Blade Runner Lighting… Sort Of

Blad Runner Lighting Photo © Benjamin Kanarek

Blade Runner Lighting… Sort Of

In the film Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott, the lighting was strange and beautiful. It was also very challenging to the technicians. Making the actors look good under the type of lighting used was a real feat. Kino Flo lighting was often used and not conventionally. Many of the shots were lit from below.

You might notice that in my Spoon magazine shoot video, I used a mix of many light sources and for several I used a mix of Kino Light, open flash and soft box. For several of my shots the light source was from directly below and below at around 45° up to the model.

When using this technique, where you are located is very important to achieve a balance between the harmony of the light hitting the model, the angle at which you are shooting the subject and the balance between shadows and highlights. If you wish to kick in a bit more light, you may, as one might do for a still life session, using white or silver modifiers. I prefer not to as the light being reflected back from the backdrop is often sufficient for me when using a white background. I usually am shooting the background 1.5-2.5 stops hotter than the foreground.

If on a tight budget, you can replicate Kino Flo light by getting 6-10 fluorescent lights combined in an array i.e.parallel to each other attached to a white plexiglass or wood (painted white) support. I often mix Kino Flo with flash, HMI and tungsten, but used alone can also be quite effective. It really depends on what you wish to accomplish. When building a Kino Flo light type of configuration, it should be enclosed in a kind of light box looking structure, perhaps 6″-20cm deep.  You may also attach some barn doors or flags to control the light more effectively.

You can also get an approximate replication of Kino Flo light, using a soft box lit from below. Although this works, it doesn’t have the radical fall off that Kino Flo Lights have.

Anyhow, give lighting from below a try, but remember to place yourself accordingly as the model will often be looking down in to the light and that will be a creative challenge for you… None the less, have fun experimenting.

About Benjamin Kanarek
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Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…
  • james

    Unfortunately this article is incorrect. kino-flo lights were not invented for many years after Blade Runner was made.

  • I love Blade Runner. I was watching the directors cut recently and thinking of how awesome the lighting is. We did a shoot with a model who looks like Sean Young who played Rachel and titled the image Blade Runner

  • Jon Van Gilder

    Excellent instruction, Benjamin – thank you!

    Best,
    Jon