Specs Howard School of Media Arts Blog

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    How Lighting Affects Mood

    Posted by Specs Intern on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

    Many different techniques and tricks have been used over the years to strike up a certain mood or emotional reaction from an audience. One of the biggest, and probably most important factors, is lighting. Good lighting is normally achieved by paying close attention to the basic concepts of direction, intensity, color, and contrast. All these different things play a huge part in giving one's project a certain feel. Here are a few ways lighting is used to influence the mood of a scene.


    Choosing the right colors in your lighting is important for a number of reasons. For one, it helps viewers determine weather conditions and time of day. Research has shown that each color incites a different emotion in people, so it’s a no-brainer that color also plays a huge role in mood lighting. In most films, you’ll see the use of “warm” and “cool” lighting. Cool lighting gives a calm feeling, but can also be used to acheive a somber or sad scene. Warm lighting is used for anything from comfort and joy to anger or hostility.



    Light intensity is another major part of setting the mood of a scene. Hard light tends to create harsh shadows and is typically used for tense settings, such as an interrogation scene. Soft or low intensity lighting, on the other hand, is often used to signify a calm moment.


    The direction of your lighting can also set the mood for a scene. Light direction can help with shadow placement, and in a high intensity lighting situation with a dark background, shadow placement can be everything! When used correctly in, for instance, horror films, it can be used to create a silhouette of the antagonist, or even hide someone lurking in the shadows. This can help add mystery to a shot, making the viewers feel anxious or uneasy.

    These are just a few of the ways lighting can affect mood in a film. Mix these different components together and create some magic! Also, next time you’re watching your favorite movie or television show, pay close attention to the lighting, and how it affects your mood.


    Topics: Digital Media Arts, Digital Media, Film, Color, Lighting, Lighting Techniques, dma, intensity, mood, direction

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