6 Essential Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know

Posted by Zara Jones | March 24, 2021 | Photography

Every photographer must know about portrait lighting patterns or simply lighting in general. It’s an inevitable aspect in portrait photography, or else there won’t be many portrait photographs. Making your model pose, clicking the shutter, or carrying out the post-production process of fashion photography retouching – no, it’s much more than that.

It’s not going to help you if you just know to light for your capturing portraits. You have to master it and most of all, you should know the fundamental side of manipulating it. Yes, the post-process of professional photography editing is vital to it as well, but there’s just no escape from having to learn lighting patterns for taking portrait photos.

When you master lighting and are capable enough to manipulate it, undoubtedly it is what makes you compose quality portraits. Yes, there are several techniques, various light sources, creative styles, and crucial lighting patterns that make this possible. So photo editing services assistance is important, it’s even more important to these basics inside out.

We’ll surely get you to speed with these industry trends in portrait lighting so that you can nail the art of portrait photography to make heads turn.

Split/Side Lighting

This easy and intense side lighting technique will make your compositions more dramatic, powerful, and persuasive. It highlights skin texture from one side with the light source placed at 90 degrees, and the other side of the face is left completely dark – the only reason why it’s called split lighting. But note that that kind of lighting doesn’t suit everyone’s face. So gently tweak the light source position as it can make a good difference to compositions.

SplitSide Lighting Pattern

Loop Lighting

A technique that requires the light source to be placed higher than the eye level, aimed down, and at 45 degrees from the camera. The aim is to create a small shadow of the subject’s noses on their cheeks and that these two elements do not come in contact with each other. This also is an easily achievable portrait lighting technique, although you will have to experiment to know how much light is suitable for your subject.

Loop Lighting

Rembrandt Lighting

This dramatic, different and not-so-easy lighting aims to bring a triangle of light on the cheeks of subjects, especially ones having prominent cheekbones and large noses. It uses a single light source, a reflector, or sometimes, two light sources. So position your subject slightly away from the light source to bring a moody, and darker feel in your photos. Only practice and experiment will achieve this lighting effect – just like how you got your fashion photography retouching skills.

Rembrandt Lighting Pattern

Butterfly/Clamshell Lighting

Something you might be familiar with as it is majorly done for glamorous photos to generate shadows under the subject’s cheeks and chin. You can achieve this by shooting from underneath the light source, and the light source placed above the subject’s head. The shadow cast under the subject’s nose will resemble a butterfly. One thing to note is that this technique of portrait lighting is not easy and that you should have mastered lighting patterns and tactfully positioning your subjects.

Butterfly Clamshell Lighting Pattern

Broad Lighting

The easiest of the lighting techniques, used for “high key” portraits, to make the subject’s face look full and adds a roundness to the face, or whatever is in the frame. Comparatively, this lighting pattern brings a lot of contrast. So position your subjects close to a window or door and let them face away from the light source, and one side of them towards the camera. Varying shadow depths or angles is what brings that face roundness to make it look broader. This is especially useful for models having slim faces. Experiment by filling more light or give more emphasis on the shadows or contrasts for darker and bolder portraits.

broad lighting photography

Short Lighting

It’s just the opposite of portrait lighting where the subject’s face is faced towards the light source. Good for visually slimming down faces and expose its broader side in the shadows. It brings massive contrast, which is just what you need for images that require great depth. A bit complex than broad lighting but not hard to achieve, you have to make your light source facing 45 degrees to your subject. The side of the face in the dark or shadows should be more significant, and closer to your camera. What it does is bring sculpting and 3D qualities to portraits with a face slimming trick that is more pleasing and appealing.

So learn these efficient portrait lighting patterns with good lighting knowledge and effective positioning of your subject. Keep practicing and experimenting with the same along with your professional photography editing skills until you learn to decide which lighting suits which scenario, for a dramatic improvement in your portrait photography skills and portfolio.

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