Rembrandt, Split, and Beauty Lighting in the Studio

Last week, I went into the studio to try and get more comfortable with the studio lights. I particularly focused on trying out common portrait lighting styles for the first time. I learned how to get an accurate exposure reading in Manual mode in order to correctly light the subject without it being influenced by any background changes. There are four main types of studio lights that we used: the key light, the fill light, the hair light, and the background lights to brighten the backdrop. I learned to turn on each of these lights individually to see exactly where the lights and shadows fall on my subject. The key light was used for getting the exposure reading and lighting up the main highlights on the face.

Here is an example shot with just the key light. The light was place at a 45 degree angle to the model which creates Rembrandt lighting.


Here is just the hairlight. My model’s hair was fairly dark, so 3/5 of the lights in the softbox were turned on.


These are shot with both the key, fill, and hair lights. The fill light was considerably less powerful than the key light. The shadows could have been lit up more with the fill light. It would have been considered loop lighting if the shadow created with the key light connected with the one on the right side of her face. In terms of post-production, I learned techniques with the adjustment brush relative specifically to portraits such as soften skin, teeth whiten, and iris brightning. Both of these examples are definitely on the high key side of things.

IMG_0328-2   IMG_0332-2

At the end of the block, we tried to fit in split lighting where two lights are placed on either side of the model at 90 degrees to the camera. The shadows cast on exactly half of the face creates a more edgy feel to the photo.


This is an example of butterfly or beauty lighting from the previous day in the studio. It is done with two lights positioned in front of the model (front lighting) in a “clamshell” arrangement. I was shooting from between the two lights. This kind of lighting creates a barely noticeable butterfly shadow just under the nose and the brights on the face add a soft, glamorous look.


People always say natural lighting is the best; nothing beats it. After this trial, I am becoming more familiar with the capabilities of studio lighting. But overall, I still generally prefer natural lighting. Studio lights can create specific artistic looks and I would definitely like to keep on going with it, but natural lighting is much more adaptable.


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