I spent many years confused and unaware of the proper way to use front lighting during worship. I didn’t know where to put the lighting fixtures, how bright they should be, or how many par cans I should use. I have since learned some techniques that I would love to share with you, in hopes of saving you time and frustration.
The par can, ellipsoidal or any other fixture you use to light up the faces of those on stage is known as ‘front lighting’. It is very common for those new to front lighting to overdo it, washing out faces and overpowering background and effect lighting. I have to admit, I did this for several years before I learned better.
Larger churches with more elaborate budgets would use several ellipsoidal fixtures for front lighting, but for smaller, lower-budget churches, par cans are the way to go. With so many different par cans to choose from, let me give you some information to figure out what your church needs.
The Par46 is the best option for an extra small stage. A standard 200W medium flood bulb for this fixture would be more than sufficient. The width of your stage divided by 6 would give a good estimate for the number of par cans needed to get an even wash across the front of the stage.
The Par56 is the best option for a small stage. A standard 300W medium flood bulb for this fixture would be more than sufficient. The width of your stage divided by 6 would give a good estimate for the number of par cans needed to get an even wash across the front of the stage.
The Par64 is the best option for a medium stage. A standard 500W medium flood bulb for this fixture would be more than sufficient. The width of your stage divided by 8 would give a good estimate for the number of par cans needed to get an even wash across the front of the stage.
This is a challenge to explain, especially without seeing your room in person, but there are some general guidelines I can share about where your lights should be placed.
My front lighting has never been more than 10 to 15 feet away from the front of the stage. This has worked in several different situations, but don’t be afraid to experiment with the distance in order to find the best placement for your specific needs.
There is a pretty small window of distance available for you to project at the right angle. The goal is to have your front lighting pointing down at a 45 degree angle, which keeps the lights from blinding those on the stage and does a pretty good job eliminating unwanted shadows.
As far as the x-axis goes, I have always kept front lighting straight forward. However, another option is to use two lights per section at a 45 degree angle lighting up each side of the face. This gives more depth but also involves more fixtures. One thing you may consider is using two fixtures for center stage using this method, and lighting up the rest of the stage with lights facing straight forward.
Bonus: Download a Diagram of this Lighting Technique
Running front lighting at full intensity (full-on) is usually not the best option for worship. Generally, the best thing to do is fade in your lights until the faces you are lighting have a natural glow. This eliminates washed-out faces and also insures that your background and effect lighting are not destroyed. Now, when your pastor is preaching, you will probably want to run your front lighting at full intensity (or close to it), but worship just doesn’t need that ‘wake up and listen’ type of feel.
[…] Church Front Lighting […]
Does the above formula work for led par-cans. I'm looking into adding lighting to my place of worship. I want to add leds due to the low heat and wide color scheme. Any recommendations or tips? Anything is appreciated thank you.
Yes, LEDs should be similar as far as how many you need and such. I have never used LEDs for front lighting, but am definitely considering switching over. Make sure the LED pars you get are RGBWA - otherwise, you will probably not be able to achieve the color temperature you want for front lighting. The Pro Hex 5 by Stage Light Company is a great choice.
How do you suggest we overcome this situation: We have a large classroom area for our worship right now. It's drop ceiling and flourecent lighting. On the lowest budget possible I'd like to give some ambient lighting with some decent front light for faces. We have to keep the back half of the room lit so the awful overheads will be on back there. Help!!
Yay for drop ceilings and fluorescent lighting! (kidding...) You definitely have a real challenge on your hands. It would probably be best for you to use good quality LED pars for both front and ambient lighting. This way, you could match the color temperature of the flourscent lights for your front lighting. Stage Light Company has some great LED Pars at a great price (https://collaborateworship.com/pro-hex-5-led-par-light/).
Thanks! I'll look into that!
Yeah, the room is dismal but we are happy to have space and a worship team (we are a women's ministry).
Hey! I have a question... We're renovating an historic church building to move into. Our ceilings are about 25' high, and our platform is about 20' wide x 25' deep. We want our lighting to be as minimally invasive as possible. We were quoted a 20 can blizzard system, but we won't be doing many productions; mainly just need it to put out a quality live stream of our services. Do you have any recommendations? By your calculations, I see that three Par64 cans should do the job on a stage of our width, but I'm open to any suggestions. Welcome any advice you have!
Hey Scott - thanks for the comment. The recommendations in this post are geared towards getting an even wash on the stage that will look great to the naked eye. However, cameras are not as forgiving and generally require more light. I doubt that you need 20 cans for front lighting, but you will probably need somewhere between 6-12. If you haven't already, be sure to download our lighting diagram which will give you a good starting point using 6 cans.
Your first example has 9 ft ceilings. How do you have a 45-deg angle for that short of a ceiling. Even if you're aiming the center of the light at 5 ft above the floor, a 45-deg angle has the lights 3.5 ft or so (accounting for the fixture yoke height) in front of then subject. Do you really put them that close? It gets a little better if you do two fixtures at 45-deg angles horizontally too, but not much.
Hey Nathan - thanks for the comment. The 45-degree angles is simply a guideline. It may vary a bit depending on ceiling height and where you can place them, and that's okay. That said, if you have a wide enough beam spread on your lights, placing them 3.5ft in front of the stage should work.
Kade, any chance you could make a recommendation for us based on your information above? We're a small church, so of course your help is welcome. BTW, I appreciate the lighting technique diagram. We're redoing our stage and it will be 14-16ft deep, 36 wide, and 18ft high ceiling in the center, but trailing down to 10-12 ft at the edges bc we have a pitch. Our light bar distance will be just under 15 ft from the front of the stage. Would you recommend a similar setup to the diagram, but using pa56 instead of 64s? Also, do you have a little more experience now with the led par can options?
Hey Jeff - when it comes to front light placement, the goal is to get them pointing down at about a 45 degree angle. So I would plan your distance based on that.
When it comes to LED front lighting, I currently use the Chauvet DJ EVE F-50Z and it is an incredible fixture. You can adjust the beam spread and also eliminate overspill with the barn doors.
Kade, do you think I would need all 6 of them be the Fresnel, or would some of these work as front wash too? https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SlimPARProW--chauvet-dj-slimpar-pro-with-usb-variable-white-par
I've used the SlimPAR. They put off a good amount of light, but not a good quality of light. It looks okay in person, but skin tones look terrible on camera with the SlimPAR.
Kade, thanks. That's great to know as we were also intending to upgrade/improve lighting for film/livestream purposes.