Rembrandt Lighting — How To Master The Technique

Rembrandt Lighting is a lighting technique commonly used by professionals in studio portrait photography.

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt Lighting is a lighting technique commonly used by professionals in studio portrait photography. It creates a natural look by using minimal equipment. That means it is relatively cheap and easy but results in high-quality photographs.

Rembrandt Lighting is named after a Dutch artist named Rembrandt who used this type of lighting in his paintings. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn’s work depicted a wide variety of subjects. He created portraits, landscapes, mythological scenes, and historical scenes. The way he portrayed light in his paintings inspired the way photographers take pictures today.

Read on to learn more about Rembrandt Lighting

With Rembrandt Lighting, one or two lights and a reflector is used to create a triangle or diamond shape under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face. The shape should not be any longer than the nose and no wider than the eye. However, there are photographers who ignore this rule and still consider their photographs to be classified beneath Rembrandt Lighting. 

Another name for this technique is chiaroscuro, which is a technical term used by artists to describe the strong contrasts between light and dark. In order to achieve this technique, both the key light and the reflector should be placed in front of the subject.

However, the key light should be placed high to one side of the subject (approximately five feet away from her and at an angle of forty-five degrees) and the reflector should be placed at half-height on the other side of the subject (approximately three to four feet away from her). The reflector should be set to half the power of the key light so when the subject faces the camera at an angle, the key light illuminates the far side of the face.

In order to get the best picture possible, experiment by moving the angles of the equipment and the distance of the subject until you are satisfied with the finish product. If you want to create an even greater contrast between the subject and the background, then you can try pointing a second light into the background and seeing how it looks.

If you have a studio all to yourself and plan on using this technique more than once, then you can save yourself time by marking the positions of your equipment. Place a piece of masking tape onto the area where your key light, reflector, and subject should be positioned so you do not have to measure out the distances the next time you attempt to achieve Rembrandt Lighting.

However, you should keep in mind that every face is different, which means the same exact setup will not work for every single subject. If you are going to be bringing different models into your studio, you have to be willing to experiment. You have to trust your instincts and take risks with your work in order to achieve the best results possible.

You should also keep in mind that Rembrandt Lighting works best for subjects with round faces because it slims their cheeks and adds definition to their features. Most photographers stay away from shooting subjects with long faces with this type of lighting because it can appear unflattering. There are even some artists who believe women should never be shot with Rembrandt lighting because it can make them appear masculine. However, many others disagree and have taken stunning pictures of women with the technique.

If you are interested in the art of photography, you should attempt to create a photograph with Rembrandt Lighting. It might take you a few tries to master, but if you want your photography to be taken seriously, then you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.