The Five Classical Portrait Lighting Set Ups

The possibilities photographer have for lighting the body and face of a person are numerous. You can use various types of lighting, such as diffused or parabolic, and can arrange them in a variety of ways. There are five basic setups that photographers use repeatedly often, including the Rembrandt split lighting, the general lighting, the butterfly lighting, and the loop lighting. In this article, we will explain each of them, break down the configurations, and give you suggestions on how to use them to the best effect.

Rembrandt Lighting

This lighting setup is named for this famous Dutch painter, who was well-known for his low-key, bright lighting styles. It is also a great lighting setup for beginners photographers that don’t have a lot of lights at their workstations. It’s because it is only necessary to have just one or two lights to use this setup since it doesn’t need any shadow fill or even some. It’s a basic one-light setup that produces a chiaroscuro illusion using only one face of the face being illuminated and a tiny triangle in light to the opposite side.

To create the Rembrandt lighting setup, begin by placing a key light approximately 45 degrees away from the subject and slightly above the head of your subject. The subject will be facing the camera; when you set the light at the correct angle, you will be able to see the tiny triangle of light that is on one side or the other of your face of the subject. Be sure that the light’s triangle isn’t too large and does not exceed the length or width of the nose or eye. In the event that it is, alter the light to match. Once you’ve got an attractively contrasty image, you’re ready to think about the fill. The idea behind this arrangement is to be gentle with the fill or to avoid it altogether. But, it depends first of all on the kind of light source you are using, your personal style, and how far you’d like to increase the effect of chiaroscuro. Many photographers rely on bounces or reflectors to softly fill in the shadows, but some photographers prefer an enlarged and soft lighting fixture. Therefore, you can move your lighting around and experiment with different styles; however, remember that this setup is all about creating a dramatic appearance and using a simple setup.

Split Lighting

Split lighting is like the Rembrandt type lighting; however, it is more striking. Another term for this kind of illumination can be “side lighting,” which is used frequently in cinematography using film noir. To get this effect, you just need to put your principal light towards the other side of your subject. The photo will have one side that is well lit, while the other is shadowed. It’s up to you how much you wish to emphasize shadows. Simply place another light on the opposite end of the lit part that faces the person. Then alter the distance. By placing the light far off from your subject, you’ll be able to create just enough depth. If you position lights too close to the subject, then you’ll lose the indirect lighting effect. It is also possible to add ambient light and point at your background. This will allow you to separate your subject from the background and create an image that is three-dimensional.

Broad Light

This setup means that there is no need to alter the placement of your lights as much in comparison with Rembrandt or even split-lighting. The reason this is referred to as a “broad light” design is due to the fact that the more prominent face of the subject is illuminated. All you have to do is have your subject’s face-off from the source of light that most of the time is set at a 45-degree angle from the subject. The subject’s chin, however, will move towards the opposite direction of the light, and the subject’s face from nostril to his/her ear will be illuminated. It is, therefore, straightforward to change between Rembrandt style and broad-light style just by changing the position of your subject. Be aware that you can have the subject’s face broad light style, but keep their body in Rembrandt style simply by making sure that the body is away towards the light. If, however, the body is facing towards the light, it will be brightly lit.

Butterfly Light

This kind of lighting is often referred to as “Paramount lighting” since it became popular in the 30s and 40s of Hollywood. The reason why it’s called “Butterfly lights” is due to the fact that the light is placed in front of the subject, but with a steep angle, facing downwards, creating a shadow just under the nose of the subject, which resembles butterflies. The ideal angle is between 25 to 70 degrees. It is considered to be a beautiful lighting setup, primarily for women. Additionally, it is best for those who have a prominent cheekbone, and a slim physique as small shadows can be created beneath the cheekbones. Remember to place a bounce board under the subject for fill. This will add a stunning glowing face to the subject.

Loop Light

The loop light design is a minor variation of that of the Paramount light. The only thing you need to do is shift the light towards one side, typically to the right of the camera; however, you can still set it at an angle of high. This type of lighting, due to the shadows it produces, offers a sense of depth other designs do not provide. The reason why it’s called looped lighting comes from the shadow produced under and to the left of the nose. It is loop-shaped.

You’ve got it now. They are among the top commonly used lighting setups for portraits. The more striking Rembrandt as well as split light, the appealing broad light, and the gorgeous photographs Paramount or loop light. Are you overwhelmed by the options? Don’t forget to discover your own style, and try it on various subjects. As you do it, you’ll find that the majority of the time, the most effective style is the one that fits the subject best. Everyone has something unique about them that makes individuals stand out. Pick the appropriate lighting for each individual so that your features are enhanced and get beautiful photos!