Lighting techniques.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch Painter and Etcher. The ‘Rembrandt lighting technique’ was named after and influenced by him.

His portraits showed the subject not necessarily at a head on angle, with half of their face lit and the other half of the face in shadow. This half of their face was to have a small triangle of light on the subjects cheek. The triangle is often no longer that their nose and no wider that their eye. It seems to give more feeling and mystery to the portrait as well as adding definition.

A bearded man in a cap, late 1650’s.

Now, Photographers are using this technique in their portraits. John Rankin Waddell (commonly known as Rankin), a fashion and portrait photographer uses this technique in many of his images.

Charlie Simpson.
Daniel Craig.
Idris Elba.
Adam Lambert.
Hannah Murray.

The Rembrandt lighting technique requires the sitter to sit or look at an angle (not necessarily looking down the camera lens). The lighting should be quite natural and uses minimal equipment, usually a key light will will be lighting from above to one side of the sitter and results in the same effect where the sitter is half lit and half in shadow with a triangle under their eye. A reflector can be used to adjust the shadow to create that triangle under their eye. To keep the depth in the image, the sitter should not sit too close to the background and the image should be taken quite close up.


Example of Rembrandt lighting setup.

This can be added to take the image to the next level. A light can be used to bounce and cast light off the background and another light (hair light) can be used behind the sitter to light up their hair and show more detail as well as adding more feeling to the image.

rembrandt lighting with hair light.jpg
Example of Rembrandt lighting (with hair light and background light).

This is the outcome of a shoot I did, in the studio to practise the rembrandt lighting technique. I am very pleased with the outcome and now feel confident that I can achieve this effect again.



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