What Do Lighting Designers Do

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Without Lighting Designers, movies and TV shows would likely look a lot different. Lighting Designers are the ones who design, install, and operate the lighting rigs used to light scenes during movie or TV shoots.

While many Lighting Designers work in the movie and television industries, they are also needed for theatrical productions and public events, including musical events or festivals. Some Designers even design lighting for homes.

Working in this field requires a thorough understanding of how to manipulate light to achieve specific effects. It is a technical career with a variety of responsibilities.

Lighting Designers

Lighting Designers are responsible for designing and installing lighting and special electrical effects for movies, TV shows, theatrical performances, and venues. They also oversee the operation of lighting equipment, and they may supervise Lighting Technicians.

Salary: $57300
Education: Bachelor's degree
Personality: The Artist

What they do

Lighting Designers are responsible for designing and installing lighting and special electrical effects for movies, TV shows, theatrical performances, and venues. They also oversee the operation of lighting equipment, and they may supervise Lighting Technicians.

Collaborate on the Design of Lighting on a Set

Lighting Designers who work in the film and television industries collaborate on the design of lighting for each scene in the production. This typically starts with a review of the script. The Lighting Designer reads the script to get a better understanding of the environment and tone of the story.

Along with the Director, Producers, and Art Director, the Lighting Designer determines the best placement of light. They also consider the intensity of the light, the color temperature, and whether the light needs to move.

Lighting Designers also typically need to ensure that the actors or subject of the shot remains illuminated. This may involve the use of lights in strategic locations to eliminate shadows on the actor’s faces.

When working in the theatre, a Lighting Designer coordinates with the Director and the head of each department. After discussing the use of light in the production, the Lighting Designer creates a lighting plot.

Inspect the Safety of Electrical Work and Lighting

The Lighting Designer is often responsible for ensuring the safety of lighting equipment. Before filming a scene or the start of a public performance, the Lighting Designer inspects every component. They verify that the equipment and cables are properly connected and secured to maintain a safe environment.

Design Lighting for Residential Properties

Some Lighting Designers offer their services to the public, helping to design the lighting for residential properties. They help select the placement of light fixtures and windows.

Residential lighting typically involves the balance of accent, ambient, and task lighting. Lighting Designers ensure that each room has adequate illumination from one or more of these three sources. They may also ensure that the light fixtures match the aesthetics of the rest of the house or make a house feel more inviting.

Set up Lighting for Public Events and Venues

Lighting Designers may work for event management companies, setting up lighting equipment for public performances. This may include musical tours, festivals, and other public events. The Lighting Designer may also coordinate with the pyrotechnics team when the event requires special lighting effects.

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What is it like working as one


The Job Is Always Interesting

Every project that a Lighting Designer works on is different, which keeps the job interesting.

You May Work with Top Talent

Lighting Designers who work in film or TV may collaborate with big-name Directors and Producers.

You May Travel for Work

Some projects may require Lighting Designers to travel to film sets in different states or countries.

You Get to Make Homes More Inviting

Residential Lighting Designers help homeowners get more enjoyment out of their homes.


Long Hours

Some projects require Lighting Designers to put in long hours, including up to 16-hour days.

Unsatisfied Customers

Residential Lighting Designers occasionally need to deal with rude or unhappy customers.

Where they work

Movie and TV Production Companies
Venue Management Companies
Interior Design Firms

Lighting Designers employed in the movie and television industries often work for production companies on a contractual basis. Some Lighting Designers find full-time work with advertising agencies or production companies that specialize in advertising. Theatres and public venues may employ Lighting Designers full-time or as independent contractors for individual performances. Residential Lighting Designers specialize in lighting for homes.

How to become one

Step 1: Volunteer to Design Theatre Sets

High school students can prepare for a career in lighting design by volunteering to design theatre sets for the school’s theatre department. Joining the drama club and becoming a techie gives students a better understanding of what it takes to put on a production.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Most Lighting Designers hold Bachelor’s degrees. The major may depend on the industry. Lighting Designers who want to design lighting for residential properties may major in Lighting Design or Interior Design. Lighting Designers who want to work in film, TV, or theater may major in Lighting Design or Film Studies.

Step 3: Earn a Professional Certification

Lighting Designers who plan to work in residential lighting may need to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam to progress in their careers. Entry requirements include a Bachelor’s degree and at least two years of work experience.

Step 4: Look for Entry-Level Work

After finishing college, start looking for entry-level work. Lighting Designers who want to work in film or theatre may start in the lighting department as Dolly Grips or part of the rigging crew. Lighting Designers who want to work in residential lighting design may start as Assistant Lighting Designers at interior design firms or architectural firms.

Should you become one

Lighting Designers are often analytical, logical individuals who enjoy solving problems, due to the need to analyze multiple light sources and their path of light. Strong communication skills are also helpful, as Lighting Designers typically collaborate on projects. Successful Lighting Designers are self-motivated, as advancing in this career requires perseverance and dedication.

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