I may be getting way too picky – what you need may be much simpler. Got any local churches that you like what hey have done with lighting? Visit them and ask questions!


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