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Illuminating the Narrative: The Art of Lighting in Storytelling

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Light is one of the most important tools you should apply to convey your story to the audience while using video or film as a narrative tool in a story-centered cinematography. Lighting not only provides the necessary conditions to make a story visible, but also stands out as a symbolic narrative element. Proper lighting is essential to create an effective story atmosphere, so it is necessary to consider many factors such as the direction, quality, source or color of the light.

Every story needs the light to make it best visible. Determining the right lighting technique is also determining which elements will be more dominant in the story, which ones will be hidden in the details, and in what tone the story will be conveyed to the audience. Therefore, concentrating on each part of the story and discovering what kind of flow and light it requires is key to creating the most appropriate visual design for the story.

The Power of Light One of the main reasons why light plays such an important role in the story is that people have a tendency to focus a large part of their attention on visual stimuli and that light is one of the most functional stimuli that can be used by storytellers to direct attention. The light draws and directs attention directly to the focus of the story, for example the front lighting can be used more to highlight portraits and certain things such as human faces or objects, while the overhead lighting can be used to create a dominant point of view.

Likewise, the light in which the story is told determines how it will be remembered. People generally remember things as they see them, and instant visual images are remembered even when other elements are easily forgotten. So be sure to brighten your story the way you want it to be remembered.

Another point is that the light is a part of the aesthetic dialogue between the storyteller and the audience, that is, the structure of the light that allows many forms of expression symbolically. There is a huge difference between lighting the same scene, or even a single subject, in warm tones and cool tones. The color of the light is the color of the world in which the viewer sees the story and is therefore quite critical. Would a movie shot in total darkness really be a movie? Would you like to watch a completely colorless and dim animation or comedy? Your answer to both questions will probably be no, because a story that is not properly lit can only remain as a passive text.

Our Story Is Alive, It Has Brighter and Darker Times

Nature is always cyclical; Even on a light-filled summer day, you can observe the gradual rise of daylight, shining at the top, but then fading away again. Just as with this simple and natural truth, the reality of your story is in its own flow and is never a static or fixed form. It is not plausible to always use the same amount and form of light in this flow, which passes from one moment to the next, changing tone and differentiation.

All stories have brighter and darker moments, both in terms of text editing and visual editing. It is very important to design these nuances and create the most appropriate light flow for the story flow, as the change of lighting directs the change of the viewer's perspective. Being able to use fluidity and a process-oriented perspective, rather than a fixed form, in the amount of light and lighting technique allows to keep up with the change in the mood and flow of thought of the audience.

Our Story Will Be Seen

Whatever is on display, when you pass a store, it is often the lighting that directs your attention to the window display. Similarly, keep in mind that the first element of your story's content that is visible to the audience, and therefore its showcase, will be lighting. With the right lighting choices, with its darker and completely dark moments, your story will be visible to the audience with the light you present it to, and when you turn the lights off, it will disappear. Then only its shadow will remain in the minds, as a memory of something first seen under the light.


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