The 5 Most Common Key Light Patterns in Portrait Photography

We often focus on posing and expressions (for good reason), but a basic understanding of common key light patterns can make all the difference in capturing quality portraits. Let's to the 5 most common key light patterns in portrait photography.

1.Rembrandt Lighting:

The Rembrandt lighting pattern is considered a dramatic lighting effect with half the face in shadow and the other half-lit. The telltale sign result is a small upside-down triangle of light on the cheek that’s in shadow.To achieve this look, turn the subject’s face away from the light source, making one side of the face lit and the other half in shadow.Rembrandt lighting requires enough light to peak over the bridge of the nose to cast light on the cheek. The nose shadow forms one side of the triangle, while the cheek shadow creates the other.

 Rembrandt Lighting


2.Butterfly Lighting:

Butterfly lighting creates an even amount of light across the face. It’s a great lighting pattern when photographing a subject with strong cheekbones.The light source sits above and behind the camera (above the model’s eye level) to cast light downwards on the subject’s face.It creates a butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose that falls away below the cheeks on either side. With the light source behind the camera, fine wrinkles and lines minimised.In some cases, the subject can actually hold the reflector to angle light under the chin, without impacting the shadow under the nose.Butterfly lighting delivers a flattering look that removes the deep shadow that forms under the chin.

 Butterfly Lighting


3.Flat Lighting:

Flat lighting is light comes straight at the subject from the same angle as the camera lens. Flat lighting fills in shadows and creates an undramatic look. It’s typically used for headshots and editorial shots.

 Flat Lighting


4.Split Lighting:

The split lighting technique is a simple pattern that splits the face down the middle. One side of the face lights up while the other side is in shadows – with a lighting split between the two running down the middle of the nose, mouth, and chin.With split lighting, have the subject’s face at a 90-degree angle to the light to illuminate only half the face – the other half falls into shadow.Split lighting is a dramatic lighting technique that’s easy to achieve with a single light source. You should use it in conjunction with a ring light at low power to brighten both eyes, while not lighting the side of the face in shadow.Split lighting experimentation is your best teacher in achieving the right balance of light and shadow down the middle of the face. It’s also popular for achieving a mysterious chiaroscuro look.

 Split Lighting


5.Loop Lighting:

A loop light delivers a natural level of illumination with enough shadows to create depth and contrast.The light source faces the subject at a 45-degree angle so that the face lights up with soft light. The angle of the light source casts a small shadow from the nose to the cheek to create depth.The cheek that’s facing away from the light source is also partially in shadow.Unlike the Rembrandt portrait lighting setup where these two shadows meet to create a small triangle of light, the two shadows in loop lighting don’t meet under the eye.A loop lighting pattern is a form of side lighting that’s soft (as opposed to ‘hard’ light) and less dramatic, making it great for natural-looking portraits.Loop lighting is one of the more difficult techniques, but it’s for this very reason that you should give loop lighting a go!

 Loop Lighting


Well, always remember, find your style, try them out on different subjects. The more and more you practice you’ll also discover that most of the times the best style is the one that suits the subject the best. Every person has something in their features that makes them stand out. Choose the FEELWORLD's bi-color(FL225B/FL125B) and daylight (FL225D/FL125D)to build your beginner portrait photograph so that you enhance those features and you’ll always get those beauty shots!


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