6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know

The main lighting patterns you should know

If you want to take beautiful pictures, you must master lighting. Fortunately, this is very easy, thanks lighting patterns That is, simple Portrait Lighting settings that you can use consistently to get beautiful looking photos.

In fact, personal lighting patterns are great for beginners and advanced shooters alike; As an experienced portrait photographer, I use these styles All the time in my own business.

Below, I share six useful photographic lighting techniques every portrait artist should know. I also include lighting charts, so you know exactly how to replicate the pattern in your studio.

Are you ready to take your selfies to the next level? Let’s get started.

1. Split lighting

Split lighting is what it sounds like; The face is divided into two equal halves, as follows:

woman with split lighting

Because this half-shadow effect is so exciting, especially when the light is hard, it’s often used to create choppy shots for musicians and artists.

To achieve split lighting, place the light source 90 degrees to the left or right of the target (you can even move it slightly behind their head). In true split lighting, the only part of the “shaded” face that should be lit is the eye (shown in the photo above). Here is a simple split lighting diagram, though note that you can always beautify a split lit image with fill lights, edge lights, and backlights:

split lighting scheme

Also, make sure that at least one of your subject’s eyes has a scanning light (a bright spot of light that reflects off the light source). Otherwise, the eyes will appear lifeless, and the entire shot will likely be damaged.

2. Ring lighting

Annular lighting casts a small shadow from a person’s nose across their cheek. Look at the image below; Do you see how the shadow of the nose drops slightly to the right of the nostril?

woman with ring lighting portrait

Ring lighting is probably the most common lighting style you will encounter in portrait photography. why? It’s easy to create, plus it tempts most people! That’s why some photographers consider it the absolute best lighting for portraits (especially if you’re a beginner).

Note that in annular lighting, the shadows of the nose and the shadows on the cheek do not touch. This is a different lighting pattern, as I will discuss in the next section. Instead, keep the shadow small and pointing slightly downwards (although not placing the light source very Average; Otherwise, you will create strange shadows and lose the primary lights). Here’s another example, with a soft shadow falling to the right of the viewer:

Couple with ring lighting

To create ring lighting, place the light source slightly above eye level and about 30-45 degrees from the camera. The exact angle depends on the person’s face, so feel free to turn on your modeling lamp (if your light is one) or take several shots with the lamp positioned in different places. Over time, you’ll get better at reading people’s faces, and you’ll be able to pinpoint the perfect circular illumination position right from the start.

The chart below shows the lighting conditions for the pair photo I shared above:

ring lighting scheme

Note that the black background represents the bank of trees behind the subjects. The sun is coming from over the trees, and I have placed a white reflector in the left camera to bounce light back into people’s faces. In a standard studio setup, you could put a strobe in place of the reflector, although in this case – with natural light from the sun – the reflector works just fine!

And remember: your light should be a little above Subject eye level. Beginners spoil this a lot by lowering the light down and angled up. This lights up the lower part of your subject’s nose, and the result isn’t very good.

3. Rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt lighting got its name from the 17th century artist Rembrandt, who used it in his painted portraits. It is determined by a clear triangle of light on a person’s cheek, like this:

Rembrandt lighting

Note that the shade of the nose and cheek Act meet, creating that little triangle; This differs from annular lighting, where the shadows should not touch. Also note that Rembrandt lighting is more dramatic than ring lighting, so use it for moodier portrait sessions and not for standard family portraits.

To create Rembrandt lighting, place the light to the side of the subject, and ask your subject to move away slightly from the light. The light should be above their head so that the shadow of the nose falls towards the cheek. Here’s a Rembrandt lighting scheme, with a window instead of a strobe (although of course you can use any kind of light source):

Rembrandt lighting scheme

Not everyone’s face is perfect for creating Rembrandt lighting. If they have high or prominent cheekbones, it will probably work – but if they have a small nose or a flat nose bridge, it can be difficult to achieve.

Keep in mind that you don’t always need to create this pattern exactly; As long as your subject is beautiful and you get the mood you’re after, then the light works.

4. Butterfly lighting

Butterfly illumination is called a butterfly-shaped shadow that is created under the nose, as follows:

lighting butterfly picture

The result is very glamorous The image, with shadows under the cheeks and chin, so you will often find it in fashion magazines and shots of movie stars. It also pleases older people because it reduces wrinkles, as well as slender-faced targets (whereas subjects with round and wide faces look better with ring lighting or split lighting).

Butterfly lighting is very simple to create. Simply place the light source directly behind the camera and slightly above eye or head level of the subject:

Butterfly lighting scheme

If the shade under the nose is too strong, you can place a reflector just below the chin (your subject can tuck it in, if necessary).

This pattern is difficult to create using only window light or a reflector. You will often need a strong light source – such as the sun or a flash – to produce a more defined shade under the nose.

5. Wide illumination

Technically, wide lighting is not portrait lighting pattern; It’s portrait lighting pattern, which you can use with ring lighting, Rembrandt lighting or split lighting. However, it is a useful lighting setup that often bundles with the patterns discussed above, and I definitely recommend mastering it.

Wide illumination is obtained when the subject’s face is moved slightly away from the camera, and the side of the face is tilted towards The camera lights up with light like this:

wide illumination

This type of lighting makes a person’s face appear wider or wider (hence the wide illumination nickname) and works well when shooting subjects with very slender faces. But most people want to appear thinner, not wider, so this type of lighting would not be suitable for someone who is heavier or has a rounder face.

To create a wide illumination, move the face away from the light source, as shown in the diagram below. Notice how the side of the face closest to the camera receives the light, while the other side of the face remains in the shadows.

Wide illumination scheme

6. Short illumination

Short illumination is the opposite of wide illumination; The shadow shrouds the side of the face pointed toward the camera, while the side of the face flung away from the camera is brightened.

woman with short light

It’s a useful lighting pattern for darker, moodier, and even low-key photos. Note that the short highlights shade the face, add more sculpting, add three-dimensional qualities, and are very slimming and pleasing to most people.

To create a short illumination, ask your subject to rotate slightly toward the light source, so that the shadows fall on the side of the face closest to the camera:

short lighting scheme

Portrait Lighting Settings: Put It Together

Once you can quickly create each of the different lighting styles, you can start learning When To apply in your photography sessions. You will eventually be able to determine the best portrait lighting simply by studying the face of your subject. And, over time, you’ll learn how different lighting patterns change the mood in the final shot.

Technically, you can create these settings with any type of lighting: window light, natural light, speed lights, strobe lights, or blinkers. But note that it is a lot easier to change the lighting pattern if you can move the light source, so it pays to start with a portable studio lamp.

(Although you I can not Move the light source, you can always ask your subject to rotate relative to the light.)

Portrait Photography Lighting Styles: Final Words

Now that you are done with this article, you are well equipped to create beautiful images. Just practice and learn the lighting tips you shared Quickly Shape every lighting setting, and you’ll be good to go!

Now to you:

Which of these lighting styles is your favourite? What style do you plan to use for your next shoot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  • General

  • Preparation

  • Settings

  • light

  • posture

  • to express

  • Come on

  • Advanced guides

  • creative techniques

  • post processing

  • Business

  • inspiration – inspiration

  • Resources

Leave a Comment