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Tips & Tricks

Lighting Tips | The 5 Fundamental Portrait Lighting Techniques

By Wendell Weithers on March 18th 2018

You never know what inspires a new photographer to take up the camera for life. For those drawn to portraiture, they may have come across or, by accident, take a stunning image that captivated their imagination. But… they didn’t know why.

As it turns out, the foundation of that image which made you ask “why that portrait you saw that one time looked so good”, you’re in luck. J.P. Morgan from the The Slanted Lens shares the fundamental lighting positions. If you’re learning for the first time or revisiting the topic, this is worth the time.

Note: None of these setups is a golden rule. As Morgan demonstrates, you have the liberty to bend the rules of each technique to your vision.

LED Light used in the video:
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1 – REMBRANDT LIGHTING

Bearing the name of the famous painter who invented it, this lighting technique is recognizable because it leaves a triangle of light under the subject left eye.

2 – SPLIT LIGHTING

Split lighting will light half the face and leave the rest in shadow and create a moody image. This is also one the techniques that give you more room to bend the rules, as you have leeway to fill the shadows with a reflector as little or as much as you want.

3 – BROAD LIGHTING

This approach will have you position the portion of your model’s face closet to the camera. This technique also gives you plenty of shadows to play with in your image.

4 – PARAMOUNT LIGHT

Also known as the Paramount light, calls placing your light higher above your subject which causes your subject’s nose to cast a shadow underneath that resembles a butterfly. It is particularly flattering to women because it evenly lights the face and defines the cheekbones.

5 – LOOP LIGHT

The Loop light is very similar to the Rembrandt, however, it doesn’t result in the triangle highlight under the left eye. You’ll see triangle start to form, but the highlight will not be closed.

Be sure to check more lighting techniques in the links below. For more in-depth learning on lighting, check out the Lighting 101 course in the SLR Loune store.

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5 Essential Portrait Lighting Tips You Need to Know

Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

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