Lighting for Darkness: 5 Cinematography Techniques How to light dark scenes in a realistic way

In this video filmmaker, Valentina Vee from Aputure demonstrates how she goes about lighting a dark moody scene and what goes into making nighttime shots visually appealing.

You might think that for a dark/night time type shot all you need is to reduce the amount of light but there is so much more that goes into creating these types of shots as Vee proves in this behind-the-scenes video.

When shooting cinematic type scenes your lighting needs to be intentional and that is true for both daytime scenes (placing a light behind a window to simulate the sun) and is also true for those nighttime shots when you use practicals in ways that will help you convey the atmosphere that you want from the scene.

Tips for shooting darkened scenes

The first tip has nothing to do specifically with darkened shots but on any location that you are shooting in try and find an interesting background (unless you are using the green screen of a fast lens that will make the background blur significantly).

Shooting a white blank wall is not a good idea – bringing in some objects to make the background look more in tune with the scene that you are shooting is always a good idea and Vee demonstrated this when she added some things to her “Boss scene”.

If you want to shoot a night scene in a room with windows where you can’t (or don’t want) to block them – always arrive way before sunset to start prepping the gear for the shoot so that you will have as much time as you need at night.

Vee chooses some B7C bulbs (which can work without physically being connected to the wall) to be placed inside a practical lamp and give actual nice quality warm color in the office scene.

To make a believable night shot adding some blue to the scene is very common and Vee uses another larger light source from outside the office to shine in with a colder temperature to give this feeling.

For the next scene, she needs to light the burglar who works on the computer next to the window. This presents all sorts of difficulties as there is no simple way to light him directly because of the window so she uses small lights placed on the screen of the computers to make it look as if he is lit by the monitors.

Maybe the final tip is continuity of light. If in one scene you had a warm light in one place and in the next you have a scene in the next room and there is an open door – shine some warm light from that direction, it will make the scene more believable.

You can find more HDSLR tutorial videos here on LensVid as well as more of Vee’s tutorials and videos – here. You can also check out more light-related videos on our special subsection.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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