When it comes to studio portrait lighting, there are quite a number of tried, tested, and proven techniques. And Rembrandt lighting is one of them. Characterized by the triangular light pattern formed on the model’s face, it was made popular by the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt in the seventeenth century. The technique is so effective in creating a moody portrait that it’s still used in portrait photography today. In this video, photographer Gavin Hoey from Adorama explains how you can get the perfect Rembrandt lighting in your studio:
A basic thing to keep in mind is that Rembrandt lighting works best with a hard light source. However, since not everyone looks good with a hard light source, you can work with softboxes too. It all depends on the mood that you’re going for.
And no, there’s no exact math to tell you how high and where in relation to the camera and the subject the light is to be placed. You need to experiment and figure it out for yourself.
“The exact position and height of the light varies from person to person because we’ve all got different facial characteristics.”
So, start by setting the light at a height that’s slightly above the head of the subject. Then, move around until you notice both the nose shadow and the cheek shadow meet to form a triangle. Since you constantly need to keep and eye on how the light and shadows behave, having a flash with a modeling light comes in handy. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through a lot of trial and error.
An important thing to keep in mind when working with Rembrandt lighting is that the model gets pretty limited room to move around. Even the slightest turn of the head will cause the triangle to shift or even go away. But, that’s not essentially a bad thing. Experiment with different light and shadow patterns, and work with the one that’s best for your style.
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