What is the “Standard” Lighting Design?

One of the questions that often hits my inbox starts like this: “What is the standard lighting design for a stage?”

Today, I want to tackle how to design lighting, and how to begin if you’ve never done any lighting before.

What is the Standard?  What are the Rules?

In the production world, I often hear sayings such as “there are many ways to skin a cat”, when it comes to designing lighting.

The truth is, there are many different ways to light a stage and it still look correct – so while there is no industry-wide standard, there are many best practices and concepts that are universal in lighting.

When we are lighting, there are a few things that we want to accomplish.  We want to light the stage as evenly as possible, and we want to have our light coming from a reasonable angle.

Stage Lighting SetupAfter these simple basics, the hard rules end.  I encourage you to seek out concert, architectural, television and other lighting designs to find things that inspire you in your own lighting design.

The best starting block for a lighting novice is to learn by using other peoples ideas for lighting in your own way.

Don’t be afraid to use color, or to experiment with different angles when trying to achieve a special effect.

Don’t be afraid to simplify, and only use a few fixtures even if you have many to work with.  Some of the most breathtaking work is done with only 2-3 lights, allowing simplicity to rule.

Lighting BeamsDon’t be afraid to break the rules sometimes.  Once in a while, the artistic vision of the show you’re designing will require you to do something out of the norm, and that’s totally okay.

The rules are great guidelines and really helpful for learning the basics.  But don’t be afraid to try something different and see how it turns out!

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