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500px ISO » Unbelievable Photography » Back to Basics: Four Classic Portrait Lighting Techniques Explained

February 9, 2015

One of our January editors said yesterday that a great portrait, “penetrates [your subject’s] character to reach their essence.” But before you can start capturing your subject’s ‘essence,’ you have to learn how to light their ‘face.’

This short 500px tutorial video put together by Tighe Brothers Productions at our offices in Toronto is about that first part. It takes you back to basics by covering four simple and classic one-light portrait setups that will never steer you wrong.

Master these, check back for a basics of posing tutorial coming soon, and strive to form a genuine connection with your subject — do those three things and you’ll be well on your way to capturing beautiful portrait photography.

Examples of Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting gets its name from famed Dutch painter Rembrandt, who often used this kind of lighting in his work. It requires minimal gear but can produce beautiful results. It’s also a very ‘standard’ type of portrait lighting, so if you’re just getting started, you’ll definitely want this in your tool box.

Examples of Split Lighting

Split lighting is all about drama. By moving the light over to one side, you’ll cast half of your subject’s face in shadow of varying intensity. This can range from complete darkness, to something much more subtle.

Examples of Broad Lighting

Broad lighting is more of a style than a specific setup; in other words: rembrandt lighting can be “broad” or “short.” Broad means that your subject’s face is turned a bit off-center, and the broader side (turned towards the camera) is in the light. As Brian explains in the video, it’s a great way to hide wrinkles, and is often thought of as more ‘masculine.’

Examples of Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting is the classic beauty lighting technique. Great for high cheek bones and named for the butterfly pattern shadow that forms below the nose when it’s used, this will yield gorgeous “glamour” shots:

via 500px ISO » Unbelievable Photography » Back to Basics: Four Classic Portrait Lighting Techniques Explained.


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