Lighting For A Horror Movie – Working on A Small Budget


Film genres and narratives are differentiated from each other based on their most identifying characteristics. Romance and chick-flicks are often colorful, full of beautiful melodies, and has a very recognizable formula. Fantasy and adventure stories often focus on the journey and the struggles and eventual growth of a hero and his or her’s respective companions.

Lighting For A Horror Movie - Working on A Small Budget
Horror Movie

Horror movies, on the one hand, is all about creating the right kind of atmosphere. To accomplish this, brilliant costumes, make-up, special effects play a big part in the authenticity of the narrative. While a mean soundtrack and sound effects on the precise moments could really get the audience’s heartbeat pumping and pulse-quickening. However, nothing beats lighting when it comes to invoking drama and creating the best atmosphere that you are looking for in horror and thriller films. Here are some tips and tricks that you could use for the best lighting in horror film creation on a budget.

Harsh Lighting in Horror Movies

As mentioned above, lighting can also characterize the kind of film that you are making. You may have noticed how romance films have soft, flattering lighting set-ups that accentuate the beauty of the leading lady. Adventure films’ lighting concerns are often dictated by the setting, and more often, they value natural lighting.

Horror films, on the other hand, are banked on harsh, violent lighting and the manipulation of shadows in a scene. For this purpose, softboxes and umbrellas are discouraged or simply, not needed. Shadowy and creepy setting can be achieved through blue ambient lighting. This could be done simply by white, balancing the camera to indoor light o produce more bluish hues.

Making the Most of Light and Dark

Finding light and dark setting to shoot specific scenes is also essential especially if you are on a budget. Aside from finding perfect locations, you can also make use of a tested and true Hollywood method to create that dark atmosphere in your horror film: simply shoot indoors during daytime. Filming at night might be hard, inconvenient, or dangerous for crew members, but the dark shadows in your shot can be achieved by any indoor room with enough lighting. All you have to remember is to turn down the gain in your camera and put up some powerful lights in the place.

The placement of lights is also crucial in creating the perfect shot for your horror flick. The way the lights are set up could determine where shadows are produced and the characteristic appearance of the objects and people in the room at the key moments. Shop lights could be customized with buffers aimed at the right angles for you to control the lighting in the room and to produce needed hard-edged shadows.

Close-Ups and Facial Expressions

More than getting the setting and costumes right, facial expressions at crucial moments in a shot can also make or break a horror film. How these essential close up moments of faces heavy with fear, distorted with paranoia, or crazed with blood lust can be emphasized is the job of good lighting. Finding the right angle and the proper timing for lighting highlights are a product of both experimentation and creativity on the part of the director and the crew.

Facial Expressions
Facial Expressions