In this article we'll look at four different lighting setups you can use to create beautiful portraits.
This lighting technique is often referred to as butterfly lighting as it creates a small shadow under the nose, similar in shape to a butterfly. The main light is placed at a high angle in front of the subject, pointing down towards their face.
A fill light (at a lower power than the main light) or a reflector is placed at around the same position as the main light, but lower down, approximately parallel with the subject's face.
A portrait taken with the subject in profile and the use of rim lighting aren't interdependent, but they are often used in combination together. The main light is positioned facing the subject (so at 90A° to the camera), or slightly behind the subject, so that it highlights the rim (outline) of the subject's face. A fill light is sometimes used off to the same side that the subject is looking in, but placed at an angle (e.g.
It is the rim lighting in this technique that really helps the subject stand out from the background. Rembrandt lighting is named after the lighting often found in portraits by the famous painter. The main light should be positioned at an angle of about 45A° to the side of the subject's face. A fill light or reflector is often used to fill in shadows on the opposite side of the subject's face.
For more on this technique, please see this article: Portrait Photography Lighting Styles a€“ Rembrandt Lighting.
Split lighting is a technique where half the face is well lit, and the other half appears in shadow. As with Rembrandt lighting, a rim light on the shadow side of the subject can work well to bring out the subject's shape.
The most common look is a spotlight behind the subject, tapering off in brightness towards the edge of the frame.


If you're using a semi-transparent sheet background held up by a background stand behind the subject, then you can try lighting the background from behind. The closer the light is to the background, the smaller the highlight on the background will be. These four lighting techniques should give you a good base for the overwhelming majority of portraits. To view this site as it was intended, please consider upgrading to a modern browser.In your current browser, some pages may not function or display correctly.
Our newsletter brings you all the latest in wildlife photography, news and giveaways straight to your inbox. By clicking on the 'Sign Up!' button below, you are agreeing to Discover Wildlife's terms & conditions. For this reason it does not work well with subjects with recessed eye sockets, as it would cause the eyes to be in shadow. This should be positioned high and behind the subject, lighting just the back and top of the hair. This may be wanted, but if not, then consider adding a reflector on that side to fill in the shadows. It will also highlight the hair on the front of the head, and depending on how far back you place the light, the hair around the back of the head may be highlighted too.
In terms of height, it is typically positioned slightly higher than the subject, though the same height as the subject can work too. However, this is usually quite a weak light, in order to retain the dramatic shadows created by the main light.
This creates a bright rim around the subject's shadowed side, adding definition to their shape, and separating them from the background. The main light should be positioned so that it is pointing at the side of the subject's face.
If you're shooting in a studio (or anywhere with a wall behind behind your subject), you'll probably want to add a background light too.


This could be a light positioned below and behind the subject, pointing up towards the background.
This makes it easier to get the exact size and shape of highlight you want as you can position the light wherever you want without worrying about it being visible in the image.
If you have to have the light positioned further away from the background, consider using a snoot or grid to focus the beam of light to give more of a spotlight effect. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. For a couple of the techniques you may be able to get away with just using natural light and a reflector, but really these setups work best if you are using controllable light sources such as speedlights or studio lights. It was a popular technique with Hollywood fashion photographers in the 1930s and 40s, hence why it is also known as Paramount lighting. If you do find this to be the case, try lowering the main light a little or having your subject look up towards the main light more.
Whether this is needed depends partly on whether you have the main light exactly facing the subject, or slightly behind them.
Zooming the head of a speedlight flash that supports this function will also have a similar effect. You can adjust the ratio between the main light and the fill light so shadows become brighter or darker. The product will still cost you the same as if you went direct, and the commission helps pay for running this site. There are beautiful colorful fish, octopus and many other creatures like sea lion and lion-fish.
The further behind the subject the main light is, the smaller the area of the face is that will be illuminated.



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