All You Should Know About Lighting Technicians’ Hand Signals

One of the biggest problems that filmmakers encounter on the set of a movie is the sounds – be them background sounds or random sounds that the teams behind the camera make.

Moreover, it’s much easier to make a two-sequence hand signal than scream what you want to say to a guy that’s on the other hand on the set. First, because what you might want to tell him will take much longer when said in words rather than in hand signals, and second, because you will make a lot of noise – which is not recommended.

Therefore, if you want to get acquainted with some of the hand signals that light technicians use on a set, then stick with us as we present to you all you should know about them.

Signs for Aiming the Light

On many occasions, a certain light on the set will have to be aimed up, down, left, and right. To do so, a lighting technician will rely on a set of basic hand signals.

The procedure is very easy – all you must do is stretch out your index finger and point upwards if you want the light to be tilted up, downwards if you want it tilted down, leftwards if you want the light to be panned left, and rightwards if you want it panned right.

Raising or Lowering the Light

For example, one of the lights on the set might have to be raised or lowered. This is when we’re getting into more complex hand signals – as you won’t probably see them being done in other jobs.

If you want the crew member that’s handling the light you want to be modified, you will show him what to do with the stem of the light – namely, the pole that the light is attached to.

By simply pretending to grab the stem of the light, having your fists one above the other – and close to each other – and then acting like pulling up the pole, you will sign to the crew that you want the stem up, raised.

If you want to lower a light, the process mentioned above is repeated backward – just like you would pull the pole down, in a lowered position.

Moving Back or Bringing in a Light

This is yet another very simple hand gesture.

When it comes to lights, having it tilted properly and set at the required height is not enough – lighting must be perfect in a scene of a movie. That’s why you might also be required to move one back or bring it in.

To do so, you’ll rely on two basic hand signals. If you want it moved back, you can just pretend that you are pushing away an invisible item that’s in your face or signaling a person to step back.

If you want it brought in, just pretend you are signaling a person to come closer to you – easy, right?

Light – Spot, Flood, Full Flood

When it comes to light spotting, we go once again in the territory of more complex hand signals – as there are three very different ones that you should know, depending on how you want the light spotted.

Light Spot

For example, if you want to signal a crew member to spot the light, you can show him to do so by asking – with your hands, of course – for just a pinch of salt. We are sure that you know what we mean. Just pinch your thumb and your index finger together and show them to whoever needs to see the hand signal.

Light Flood Out

Now, if you want someone to flood out a light, you can just give him the signal you would give out to someone you want to call you later. It’s easy – thumb and pinky finger out while the others clenched in the palm of your hand, and then do a small rocking movement.

Light Full Flood

In case you want the light to go on full flood, you’ll have to remember the times when you made shadows on a wall with your hand. If you wanted to make the mouth of a certain character, you’d have all your fingers but the thumb pointing straight out, while the thumb touches the index.

Now, if you want that mouth to open – well you know the drill, create wide distance between the thumb and the rest of the fingers while maintaining the same positioning. This is what you must do if you want the light on a full flood.

Light – Scrims

When it comes to scrims, you may have single or double scrims. In this case, you can ask the crew member for a single or a double down. To do so, you show the number of scrims with your fingers, and then point down.

Moreover, if you want the scrims pulled, you will ask for a single or a double out. Again, you will show him the number of scrims, after which you will point backward with your thumb – just like you would point at something behind you without turning around.

Light All Set

When the light is set just the way you want it, you can show that everything is ok – you know how – or clench your fist to signal that you want it held that way.

On the other hand, when you want a light killed, you will have all your fingers straight out, and so a slicing gesture towards your neck – obviously, right?

If you want to go on a restroom break, signal a person to cover you by placing your hand on your hand or pretending to squeeze a towel in your hands – fists clenched, and you know the rest.


Counting on the set is a bit different, as you need only one hand to show all the numbers from one to then. When counting from one to five, your fingers will be pointing up. On the other hand, when you count from six to ten, you will have them pointing left or right, as you would continue the counting with them.

Well, these were the most important signals a light technician should know on set. Make sure to learn the well so that you don’t mix things up and ask for a light to be positioned in a different way.