The Art of Lighting with Photography




Today’s post is about the different types of lighting that you have to work with when working with photography. These are the top 10 forms of lighting that I have known of by personal experience throughout my years of doing photography, and some extra helpful information from a photography professor of mine named Jim Gabbard.


On Camera Flash: Highly harsh, not very flattering, creates “red eye” and objectionable shadow behind subject, while also making the subject look heavier which you do not need.


Butterfly Light: The main light is placed directly in front of the face and casts a shadow of the nose directly under, and in line with, the nose. Avoid this lighting with men because ears are illuminated and become too prominent.


Rembrandt Light: This is a classic lighting style and can be used on most subjects. It can be achieved by moving the light off to a 45 degree angle and you know you have it when the light creates a triangle of light under the eye on the shadow side of the face.


Loop Light: The same type of lighting as the butterfly, but the main light is pulled slightly to the side until the butterfly shadow under the nose becomes a diagonal loop shadow from the nose. Do not let the shadow run onto the lips or teeth.


Split light: The main light is moved toward the back of the subject, until there is no triangular patch of light on the face. Best used in classical or dramatic, low key portraiture. It also can be used to conceal facial defects such as a broad face or a bad scar.




Short Light: The main light is placed so as to illuminate the side of the face farthest away from the camera, often creating a triangular patch of light on the side of the face, nearest to the camera. The fill light should be on the same side as the main light to avoid cross shadows. Short lighting is favored by many photographers for all but narrow faces and is widely used in the portraiture of men.


Broad Light: The main light is placed so as to illuminate the side of the face closest to the camera. The fill light should be on the opposite side as the main light. Broad lighting creates a rounder fuller view of the face and is favored by many photographers for narrow faces.


Hair Light: Adds light to the hair, while it can also separate the model from the background.


Background Light: Also adds separation and gradation of tones on the plain white background.


Fill Light: Should fill in shadows and may be anywhere from one F: stop difference to three stops difference, depending on the desired effect.



I provided some extra little information for any of my readers about some simple steps with setting up lighting within a studio for your portrait clients.


Light Setup for a Studio Portrait

Your main source of light comes from a 45° to the camera. This light illuminates the mask of the face including forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks. A woman’s portrait, it is generally better to cross light the blouse than rather have it flat lighted. This gives an over all more textural and formed shot that tends to slenderize the model.


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