Definition: Accent lighting

Defition: Accent lighting | Glossary entry

Accent lighting

Technical definition

A highly controlled light to provide a specific light effect on the subject. Accent lighting can be any type of light (colour, shape, shade, power). However, it must be tightly controlled to make a light change on some area of the subject.

An example of accent lighting might be a very controlled beam of light directed through a snoot. Such a beam of light might be used to create a bright patch on the subject. Or it may be used to light the hair like a rim light.

The main idea of an accent light is to create a highlight for a specific effect. The highlight brings out the shape or form of a subject.

An accent light normally exhibits three properties. It is…

  • Tightly controlled, shaped or focussed (created by a controlled process).
  • Brighter than the surrounding light where it falls – a highlight.
  • Specifically set up to create the highlight for effect (eg. not an accidental highlight).

The actual shape of the highlight created by accent lighting will depend on…

  • The shape of the subject onto which the light is projected.
  • The shape of the projecting light fixture.
  • Any intervening shaper/deflector/gobo

Examples of accent lighting in photography  Accent lighting in photography - Google images | External link - opens new tab/page

Dramatic effect: Accent lighting

This form of lighting is best used to create dramatic effect. It is often used to highlight specific areas of a room, specific areas of a face, or to make other areas look gloomy.

Accent lighting is best used to impart style or a specific atmosphere. For example, accent lighting can be used to effect slight areas of brightness in a generally gloomy place. This is a common device for horror movies where the gloom creates a frightening atmosphere.

The use of accent lighting specific to a feature or display is effective. It creates a highlight which draws the eye. In dramatic style the highlight brings the eye to the principle object in the scene or one that the photographer wants to draw to the viewers attention.

Photographic and other accent lighting

Photographers use accent lighting for specific purposes like emphasis to to draw the eye. However, outside of photography, accent lighting is used in many ways. Display lighting, architectural lighting, mood lighting and even spotlight emphasis in rooms are all forms of the art. Each has its reason to highlight a part or all of the subject. Of course for the browsing photog these are photographic opportunities too.

Accent lighting - Tower Bridge (London UK).

• Tower Bridge at night •
Accent lighting is used to highlight the features of the Tower Bridge London. This architectural accent lighting and a great photographic opportunity as well.

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has also run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
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