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How to set up a flattering light for a studio portrait!

  • Tutorials
  • 01/04/18

Let’s face it, we are not all blessed with the looks of a supermodel.  When commissioned to take a studio portrait, it is paramount to set up the light to get the best from your subject. Ideally, meeting or researching your subject’s facial features before the shoot would be an advantage.

There are several types of light that you could potentially use and after learning these, you can mix.

Straight on.
You will be aware of flat light or photographers that use pop up flash. It is used a lot in fashion. The light comes from the same angle as the camera and is direct. This type of light is favourable for people with skin texture issues, under eye bags and wrinkles.

Broad and short lighting
Broad lighting is when your subject is sitting at an angle to the camera. The broader side of the face will be lit and cast a shadow on the off side. This really works for people with narrower face, or cheekbones that are hollow. Also, used for people with problematic skin.

Whereas short lighting is also, when your subject sitting at an angle but the light is on the short side of the camera so the subject’s broadside is in shadow. This is useful for people with broader features as it slims the face down.

Butterfly or Paramount lighting and loop Lighting
This is a dramatic light and one you will recognise if you view the portraits taken in Hollywood in the 50’s. The light is placed directly above and slightly in front of the subject, adding a reflector or second light under the subjects chin. This reflects the light up so there won’t be shadows. This is light is great for people who have double chins. Loop lighting is similar to butterfly but moving the main light off to the side. It adds lots of dimension to the face and is complementary to most people.

Rembrandt lighting
The light is named after the Dutch master painter Rembrandt as he painted in a little triangle of light that appears beneath their eye on the shadowed side. The light is high and 45-degree angle to the subject.
It can create a very dramatic and moody light.

Split lighting
This is where the client’s face is lit from one side.
Again, this is a very dramatic portrait. You need to make it very soft for it to be complimentary but a creative technique.

If you want to find out more and try these out, book onto our LIoP Portrait course and our LIoP Fashion studio course.