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Lighting Designer

Lighting designers design and plan lighting effects for theatre, dance, opera, music concerts, television, video, gaming and film productions.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Designer, Theatre Designer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Theatre Designers (5243.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers (F143) 
  • 2011 NOC: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers (5243) 
  • 2016 NOC: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers (5243) 
Interest Codes
The Lighting Designer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Theatre Designers
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to create settings, scenic environments, properties, costumes and lighting for theatre, film, video productions, operas and ballets; and in preparing working drawings, creating special stage lighting patterns and selecting colours, decor and accessories

METHODICAL

Interest in precision working with tools to construct miniature sets in cardboard, plaster and other materials; and in sketching and painting plans and submitting them to directors and producers for approval

DIRECTIVE

Interest in speaking with workers when overseeing construction of sets

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated May 19, 2021

Lighting designers consult with directors and other designers to define a stylistic approach to lighting for each production. They create light scenarios (called plots) and sequence lighting cues. They must consider the size, shape and technical capacity of the theatre or performance space. They must account for the visibility of performers and the mood of each scene. They must also complement special effects, set design, makeup and costumes.

Duties and responsibilities vary from one type of production to another but, in general, lighting designers:

  • Read the script and attend meetings or rehearsals to see how the stage, set or acting area will be used
  • Consult with the director and other designers to develop design concepts, and create lighting plots, schedules and equipment lists
  • Supervise the placement, intensity and focusing of lighting instruments
  • Build lighting cues for the production
  • Attend technical and dress rehearsals to supervise the lighting and make changes as needed

In some theatres, a single designer may be responsible for lighting, set design and costume design. In smaller theatres, the lighting designer also may program and run the lighting board for a production. For more information, see the Lighting Technician occupational profile.

Some lighting designers may lead a team of lighting department personnel. These designers are responsible for assigning tasks and responsibilities. In such positions, they may work with the director of photography and be responsible for lighting equipment purchases or rentals to meet the needs of production. They also may support other production departments by providing electrical power as needed.

Lighting designers are also used in virtual gaming and digital rendering. They work with digital sets and develop virtual lighting plots much the same as real-world lighting, in order to create the proper visual environment for the virtual set. Often, these virtual sets must carefully match lighting used in real sets, in order to achieve a seamless blend of digital and real objects when combined.

Working Conditions
Updated May 19, 2021

Lighting designers usually work from home offices and in theatres, conference centres and other event venues. Lighting designers who work on films are present on stage sets and locations. Digital lighting designers often work in studios. Lighting designers use a variety of materials, tools and equipment including electrical technology that is unique to the profession. They must observe safety precautions when climbing ladders, going up lifts, working above others, handling hot lamps and working with electricity.

They may need to work long hours to meet production deadlines.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated May 19, 2021

Lighting designers need:

  • Creativity and artistic vision
  • A good sense of how light and colour can convey moods or emotions
  • Flexibility
  • An understanding of design principles and elements
  • In-depth knowledge of lighting equipment and accessories (both conventional and moving), and lighting control equipment
  • Spatial perception
  • Comfort with heights
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, to work effectively with others and market their ideas or services.
  • Practical experience in technical theatre
  • Math and drafting skills
  • Basic understanding of electricity
  • Computer skills (especially computer-aided design and drafting, and lighting control software)

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information about diverse requirements
  • Experimenting and finding innovative solutions to problems
  • Doing precise work with tools and equipment
  • Supervising the work of others
Educational Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021

Because this field is so specialized, lighting designers need related post-secondary education. A bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in fine art with a specialization in theatre design is recommended.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 212 in Calgary offers courses for motion picture and theatre lighting crews. Some courses are designed for ongoing updating of skills. Other courses must be completed in order to be hired to work on certain productions.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Alberta University of the Arts

Grande Prairie Regional College

Red Deer College

Thompson Rivers University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 19, 2021

Lighting designers work for:

  • Theatre companies
  • Opera and dance companies
  • Festivals and concert organizers
  • Corporate, trade and fashion shows
  • Television studios
  • Film production companies
  • Digital rendering and gaming companies
  • Architectural design companies

Some theatre companies and film studios employ resident designers, but most lighting designers freelance and negotiate contracts for specific projects. Therefore, aspiring lighting designers must develop a portfolio to market their work. Some worksites may require union membership to participate.

Volunteering to work for community amateur theatre companies or cable television stations provides valuable practice for lighting designers who are trying to gain experience in the field.

Graduates of design programs usually start as lighting designers for smaller theatres or as assistant designers in larger theatres. Advancement generally takes the form of more demanding assignments. Some lighting designers teach in universities or college programs.

Lighting designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers. In Alberta, 75% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated May 19, 2021

Most lighting designers are hired on contract for particular productions. Fees vary considerably depending on the production and the designer’s reputation.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 19, 2021

Associated Designers of Canada (ADC) website: www.designers.ca

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 212 in Calgary website: www.iatse212.com

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 210 in Edmonton website: www.iatse210.com

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated May 19, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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