Shadows are Film Noir’s best friend.

In fact, if you would like to understand shadows, contrast, black and white, lighting and composition; watch a good old classic Film Noir.  It is a thematic style that was brought over from Europe after WWII to Hollywood and was applied to detective movies.

Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity is one to watch. The plot is based on a crime of passion and adultery. In general, in Film Noir, lighting develops the key points and also hides them but Double Indemnity adds an extra layer of complexity – the lighting also reveals the hidden evils of the characters. Wilder plays with the light (shadows and highlights) to portray the characters’ conflicting emotions. They both move between good and evil, virtue and crime.

It is one to watch, analyze and watch again.

If you would like to try to create your own Film Noir lighting, here are some of the tricks:

-Emphasize your shadows with harsh lighting. To achieve hard crisp shadows, you need to use small intense lights.

-Eliminate any greys – solid crisp blacks and intense whites only.

-A big part of the film noir look is casting shadowy figures.  Set up the lights so they are slightly behind the subject so their shadow is projected onto a wall.

-Camera angles should be dramatic, considering shots from high up to low down.