Lighting And Portrait Photography

Understanding portrait photography is important to become a great portrait photographer. You can use natural or ambient light as well as artificial light for your photoshoot. There are several important factors used for creating flattering portraits such as angles of view, lighting patterns, subject position, and lighting ratios. You can create an amazing portrait by using various lighting setups and also using light and shadow on a subject’s face helps to give different looks. Lighting helps the subject’s beat features to pop and with a single Speedlight or strobe, you can create a variation in your portraits.


In this article, Haythem Lafhaj tells you about the portrait lighting setup, lighting patterns and use of light and shadow that you can implement to your portrait photography. This will help you to create a flattering portrait. There are different types of lighting patterns and let’s look at each of them.


Butterfly Lighting

It is also known as paramount lighting. The main source of light is placed above and behind the camera, so that the photographer can shoot underneath the light source to get the lighting pattern. Due to this, butterfly-shaped shadow is created under the nose. It is difficult to create this pattern with window light or reflector alone. More defined shadows can be produced with the help of harder light like sun or flash. This lighting pattern can also be created under the chin and around the cheeks.


Loop lighting

It is called loop lighting because the circle of light cast around your subject’s face. In this type of lighting pattern, placed the light source slightly above the eye-level and angle should be 45 degrees from the camera. You get the loop like a shadow instead of a butterfly shape shadow because your light position shifts the nose shadow to one side of the face. The position of the light decides the size of the shadow.  Loop lighting is the most common and popular lighting pattern.


Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting gives a dramatic look to your image and named after the Dutch painter. He used this style in his work. It is similar to loop lighting but one thing is different; the shadow of the nose is connected with the shadow on the cheek, and that traps a little triangle of light on the cheek. This is not possible in case of loop lighting.  You can identify the Rembrandt lighting by the triangle of light in the middle.


Split Lighting

As the name implies, it splits the face into two halves that is one side of the subject’s face is in the light while the other half of the face is left in the shadow. This can be achieved by placing the light source to the left or right side of your subject at 90 degrees and slightly behind their head. This pattern is great for moody portraits.



Preetika Sharma