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Why you Need to use Practical Lights in your videos!

Published on

Cinematography & Filmmaking

aputure, Lighting, practical lights, Stanley Kubrick

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Learn how to use practical lights in your films to get the cinematic look and get a next level cinematography.

never skip on using practical lights

As filmmakers we all know you need to light your scene properly to make it visually pleasing. You need your key, fill and back light to light out a scene. But what if I tell you A LOT of filmmakers forget the if not the most important one of them all….Practical lights.

Practical lights can be used in a lot of ways to enhance your scene, pull in the viewers or tell a story.


Practical lights can enhance the mood of your shot. For example you are in a bar. Lights like neon signs, the light of the jukebox, etc help convey the mood. It makes you feel like you are right there because you can connect to the talent being there.


It sound weird but practical lights can tell a story. You can play around with the shape or size of the lights, the color, where its positions to unconsciously bring over a message. For example like in John Wick the practical lights change color depending on the main character. Green when he has controll over the situation, red when he’s not.


Another ways is to create depth. As you know you need layers of light and shadows to give that 3D depth. Instead of using the basic 3 point light in for example a living room shot use practical lights. Show a TV playing, Small lights on a table, candles, etc. This creates a more realistic feeling and again pulls in the viewer because its a recognizable place.

Stanley Kubrick

You may know him of movies like The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, etc. He popularized the use of this kind of lights. Normally people used three point lightning but Kubrick wanted to go a level higher. He wanted to add more realism to his scene hence why he started working with practicals. And it seems like it worked because now you can see it in every movie! So i definitely recommend to check out his work and pay close attention to it. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.

Eyes Wide Shut
Scene of Eyes Wide Shut With Stanley Kubrick’s Practical Lights

Want to learn more about lighting?

If you want to learn even more about the basics of lighting a scene have a look at our Skillshare class. We cover the basics of how to properly use lights, how to create depth and how to work with practical lights. Of course we also have a lot of other classes about film making, color grading, editing and even basic vfx in Adobe After Effects. So definitely check that out and if you’re not already a Skillshare user than the first two months are completely for free!

Lights used in the video

In this video we used the Aputure MC kits, and there are actually two on their website. There’s the Travel Kit, which includes 4 LED lights and the Production Kit, which has 12 LED lights. We also used the RGB and Bi-Color Spiff-y Gear LEDs.

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