Terrence Wilkins - Director Of Photography

Lighting With Emotion


As a DOP I see and read a lot of technical lighting breakdowns, which are lovely to a point but you soon realize they become incredibly formulaic.

Here, I would like to discuss the emotional side of  lighting and the instinctual choices I'm making onset, which hopefully come across in the Images i'm creating.

To start, I will present a simple scene and breakdown the reasoning behind the choices made.


Here, we see Vicki, our main talent, approach the bar looking curious and intrigued to the interaction she just had with singer Jamie; who at this point in the story, are just starting to develop a relationship.

Here, we see Jamie beginning to pursue a playful and flirtatious conversation with Vicki.


I will discuss initially the choice of lighting in the background of the scene, then move onto the blocking of the light between the characters at the moment of them interacting.

For me, at the start of any relationship, there is this heightened sense of reality and energy that is injected into even the most smallest of activities, every moment seems more fun and exciting with this new love interest. 

Lighting the Background

Personally, a sense of wonder and mystery is instantly created, by the incredible layering  and exposure to these house lights. It helps bring that sense of heightened fun of a new relationship to the scene. The purple accent light draws your eye center frame to Vicki, again, illustrating that 'love at first sight' wave of emotion, whereby that one person becomes the center of your world view. The purple tones are similar to those seen in British nightclubs, which are often seen as places in which meeting a potential love interest are a likely possibility, and that anything can happen as a result of those interactions.

Lighting the Characters

In this scene we see Vicki approach the bar, internally I wanted the lighting to reflect the range of emotion that she was experiencing.  I decided to set a colour palette for corresponding emotions, as detailed above.

Continuing this scene, the blocking of the action plays off perfectly with the angle of the lights, we see Jamie's face light up with lust for Vicki. While Vicki becomes intriguing and desirable towards Jamie.

End Notes 

Everything I've wrote above is my own personal interpretation of the world. There is no wrong or right way to light a scene it all depends on individual experience. 

But hopefully, this has given you insight into my process of how the world works.