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19 Jul 2024

Hair Light

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Term: Hair Light
Description: Hair light, also known as a rim light or kicker light, is a type of photographic or cinematographic lighting technique that is used to illuminate the hair of the subject. It is typically positioned behind and slightly above the subject, and its purpose is to separate the subject from the background by creating a bright outline around the edges of the hair. This creates a sense of depth and dimension in the image, and can help to make the subject stand out more effectively.

When to Use a Hair light in Photography

One lighting technique that can make a big difference in your portrait photography is using a hair light. A hair light is a type of photographic light used to illuminate a subject’s hair or other details from behind. In this article, we’ll explore when to use a hair light in photography, how to set it up, and tips for using it effectively.

When to Use a Hair Light

There are several situations where using a hair light can be beneficial:

Creating Separation from the Background:

A hair light can help create separation between the subject and the background, which can give the photo more depth and make the subject stand out.

Enhancing Texture and Depth

The hair light can bring out texture and depth in the subject’s hair or other details. This can add an extra layer of interest to the photo.

Highlighting Hair or Other Details

A hair light is ideal for highlighting the subject’s hair or other details such as jewelry, clothing, or facial features.

How to Set Up a Hair Light

Setting up a hair light is relatively easy, but it requires careful consideration of equipment, placement, and settings.

Choosing the Right Equipment

To set up a hair light, you’ll need a light source, such as a speedlight or strobe, and a stand to hold it in place. You may also need a modifier such as a snoot or grid to focus the light on the subject’s hair or other details.  If you’re shooting in natural light, the sun can act as a hair light as well.

Placing the Hair Light in the Right Position

The hair light should be positioned behind and above the subject if possible, aimed downwards.  If you’re unable o get the hair light above the subject, you can also place it behind the subject pointing directly at the backs of the subject.  The exact placement will depend on the subject’s position and the desired effect.

Adjusting the Settings

The hair light’s intensity and color temperature should be adjusted to match the other lights in the scene. You may also need to adjust the power and zoom settings depending on the distance between the light source and the subject.

Tips for Using a Hair Light Effectively

To get the most out of your hair light, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Avoiding Overexposure

Be careful not to overexpose the hair light, as this can ruin the effect you’re trying to achieve.

Balancing the Hair Light with Other Light Sources

It’s essential to balance the hair light with other light sources in the scene, such as the main light or fill light.

Experimenting with Different Angles and Intensities

Experiment with different angles and intensities to find the best setup for your subject and scene.

Considering the Subject and Their Features

Different subjects and features will require different hair lighting techniques. Experiment with different setups to find what works best for each situation.


Using a hair light in photography can add depth, texture, and interest to your photos. By following the tips outlined in this article, you’ll be able to use hair lighting techniques effectively and create stunning images. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore with different lighting setups to find what works best for you and your subjects.

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