3 Quick Tips to Take Your Lighting Game up a Level

Let’s face it, lighting systems can be expensive, complicated, and frustrating to set up and operate. There’s no shortage of people who wish there was a magic button to orchestrate their lighting without any of the controllers, dimmer packs, terminators, cables, and the stress that comes with getting it all set up. Hopefully this writeup will at least give you a jumping-off point to make your lighting experience a bit more fun and understandable.  

1. Get the Most from your Stage Lighting

The most inexpensive and reliable option across the entire color spectrum is standardized incandescent PAR cans. It’s commonly known among lighting techs that many LED PAR cans struggle to match the brightness and saturated colors of standard PARs as you approach brighter colors and white light. Please note that PAR cans do not need to be hung to work effectively. Using either their yokes or compact, inexpensive stands like Optima’s PAR can stand, you can place your PAR can at the front of the stage or place it behind certain members and silhouette them for a dramatic, attractive effect. Color gels come in virtually every color imaginable, so you can really customize the mood and atmosphere so it fits your overall desired aesthetic. Also please note that there is nothing wrong with leaving your lights on full during your whole service, although you may end up burning through lamps and gels, in addition to them getting rather hot on stage.  

If you have some extra cash in your church’s technology budget, LED PARs, like Optima’s or American DJ’s PAR64s and PAR56s are relatively inexpensive and produce far less heat, making your performance a more comfortable one, and removes the hassle of changing bulbs and gels.

What your church will look like after following our tips. Probably.

In addition, LED PARs typically feature a sound operation mode as well as built-in programs, making them extremely easy to use. 

2. Light Fixture Placement

Where you should place your light fixtures on your stage depends on many variables, such as the desired look, stage design, ceiling height, and weight/throw distance of the fixtures. Here are a few different examples:  

Single-point lighting: This is the simplest type of light placement and, in fact, mimics something we see every day: the sun! It has the most natural look and can have a dramatic lighting effect. It also draws attention, but typically can give a person onstage a very flat, two-dimensional look. Typically, when doing a single-stage light from the front, you would want the light to be on-axis with the subject and about 30˚  up from them.  

Two-point lighting: This is similar to single-point lighting, but it gives a more three-dimensional look to the subject on stage. Typically, there is one light coming from in front of the subject on-axis about 30˚ up. The second light is positioned behind the subject and is often a different color to add some dimension and create a sculpted look. The light coming from behind is usually 30–40˚ up and about 60-70˚ off-axis to provide depth and also to keep the light out of the audience’s eyes.  

Three-point lighting: Most live productions choose to light their performers on stage with three-point lighting. This is a technique that eliminates most shadows from the audience’s perspective, which can also make it a great choice for keynote presentations and public speaking. Three-point stage lighting uses two lights out front, about 45˚ off-axis and 30˚ up. Then the third light is placed behind and about 30–40˚ up and 60–70˚ off-axis.  

Four-point lighting: This stage lighting technique comes in handy when video is involved. The previous techniques can be problematic for video, as they tend to have or even create shadows. While shadows can be a good thing for many performances and shows, they are not ideal when shooting video. Four-point light is exactly like three-point lighting, but the fourth light is placed out front, directly on-axis with your subject. With three lights out front, though, you will need to modify the intensity of each light so that they work well together to create a nice well-blended look. Some stage designers also add more lights to a backdrop or wash the back of the stage with color to create stage depth for the cameras. 

3. Understand Color Temperature

With conventional lamps, choosing the “color of light” emitted by a lamp wasn’t a choice that was typically made. But with some LED products there is a wide choice of colors, and by choosing one that compliments your desired atmosphere, you can really emphasize and accentuate your existing stage design. 

Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) in lighting describes how the color of the light appears from a lamp, measured in kelvins (K). The typical scale goes from 1000K (very red) to 10,000K (very blue). The higher up the scale you go, the closer the light resembles blue daylight. Confusingly, color temperature does not describe the actual temperature of the lamp itself but the color it produces. Almost counter-intuitively, the higher the color temperature is, the “cooler” a lamp will look.  

1,800kVintage-look Filament LampUltra Warm
2,400kLamp style used in hospitality  Very Warm
2,700kConventional Halogen/LED Lamp Warm 
Warm White
4,000kCFL and LED Cool White
Cool Daylight
10,000kBlue SkyBlue

Put simply, color temperature is based on how the color of heated metal changes as its temperature is increased – turning from red to yellow then blue.  You can then determine the temperature of a heated metal by its color.  This range of colors at different temperatures has become useful for describing the color tint of white light. The color of light from an LED lamp is approximated or “correlated” to this scale. 

But there are no rules. The choice is solely dependent on personal preference and use case. If you like the traditional yellowish color of a conventional lamp, then warm white around 2700-3000K would be the ideal choice, which just so happens to be the most popular choice for stage setups. If you want a modern, clean look, you may prefer the cleaner, brighter feel of a cool white lamp at 4000K. Cool white light contains more blue light and looks brighter to the eye. 

If you are looking for the best temperature light for any skin tone and on-stage presence you can use 70/30, this is the best color ratio which would be around 3,500K or 70% cool white and 30% warm white. 

Stage lighting is just as important as audio when it comes to communicating your message or music. Hopefully now you feel primed and ready to update or implement your lighting design and take your next live event to a whole new level. 

Nolan Cook Written by:

Nolan "Cookie Monster" Cook is easily one of EasyWorship's brightest and outgoing support team members. With a great aptitude for technology, and a broad background in lighting magic, he is a crucial part of our team. Nolan has a major passion for all things Disney, but especially the princesses. We often find him whisper-singing "Let It Go" while churning through help tickets.