How To Create Rembrandt Effect In Photography

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This isn’t technically “perfect” Rembrandt lighting because the triangle of light on the cheek is wider than the middle, just photographers generally refer to any light design with that triangle of light every bit Rembrandt lighting.

Rembrandt lighting
is a well-known lighting setup that is used for portrait photography. To achieve this ‘look’ one half of the models face up will be in full illumination whilst the other half, usually the side furthest abroad from the camera is in fractional shadow, with a very distinct illuminated triangle nether the eye on the shadowed side.  Rembrandt lighting was “coined” after the master himself, Rembrandt, the famous Dutch painter in the 17 century, who used this lighting technique to such not bad effect in his works of art. The setup at its most bones uses just the i light source.

To be a true Rembrandt lighting setup, the triangle of illuminated light should be no wider than the eye, and no longer than the nose.  But photographers oft fudge on this rule and take anything with that triangle of light on the cheek as Rembrandt Lighting. Another key characteristic of Rembrandt lighting is the triangular grab lights that can be found in the eyes of the model. The epitome of the model above shows this to swell effect. Without these key features, the setup is non technically Rembrandt lighting simply in fact what s called ‘short’ or ‘long’ lighting.  Rembrandt lighting is often muddled with these other lighting techniques due to their similarities in setup and style. Rembrandt lighting is one of 4 mutual lighting setups that can be achieved with relative ease and only the modicum of equipment.  Read this detailed article, if you want to know what the 4 easy to remember lighting setups are.

Rembrandt Lighting – One Light Setup:

Where to place your flash for rembrandt lighting
Where to place your flash for rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt lighting tin be achieved with one primal light that is placed approximately 5 anxiety from the model at an angle of 45 degrees to the side of the camera and roughly 2 feet above their eye level angled downwardly. Position the models body and then that information technology is facing this key light, somewhere between the photographic camera and the light. Take a couple of examination shots and arrange the models facing position until you are satisfied with how the calorie-free and shadows fall onto the models confront. If you are looking for a much harsher dramatic look with lots of contrast, then using the i light source will be a skilful starting point. You might want to check this article for more a detailed caption on difficult and soft light.

As this 1 light source volition need to be off camera, an on camera flash won’t work in this setup, unless of course it’s being used to trigger the off camera wink in slave mode.  You’ll need to adjust the power of your built in flash to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the key light. This flash ability adjustment is commonly called ‘wink compensation’ or similar and you’ll find nearly modern cameras will accept this functionality. If you’re not sure your camera has this office, check online or go dust off that transmission up in the loft. It’s a adept idea to fire a couple of exam shots with each adjustment until you come across the wink no longer illuminates the model in anyway.

Rembrandt Lighting – 1 Light, One Reflector Setup:

Although Rembrandt lighting is perfectly achievable with i key light, every bit a minimum i low-cal and one reflector or fill light is recommended for a more natural, pleasing look. Place the key light as you would for a unmarried light setup. The reflector or make full low-cal should be placed on the opposite side of the key light at a 45 degree angle to the model and approx. iii-4 feet altitude from the model at centre level. Ensure that the fill up light is illuminating across the models face. If you’re using a fill up calorie-free, the ability should be approx. half that of the central lite.

If y’all don’t accept a second low-cal, using a reflector will help to soften the shadows on the ‘shadowed side’ of the models face, giving a more natural look. As nosotros all know, anyone who’s serious about portrait photography has a reflector, right? No? A budget, well made 5 in 1 reflector can be purchased for $15-$20. Some other option is to make your own reflector out of card. Any hobby store will have a plethora of shapes and colours.  There is a lot to be said for DIY photograph gear. It’s usually cheaper and information technology’due south rather satisfying to make your ain stuff.  However, in this case in my opinion the 5 in i shop bought variety wins hands downwards for convenience and storage. It never gets former twisting that 43″ disc into 15″, simply then once again I’grand easily pleased!  It will exist one of the best investments you lot make and will greatly meliorate your portrait as well as your flash photography.

So far I’ve only listed the first ii lighting setups. The fun of any endeavor is challenging your ain boundaries through experimentation. Effort experimenting with the distances of your subject to the light. If you are using a two light setup, adjust the power of both the fill and key light in relation to each other. Try experimenting with the groundwork lighting. To provide a greater contrast between your model and the groundwork point your 2d calorie-free close to and at an angle to the groundwork. You’ll accomplish a look like to the beneath.

Adjusting these contrasts of light and dark on a three dimensional subject in this style is a technique that has been successfully used for over 600 years.  Some of the greatest artists to ever walk the globe used what is known every bit


A technique that manipulated the contrasts between light and dark (hence it’south Italian proper name) to separate the field of study from the background and add depth and mood to a portrait.  The overall wait can be one of subtly or stark contrast.

The wonderful thing about Rembrandt lighting is that you don’t have to be a Rembrandt to attain this slap-up dramatic look. If done correctly, no ane looks bad in this light! Ane thing to annotation is equally everybody’s confront is unique, what worked for one person may non work for another. That’due south where the fun and experimentation’s comes into its own.

This setup on the whole is very simple and if you’re a swell photographer you’ll most likely have all if not most of the gear you need already.  With a little practice, trial and error, you can achieve professional person looking portraits without the need for the professionally priced equipment!  Information technology will help to heighten your game in portrait taking to a new level. If you determine to try your hand at this truly amazing and simple setup, don’t forget the most important thing….to have

Some Useful Tips

If y’all take a defended studio setup or room that y’all utilize for your portraits, a good tip, once you have achieved the desired setup that works for you lot, is to identify markers where your key elements are positioned. i.e lite(due south), camera, model. This could be as simple as using some masking tape or pieces of cord mark distances from a known point. This will save you setup time the adjacent time you want to use this great lighting technique.  If you don’t have a willing model who’s prepared to sit down for y’all as yous practice, then a cheap Styrofoam manikin head could be your answer. You tin option them up from fleabay for less than $10. The added bonus of course is they won’t feel slighted if you capture them in a less than flattering light!

I besides recommend using a wireless off camera flash triggering setup. When considering buying camera gear I e’er attempt to put them roughly into two categories, either gear that is niche specific or gear that is essential. I consider a wireless wink trigger setup, which is explained here in less than 10 minutes, to be of the later on kind. Y’all will reap the rewards in all styles of your photography with this audio investment.

Flash Photography Gear Needed for This Setup

  • Camera
  • Off camera light source. thousand Yongnuo YN-560 Iii
  • Light Stand (i or 2)
  • 32” – 42” 5 in ane Reflector or similar.

You can get all of this gear (minus the camera) for less than $150 if y’all go with Jim’s recommended wink photography gear.


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