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Portrait Lighting Setups You Should Know

If you are looking for a new portrait lighting setup, you are in the right place! Portrait lighting setups can be tricky to get right. Your images will be beautiful when you get them right, but you will also have to spend time getting to that final product. So, what lighting setups should you be looking for?

Check out the following portrait lighting setups that you should know:

  1. Rembrandt Lighting is a lighting setup that has been used in photography and painting for centuries and is famously represented by the works of Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer. Rembrandt lighting is created using soft, even lighting, usually in a studio, which creates a look of mystery and depth. To achieve the Rembrandt look, you will need to use a light source with a soft, even light and create shadows from large soft, white reflectors.
  2. Loop Lighting might be one of portrait photographers’ important lighting techniques. This is really easy to produce by simply having a single source of light and makes most subjects fluttering. This lighting pattern will create a shadow that loops, giving the subject more depth and dimension. This lighting technique is great for medium and close-up shots, not only because your subject is highlighted but because it accentuates the features of their face, such as their eyes and cheekbones.
  3. Split Lighting is ideal for close-up and full body portraits. This technique uses two cameras with different exposure settings – a primary camera for the main subject and a complementary camera for the main subject’s shadow. The result is a subtle separation between the light and shadow areas, creating depth and visual interest.
  4. Butterfly Lighting involves placing your subject directly under the light. It is predominantly directional lighting and is often used to depict dramatic lighting. The setup can be likened to a spotlight and can produce a very pronounced contrast between subject and background. It is also called Hollywood lighting and is typically used in films.
  5. Backlighting is one of the essential photography lighting setups and one of the most versatile. It has three main components: the key light, fill light, and background lighting. The key light creates a light fall-off from the face, providing illumination. The fill light is used to fill in any shadows on the face, and the background light is used to light the background evenly. With a backlighting setup, you can illuminate your subject from the back or the sides or both, giving you the flexibility to get a unique look that goes perfectly with any portrait style.
  6. Short Lighting is any lighting setup that is from 2 to 5 feet (0.6-1.5 meters) away from the subject. This type of lighting is ideal for portraits because it is soft, gentle, and gives the illusion of depth. Most portrait photographers prefer this lighting, as it not only flatters the subjects’ faces but also sets the scene for a more intimate and casual photography session. In a portrait, you ideally want the subject to be in focus and the background to be blurred out. To achieve this, you either need a shallow depth of field (low f-stop) or an open aperture.
  7. Broad Lighting, also known as medium-light, is a type of lighting that emphasizes the subject’s body. While this type of lighting does tend to put the subject in shadow, it can create a dramatic difference in the appearance of the photograph. Many cameras offer an automatic, or program, setting for portraits. Often, the camera chooses a setting that produces a “natural” looking image or one that appears “flat.” If the image does seem flat, try changing the lighting setup—experiment with changing your position and angle. 

The photography world is buzzing, with photographers constantly trying out new concepts and techniques to make their work stand out. Lighting is one such technique many photographers use to stand out from the sea of photographers. Lighting helps get the subject in the best light possible, emphasizing their features and making their work look stunning. Lighting is also an essential part of photography, and without it, your photos will look flat and dull.

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