How To Light A Room For Photography

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This guide will testify yous how to fix and use Rembrandt lighting. Nosotros’ll explicate everything from what the ‘triangle of light’ is to where to position your photographic camera and lights to achieve it.

Below you’ll discover case images and diagrams we’ve prepared. By the stop of the guide, you’ll see that Rembrandt lighting is surprisingly easy to go to grips with.

Before long you’ll be taking striking high contrast portraits that really catch the middle.

What is Rembrandt Lighting?

Rembrandt lighting is a technique for portrait photography named afterwards Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the groovy painter. Information technology refers to a style of lighting a face up and so that an upside-down light triangle appears under the eyes of the discipline.

In Hollywood in the early 20th century, the legendary motion-picture show director Cecil B. DeMille introduced spotlights to create more realistic furnishings of light and shadows into the ‘evidently’ studio lighting setup that was generally in use.

Rembrandt lighting is one outcome that was created past this, and it became widely used in promotional photographs of moving-picture show stars showing them in a dramatic and centre-catching way.

Why use Rembrandt Lighting?

By using Rembrandt lighting you instantly create shadows and contrast – and of course, the characteristic ‘triangle of calorie-free’ below the
subject’s heart

Rembrandt lighting adds an element of drama and psychological depth to the graphic symbol of your sitter.

Information technology’s constructive, not just considering it gives an individual ‘wait’ to your portrait photography, merely likewise considering it acts as a photographic device to draw the heart.

You tin do this in so many ways in photography – leading lines, depth of field and negative space are all methods of drawing the viewer’s centre to the focal point/field of study of the image.

In portraiture, the eyes of your subject are nigh ever the principal betoken of focus. The triangle of low-cal, placed just below the eye on the shadow side of the face, will increase the accent and the viewer really will be ‘drawn in’ to your paradigm.

And so, utilize Rembrandt lighting to create not just dramatic portrait photography, simply also portrait photography that grabs the viewer’s attention and draws their eye to your field of study.

Subsequently all, this is the aim of portraiture – it’s all well-nigh your subject – calculation in artistic lighting helps to enhance the touch of the photograph.

How to Create a Rembrandt Lighting Setup

Lighting styles are determined by the positioning of your lite source.  Rembrandt lighting is created by the single light source being at a 40 to 45-degree angle and college than the subject.

Below you lot can learn how exactly to create a basic Rembrandt lighting setup, using our easy-to-follow steps.

1. Choose where to endeavour Rembrandt lighting

Credit: Wadi Lissa

Ideally, yous need a dark room with a nighttime background when trying Rembrandt lighting setups. A photographic studio would, of class, exist perfect for this using a dark photograph background.

But we know not everyone has easy access to a photography studio! And so, if that’s the case for y’all, we recommend finding some way of creating a dark background for the space y’all take bachelor.

You could wait until nightfall when the lack of light will enable yous to create effective Rembrandt lighting fifty-fifty if yous’re working in a room decorated in light colours.

ii. Get your equipment set up

Rembrandt lights are a portrait lighting technique used by many a portrait photographer.

Credit: Janko Ferlic

So at present yous empathise a piffling about the history of Rembrandt lighting and why it can be and so effective, and you have your space ready. Let’south cover what camera gear, accessories and lighting equipment are needed before you start photographing.

  • Camera

Full frame, crop sensor, DSLR or mirrorless – any photographic camera you use, yous’ll need it ready to take some portraits!

  • Lens

If you lot’re shooting close-cropped headshots (meet guide), a archetype lens choice would be an 85mm or 105mm – or even a 70-200mm.

However, bear in listen that if y’all’re shooting at home, space may be tight! To make the most of an 85mm prime lens for portraiture, really you demand to exist able to accept the space to step back.

So nosotros recommend yous consider a 35mm or 50mm if space is at a premium – or if you’re looking at including more of the subject than but the head and shoulders.

A 50mm works really nicely for portraits and will give a overnice depth of field if yous’re shooting at a shallow discontinuity. Just a 35mm will give you a wider point of view and is great to fit more than of the body in of your bailiwick.

Annihilation wider than 35mm will start to distort your subject unless you lot tin pace right back.

  • Primary light source

This is crucial – you need a key calorie-free source that can be positioned at nearly a 45-caste bending from your subject. A niggling in front of straight side-on. This can be a flash, studio lamp or video light.

However, don’t worry if you lot don’t have whatsoever of these. You can use a household lamp or even sunlight from a window, as we’ll discuss subsequently.

  • Reflector or secondary light source

This is optional – some people use reflectors or a fill up light to fifty-fifty out the lighting. However, using a fill light is certainly not mandatory and you lot can accept Rembrandt lighting portraits with only one light source.

  • Field of study

This is not a piece of photographic camera equipment but the absolute key particular – someone to photograph! If you lot can’t find a helpful model, you can take self-portraits.

  • Tripod

This is optional, merely information technology’s a must for self-portraits and may exist helpful when y’all’re starting out when lighting Rembrandt style!

  • Flash or light modifier

You lot tin use a flash or lite with no modifier for a very high contrast wait, but y’all may want to apply 1 to diffuse your light. Again, this is optional.

3. Choose your settings

Black and white Rembrandt light studio portrait using flash photography.

A basic Rembrandt lighting setup using ane flash and ane fill up light was used to capture this portrait.

Your option of camera settings depends on how yous light your image and where you accept it from.

The image above was taken at night, with a night background, with ane flash and besides an additional light to offer a little fill.

If you’re shooting during the day and you lot’re unable to block out the daylight to create a high contrast look, yous’ll need to use flash, a loftier shutter speed and a low ISO.

Using these settings together can completely ‘kill’ the ambient light and create a dark and atmospheric Rembrandt lighting portrait.

At that place are no rules as to what settings you utilise for Rembrandt lighting – experiment and adjust the settings as you lot work through the procedure of moving the lights and camera into position and perhaps alter your sitter’s pose.

You can use a shallower aperture to soften the look of your image as well – it will help smooth pare tones. A narrower aperture volition give harsher edges and more contrast – see our guide to aperture here for more tips.

iv. Cull where to position your fundamental calorie-free

For lighting Rembrandt portraits, make sure the lighting source is at a 45-degree angle.

Nosotros are looking mainly at images taken using an bogus lite source – either a flash or studio lamp.

This really is the important part of a Rembrandt lighting setup! Getting the position of your key light only right – then, follow these simple steps.

  1. Your fundamental light must be fix at about 45 degrees – a trivial in front of a direct side-on position – of your subject. For soft, flattering calorie-free, apply an umbrella or softbox.
  2. Place your light higher than eye level, just above your subject’due south head – utilise a calorie-free stand or clamp to practise this. So angle the light down towards your subject.
  3. Retrieve: y’all’re looking for that triangle of light effect. This should exist seen under the subject’southward eye. Information technology will exist on the opposite side to where the key low-cal is.

If y’all tin can’t run across the triangle, arrange your key light position and go along reviewing your images every bit you go along.

v. Choose where to position your camera

A single light above eye level can be used for lighting Rembrandt portraits.

Moving your camera position can influence the mood and feel of your image and alter whether you lot’re using broad light or short calorie-free.

Wide lighting is divers equally when the shadowed side is furthest from the camera. Short lighting is where the shadowed side is closest to the lens.

Endeavour different angles and distances from your subject, depending on your space of form. Simply remember – in Rembrandt lighting, you don’t want to lose that calorie-free triangle on the subject’due south face up.

You can plan with this online tool, Set up A Light – information technology’due south a great place to experiment with your photographic camera and lighting setup. Nosotros highly recommend giving it a endeavour.

vi. Getting the triangle just correct

Getting the triangle – besides called the ‘Rembrandt patch’ – in exactly the correct identify on your bailiwick’s face is crucial.

For an authentic Rembrandt lighting image, the triangle shouldn’t be wider than the eye it’south nether. And it shouldn’t be longer than the nose.

However, in the end, this is your paradigm – you can bend the ‘rules’ to conform your sensibilities!

It’s the presence of the triangle of lite that will differentiate your image from more standard ‘short lighting’.

7. Try window lite rather than wink or studio lighting

Dramatic Rembrandt lighting portrait of a man's face.

Credit: Hollie Mateer

The beauty of Rembrandt lighting for portraiture is that y’all don’t demand fancy lights or flashes – you tin use a window to low-cal your field of study, just like the paradigm in a higher place.

The principles are the aforementioned – the light source (in this case a window) should exist at 45 degrees from your subject and above the caput.  But there are lots of variables to consider yet.

First of all, time of day and quality of light. Bright sunlight at midday will give a harsh and high dissimilarity await. Softer low-cal at dusk or light with cloud cover will offer diffusion.

Then, you still need to have the low-cal to a higher place as well as to the side of the subject. So you may want to consider sitting on the floor with your subject if your window is low on the wall.

Lastly, consider the kind of window! A smaller window volition be easier to piece of work with – but even a big bay window can work. Just use your curtains to narrow the corporeality of light you allow in and command the angle of low-cal onto your discipline.

8. Look to Rembrandt for inspiration!

Self Portrait of the Dutch master.

Get inspired by the Dutch painter himself | Credit: Self Portrait by Rembrandt

You’ll naturally await at what other famous photographers practise, simply why not have a await at the genius himself?

Rembrandt loved playing with potent shadows across the face and used all sorts of lighting setups and poses to achieve a great multifariousness of different results.

In some the eyes are well-nigh subconscious, in others he uses a more ordinary flat-on lite, and in others, you can clearly see the triangle-shaped sliver of calorie-free beneath the
bailiwick’s middle.

And then why not look at the original paintings by the great genius for inspiration! ‘Rembrandt lighting’ is nigh easily seen in Rembrandt’s painted self-portraits (encounter the prototype higher up).

Why non try some self-portraits of your own? By moving the lights you’re using, you can dramatically alter the look and feel of the image.

The benefit yous accept is that you can utilise a timer delay to take your images – Rembrandt painted them using a mirror!

For fifty-fifty more inspiration, cheque out this smashing article on photos inspired past paintings.

Final Words

The key with Rembrandt lighting, as with all photography, is to know the dramatic impact that light can have on your images.

As George Eastman, the founder of Kodak said:
“Comprehend low-cal. Adore it. Love information technology. But above all, know light. Know it for all yous are worth, and you’ll know the key to photography.”

We hope this guide has shown that Rembrandt lighting is one technique worth trying – and 1 that doesn’t take to exist complicated to master. It’southward a technique that can be tried in unlike ways – using flash, studio lights, or just light from a window – and information technology tin can exist a starting point to experimentation.

So now, pick upwards your cameras, set your light source to 45 degrees from your subject area and commencement shooting Rembrandt lighting. Then, experiment with your lighting setup and have fun.

Who knows, later mastering Rembrandt lighting, perhaps you’ll find and develop your own signature lighting style.

If you accept any questions well-nigh how to create a Rembrandt lighting setup, driblet united states of america a comment below and we’ll be glad to help out.


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