Stage Lighting Concept

Stage lighting is where we use lightings to create predetermined effects in order to provide the essential amount of visibility that the audience is able to view on stage throughout the stage performance. Therefore, lighting designers must have the knowledge and focus on the basic lighting concepts, which include determining priorities, lighting positions, use of shadows, usage of soft lighting, even lighting as well as localized lighting. All these concepts need to be coordinated accordingly together with other technical theater departments for ensuring a successful running of a particular show. Besides that, you should also be able to understand the way to analyze a script and also have the knowledge on how to use theatrical lighting instruments (fixtures), plus also the best way to use each type of lighting instruments.

What you need to do:

  1. Determine you main priority
  2. Use bright light to certain area of the stage
  3. Use suitable lighting style according to type of performances
  4. Use the concept of McCandless theory
  5. Select the right lighting instrument
  6. Use suitable color
  7. Light Plot


  1. Firstly, lighting designers need to allow the audience to view the stage performance and this is his or her main priority. This does not mean that you have to brightly lit-up the entire stage, but by using illumination sometimes it is sufficient enough to communicate the message that you intend to be spread around to all level of people.
  2. Whenever there is a bright lit part on your stage play, it will definitely draw the attention of your audience. By coordinating your work with the director, the lighting designer would able to use this concept for enhancing the story play as well as highlighting certain stage areas.
  3. The usage of lighting style depends on the type of performances and for example, in a dance show, a lighting designer will definitely use a lot of side lighting because it provides the casting of shadows that really help shape the dancer’s bodies. As for a comedy play, generally bright lights will be used while for a drama play you might consider to use shadows if the play needs to have a mysterious mood.
  4. The most commonly use stage lighting concept is the McCandless theory where it involves the dividing of the stage into areas and then the lighting up of each area from two points. One from the front area at 60-degree angles, while another one should be one point behind the area. There are also other theories, which might be using straight-on face light and supported by high and low lights coming from its sides.
  5. Stage lighting has similar general concepts like any visual art for example harmony and contrast. Besides that, discord can also be created in a particular stage production especially by using dissonant lighting colors and styles or even creating harmony that comes with an overall unified look.
  6. Different type of lighting instrument behave differently and whenever you wanted to pattern projection, sharp edges or tightly controlled beams, you should be using ellipsoidal reflector spots (ERS). As for crating soft-edged light scene, you should use fresnels and PARs (parabolic aluminum reflectors).
  7. Always remember that an overlapping usage of color wavelengths of light will result to the light cancelling each other out. For example, if you decide to mix amber color with lavender light, the end result that you will be having is white instead of brown color. This is where lighting designers need to have the knowledge on how to interact different type of colors for creating appropriate design.
  8. Always ensure that you follow the light plot that you have draft and finalize that shows the positioning of each lighting instrument used, the place to hang them, the sketch of the stage area and also the props that you will be using. Make sure the light plot is able to indicate how each lighting instrument is plugged in, its colors and also the controlling of the lights.

Image Credit:

Flickr CC

Additional Reading:

A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting