What are some Rembrandt lighting examples

What is Rembrandt lighting and when do I use it?


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What is Rembrandt Lighting?

Rembrandt Lighting is one of the 5 basic lighting configurations used in studio portrait photography. There are two things that make up Rembrandt Lighting ... a light on one half of the face and a light triangle on the shaded half of the face (called chiaroscuro), but only light nerds need to remember ... most of us just call it ' the triangle shadow '). If it is 'real' Rembrandt light, the triangle shadow should be no wider than the eye and no longer than the nose. What distinguishes Rembrandt Lighting from simple short lighting is the triangle of light (see also "What is broad lighting in portrait photography? What is short lighting?"). This is the technical ...

In the real world, Rembrandt Lighting is often confused with Short Lighting in portrait photography and is used as a short form to use a single light source to illuminate approximately half of the face while leaving the other half of the face in some cases as a shadow level. 'This is due to the fact that it is often quite "fiddly" to adjust the light triangle exactly to a motif.

Rembrandt lighting in its simplest form consists of a single light source located about 45 degrees from the subject and slightly higher than eye level, illuminating the side of the face furthest from the camera.

Rembrandt lighting setup with one light:

Often times the single light source is amplified with a reflector or other light that is offset about 45 degrees from the shaded side of the face and at half the power of the main light source (called the key light). This is used to lighten the shadows on the dark side of the face.

Single light with reflector Rembrandt Lighting Setup:

When do I use Rembrandt Lighting?

One of the reasons many photographers use Rembrandt Lighting is because it is relatively easy to set up and only requires a single light source (although it is often supplemented with a reflector to bring back into detail the shadows on the subject's face) . This lighting pattern works well for subjects with full or rounded faces (as it improves definition and makes the face slimmer), but is generally not a good choice for narrow faces. Often times, Rembrandt Lighting is referred to as "masculine" by "old school" photographers, and some reallyOld school portrait photographers will insist that a woman is never lit with Rembrandt Lighting. This seems to be a relatively arbitrary distinction, however, and since Rembrandt himself painted women with Rembrandt Lighting, it is safe to say that this “rule” is at best a “guideline” and is routinely ignored by many photographers.







One reason for using Rembrandt light is to contrast the subject light with the background in order to achieve a light-dark effect (strong contrasts, shape-defining light). The dark side of the face is defined as a silhouette against a light (er) background:

Two lights are used here, one for the subject and one for the background. The backlight is placed close and at an angle to block out the subject. Here is the setup:

This can be done with a light if you place it just right so that the subject itself shades part of the background. Here is another example of the same setup:

And in contrast, here is a Rembrandt setup with no backlight. Note that the unlit side is not defined and is lost in the background. This gives the photo a different appearance, which is less noticeable due to the lack of background contrast and which is withdrawn when the subject is faded out.




Because of our wonderful population on photo.stackexchange, the above answers are comprehensive and extremely useful. I just wanted to join the historical-etymological perspective (mainly because Rembrandt is my favorite artist)

I just wanted to give a few notable examples of how Rembrandt used this style in his paintings.

Here you can see the only off-axis light source. Compare with the first of Matt Grum's photos. The same light pattern on the face, although in Rembrand's "Self-Portrait as a Young Man in 1629" the background light shares one side with the face light. This works for Rembrandt because he allows that backlight to extend to the other darker side as well.

As a second example Here is an example from 1657 with the background light on the dark side and a higher face light. Similar to Matt Grum's second photo.



The best example of Rembrandt is the pacifier head. What is referred to as Rembrandt is the style of lighting that is often seen on designs by the famous artist Rembrandt. It was one of his "trademarks". The triangular spot of light in Rembrandt is on the side of the face that is most important to the camera. In the opposite case, one speaks of "basic lighting" - not Rembrandt. Rembrandt is usually used in dramatic and low-key scenes on the faces of men or women. Rembrandt can be used successfully in portrait photography with different fill light to reduce the contrast of the shadow created with the button. Again, this is the most popular for men's faces. The key light is first placed at a height of 45 degrees from the axis of the subject. 's head and 45 degrees from the axis of the nose to illuminate the side of the face furthest from the camera. The mood of Rembrandt lighting is more serious, dignified, mysterious and dark. It can be achieved with both hard and diffused light. With a very soft key and a 1 1/2: 1 ratio to fill light (1/2 stop difference), it can be flattering lighting for a lady.

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