What Angles are Best for Stage Lighting? – Learn Stage Lighting .com

What Angles are Best for Stage Lighting?

Go to any theatre, large church, or other entertainment event space, and you’ll see lights mounted everywhere, all pointing at the stage from many angles.

It looks awesome, and very complex at the same time.  It also probably looks like a lot more lighting than you can possibly afford. 🙂

You may see lights above your head, off to the sides, above and beside the stage, and on the floor, and you think to yourself:

“I can’t have all these lights- so what angles of lighting actually matter to me?”  

Whether you’re lighting a band, yourself, a speaker or any other kind of show/service, you don’t need to get crazy with angles of light.  It’s simpler than you think.

Watch the video below and then scroll down for more.

3 Point Lighting

As we discussed in the video, 3 point lighting works to evenly light a person from 2 points in the front, and 1 in the back to give separation from the backdrop.

In a typical space, that is a first light 45 degrees to the left and 45 degrees up, a second 45 degrees to the right and 45 degrees up, and a third light 45 degrees up and straight behind the subject.

Stage Lighting AnglesThis is the ideal way to light for most venues, and you can find where this is in your venue by standing on stage and pointing your arm at these angles, or measuring to find the proper angles via math.  (10 feet up and 10 feet out = 45 degrees!)

This 3 point method is the most even, flattering way to light a person.

The 45 degrees to the front and up illuminates all of the face, including under the eyes and excluding under the chin a bit, and the backlight provides separation from the background.

The small shadows under the chin and eyes provide definition to the face, and are fine in most instances.

Getting the front light right is your first priority.

These 2 lights will ensure the person’s face and body are lit evenly.  The backlight is less important, though it does matter when you are shooting video.  So make sure you focus the majority of your effort on getting your front wash correct.

“So what if I can’t put lighting up there?”

Stage Lighting AnglesThe happy, optimistic angles I mentioned above are great….if you’re installing a new system or have access to rigging.  But for the rest of us, we’ve got to compromise on our angles.

Your first priority needs to be to get 2 great angles of lighting from the front, since this is what enables the audience to see you clearly.

Even if you’re in a situation where your lighting stands will be at the front corners of the stage, you’ll be okay as long as you keep the talent on stage physically behind the lights.

While keeping your lights at 45’s is the best looking solution, you can compromise a lot on these angles and still get the lighting to turn out decent.  It’s generally more important to have 2 symmetrical angles horizontally than it is to have them be perfect.

Learn Stage Lighting Labs Member Extras

Dive into the complete guides to beginning with lighting in The Foundations of Church Lighting, The Lighting Basics Blueprint (Band Lighting) and Amplify Those Beats (DJ Lighting).

Looking for the technical details to apply to any type of lighting?  Check out Getting Started.

Not a Labs Member yet?  Click Here to Learn More about Learn Stage Lighting Labs!

How High? – The Vertical Angle

When it comes to height, if the lights are too high they will create shadows under the eyes and neck that will make it hard to connect with the speaker.

Stage LightingIf they are too low, the light will blind the speaker, they will not be able to see the audience at all, and it will look flat, creating distracting shadows on the back wall or curtain.

However, if you have to pick one of the 2 extremes, I would suggest going too low before going too high.  It looks a lot better, though it will wash out any color you have going on a set or banner behind the band.

If you think creatively, there is probably a way to make your current lighting positions work well and enhance your show without spending much or any money.

Remember that lighting is a key part of your speakers communication.  Just like bad audio or bad posture, poor lighting can be distracting and people may lose focus easily.

If it looks bad to your eye, you can bet it will look worse on camera.  (See more about lighting for the camera here)

However, great lighting puts the focus on your presenter, whether that be a pastor, speaker, actor, or business leader, and allows them to get their message across as clearly as possible.


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  • Jim McCarthy says:

    I intend to put stage lights up in our local community hall. I have done a lot of research on same, however it is all very technical which I understand and accept. I am aware of angles and how vital they are to good lighting but I can find no where in all my research where I should place the front light bar in relation to the stage.
    Do I place in on the ceiling from front of stage at 45 degree? or centre stage? I believe if light bars are in wrong place then proper lighting is more difficult, if they are in the right location you have some chance.
    Anyone any advise (stage height 840mm: ceiling height 4,100mm: stage depth 4,500) Jim

    • David says:

      Hey Jim,

      You definitely are on the right track – you want to get your front lighting up and out 45 degrees from the height of an average person on your stage. Let me know if you need any more info!

      Thanks!,
      -David


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