Guest-Directed Self-Portrait #16

yay! our first new prompt in a while. thanks, gary!


Hello everyone, Gazzamie here with your brand spanking new Guest-Directed Self Portrait #16.

As some of you know, i’m a teacher, so this GDSP will probably be a bit pedantic, which i guess makes sense. Apologizing in advance.

One of the things i teach is a really basic introduction to 3D lighting (in Maya). For that, i use a theatrical 3-Point Lighting system, which is both very dramatic and fun. My students are usually doing the exercise with basic shapes (spheres and cylinders), but it’s really intended for people.

The top photo has Commodore Decker in a really classic 3 point lighting set up. The set up involves a Main (or Key) Light, a Back (or Rim) Light, and a Fill Light.

Here’s an overhead drawing of the 3-point lighting set-up (sorry, i stole it from someone online - i usually draw it on the white board). The placement of the lights is relative to the camera, of course, BUT you can flip the right to left (all lights will flip). The diagram would has the Main/Key on the left, while with Decker it’s on the right.

The purpose of the Main/Key Light is to provide the majority of the lighting on the subject (often a face), most of the information that we see. So it’s closest to face on, but off to one side.

The purpose of the Back/Rim Light is to separate the edge of the subject (usu. the hair/skull, but notice Decker’s hand) from the background with a rim of light. Without a Rim Light, the subject would face into the background (which is an effect in itself). Notice how bright it is - in 3D i tell students to start off with at least twice as bright. It’s typically 180 degrees around the subject from the Main/Key Light.

The purpose of the Fill Light is to fill out the rest of the shape (usu. to avoid too-dark raccoon eyes). You don’t want it too strong - it would make the subject look flat. It’s usually less than half as bright as the Main/Key Light. Depending on how light is bouncing around the space and the shape of your face, you might not need it at all. If you’ve got deep set eyes, you probably do.

One thing to consider is the background. This is usually an indoors or at least night time lighting set up - that is, the background is usually dark, or at least not bright. Remember, the set up is about drama.

The best approach is to set up the Main/Key Light first, which will tell you where the Back/Rim Light should go. Don’t be afraid to tweak it. The Fill Light is last, if necessary.

I was originally looking for a picture of Kirk in Decker’s position, which i know i’ve seen, but couldn’t find online. But here is Kirk (disguised as a Romulan) with his head almost in profile. It still works.

In the interest of fair play and Katie West, here is Picard. Notice the Back/Rim Light is coming a bit from below. It’s something you can play with, depending on how things are going. Picard doesn’t need the top of his head separated from the ceiling, but does need his neck and back of head separated.

3-point lighting is typically aimed at heads, but here is something that’s a bit more. Also, it has a fairly strong fill, probably because it’s a bit of a porny shot, so the photographer wanted to make sure you saw as much as possible. But it does make it less dramatic.

This is moving a bit away from the 3-point lighting set-up - the Main/Key Light has been pushed away, to at least 45 degrees, while the Back/Rim Light has been brought closer (they’re almost like two mains). And the background is light - it’s almost 3 Point in reverse.

But what’s interesting about this is the lights are tinted, just slightly. The Main/Key Light is a warm light, something we would consider normal. The Back/Rim Light is reddish, which helps to separate it from the background (and is a bit eerie or scary). And the Fill Light is a cool, pale blue/green light. It’s a pretty masterful use of lighting. It’s only weakness is that it wouldn’t work as well in black and white, which used to be an issue when many homes didn’t have colour TVs.

There it is, sorry it was long. I hope you have fun!


Yes! Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  1. guestdirectedself reblogged this from guestdirectedself
  2. mortalcompass said: Yaaaaayyyy!!! :D So…. wait….. is the prompt “use three point lighting?” Just askin’.
  3. gazzamie posted this