What is Fill Light

Horace He

Last Updated: September 10, 2023

What is Fill Light

Fill light, in the context of cinematography and photography lighting, refers to an additional source of illumination used to fill in or wash out shadows and dark areas in an image. Its purpose is to reduce the contrast between the illuminated areas and the shadowed areas, resulting in a more balanced and visually appealing composition. Fill light can be either natural, such as sunlight or light from a window, or artificial, like an off-camera flash.

Controlling and utilizing fill light effectively is crucial for improving the quality of images by adding depth and dimension. It is important for the fill light to be diffused to avoid creating harsh shadows of its own. Diffusion materials, such as neutral density gels or scrims, can be used to soften the intensity of the fill light without altering its quality.

In a typical lighting setup, the fill light is the second light used, complementing the primary key light. Its main function is to minimize the appearance of additional shadows, ensuring a more even distribution of light. Reflective materials, such as white foam core boards or portable reflectors, can also be employed to bounce light from the key light onto the subject, serving as a low-budget alternative to a separate fill light source.

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