Lighting Noir

The style of Noir was developed in the 1940-50s focusing on light and how that can add another dimension to images. Noir pushes the boundary of light by using low-key lighting to create stark light/dark contrasts and dramatic shadows. This style helps emphasize or create a mood within a film or photograph and is not meant to hide, but rather enable a feeling of mystery and intrigue to a story.

When taking my photographs and videos, I really focused on looking for that noir style that goes beyond just a black and white image. I chose to shoot at night which automatically lent itself to that low-key lighting that you so often see in noir style. Using mostly what was already there like street lights, buildings, signs, etc; I was able to then create shadowing effects with little need of additional lighting.

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Consistency in lighting and style can go alongside a story to help in getting a message to your audience. Light/dark allows you emphasize areas in the shot that you want to be a focus, though that may not always be in the light like how you traditionally see it. With noir style the focus can also be in the dark coming in the form of silhouetting or shadowing of a character. When choosing my photographs that others did to then turn into a story, I was looking for those noir characteristics. In the photos I chose, you can see where the uses of light help carryout that feeling of noir throughout the story.

Noir at its core is the use of light to create a feeling in an image, but it can be treated differently based on where/when you are shooting as well as the feeling you want to evoke. Inside vs outside and day vs night can all contribute to deciding how you set up a noir shot. This made it more difficult for me when working with the videos to find that consistency in lighting from shot to shot. It was mainly due to the different individuals perception of the theme noir and their approaches to the project. Some chose to shoot in the day giving a lighter feel whereas I wanted to add some suspence and shoot in at night. Continuing with how I perceive noir, I searched for that common factor of light/dark and was able to create something unique.

In this project, everyone was working with just a couple people to come up with their own images and clips in the noir style. It made it more challenging in the end to add cohesiveness because others may not have had the same approach. If I were to do another project similar to this I would find more people to work with in the beginning when shooting our individual shots. I would do this so that when and where is more consistent to one another adding another element of light and location to the final video clip that could be seen throughout.


Keating, P. (2010). Hollywood lighting from the silent era to film noir. 1st ed. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. [Online] Available:

Whitney, J. (1976). A Filmography of Film Noir. Journal of Popular Film, 5(3-4), pp.321-371.

Keating, P. (2015). Film Noir and the Culture of Electric Light. Film History, 27(1), p.58-84,164.

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