6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know

6 portrait lighting patterns every photographer should know – There are so many patterns in portrait lighting photography. Lighting is one of the main reasons for portrait photography. It’s not just all about making your model pose and simply click the shutter. There’s so much more to it. Manipulating light is a fundamental skill to master. To ensure the quality of your portrait photography, you’ll need several techniques, including different types of light sources, unique styles, and some lighting patterns. Here you will get to know the basics inside out, and hopefully, you’re going to nail the significant trends in portrait photography.


1. Split Lighting

Split lighting often gives the feeling of power and conviction, but not everyone’s face can handle it because the intense side light brings out all the texture of the skin. With this setup, you may have to make small adjustments. Like half an inch, either way can make a difference.


One of the top techniques of portrait lighting photography is split lighting. It produces a sense of drama to a portrait. This technique makes half of the subject’s face lit, and the other half is left dark. This kind of photography is just a way to add a distinctive look and sense to a photograph.


Split lighting photography may not be as popular as the others, but comparatively, it’s an easy pattern to set up. You will have to place the light source at 90 degrees to the side of the subject, and this will put the other side into shadow. The face would be split exactly in half when you see from the camera.


2. Loop Lighting

Techniques like loop lighting can make all the difference to your result because you will need to portray your subject in the best possible light you’ve got. It’s generally caused by creating a small shadow of the subject’s noses on their cheeks. The shadow of the nose and that of the cheek do not touch. It’s easy to create and flatters most people.


To create loop lighting in portrait photography, the standard rule is that the light source should be a little higher than the eye level and about 45 degrees from the camera. You must angle the light source down, just the perfect amount to get the size of the shadow you are looking for.

Loop lighting is a commonly used lighting technique for portrait photography. You will need to understand the amount of light which will suit your subject.

3. Rembrandt Lighting

Now we are going to talk about the Rembrandt lighting technique in portrait photography. Rembrandt lighting is named after the famous Dutch painter ‘Rembrandt.’ This lighting technique is much more different from the others. It generates a triangle of light on the cheek.


To create this technique, you must use one light and a reflector or, in some cases, two lights. Make sure the eye on the shadow side of the face has light in it. Your subject should be slightly away from the light source. Faces with prominent cheekbones and larger noses are the best for Rembrandt lighting photography.


This lighting technique is usually more dramatic. It creates more mood and a darker sense of your image. Unlike the other methods, this is not an easy pattern to create. You know what they say, ‘practice makes everything perfect”. Keep practicing and experimenting. Use the technique correctly.


4. Butterfly lighting

If you are into photography, you must have heard about the technique, which is Butterfly lighting. This technique is often used for glamorous style shots and to generate shadows under cheeks and chin. It is also called Clamshell lighting.


For using this technique, you need to shoot underneath the light source, which means the light source should be placed above the head of the subject. Butterfly technique creates a butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose of the subject. Sometimes you may use a reflector in front of the subject. It indicates wrinkle less than the side lighting of older subjects.


You can’t create this technique by using window lights with a reflector alone. It takes a little bit of a challenge to make this technique work in portrait photography. Studio lighting techniques are not easy to create every time you click portrait photographs. You will need an appropriate sense of lighting as well as the placement of the subjects.


5. Broad Lighting

If I were to give my opinion, broad lighting is the easiest of every portrait lighting pattern I know. This lightning style is just a style of lighting. It is sometimes used for “high key” portraits. Broad light makes the subject’s face look full. It adds roundness to the subject’s face or whatever you try to put in the frame. Broad lighting provides more contrast than other lighting patterns like butterfly lighting.


While creating this technique, you need to place your subject close to the window or door and ask them to turn away from the light source. Depending on the depth of shadow or angles, it will visually remove the too thin look. You will need to make one side of your subject turned more towards the camera. It’s just going to make your subject’s face look broader.


It’s not the right style of lighting to use more significant subjects with rounder faces. It is more suitable for something that has a very slim face of widening it. Feel free to experiment with fill light. You may also emphasize the shadows and contrast for darker and bolder portraits. Just make sure you have your subject’s face posed away from the light source.


6. Short Lighting

The last portrait lighting patterns we have here is Short lighting. Short lighting technique is just the opposite of broad lighting technique. In this case, the face of the subject is turned towards the light source. It will make a face narrow and throw the broad side of the face in shadow. It usually provides massive contrast, and it is useful when you are trying to create images with a lot of depth.


This technique is trickier to set up than broad lighting. You will need to start with your light source 45 degrees to your subject. The shadowed side of the face is closer to the camera. You will just have to keep in mind that your subject should have a shadow on the more significant part of the face.


Though short lighting is slightly trickier than broad lighting, it’s not that hard to accomplish. It is more sculpting, and it adds 3D qualities to your portraits, which can be slimming and pleasing for most people. The most amazing part of this technique is you can visually slim down your subject’s face. So, that’s all for a short lighting technique.




It is much easier to change the lighting patterns if you can move the light source. If you can’t move the light source, then you must change the positions of your subject, which does not sound a tough job, does it? You must study your subject’s face first and then decide which pattern suits the most for your portrait photography. Studio lighting techniques are widespread, and professional photographers use them rapidly. If you keep practicing and experimenting, you will eventually learn how to adjust lighting for the face.


The lighting style you choose is up to you, but make sure to challenge yourself a little now and then. It is a fun process because photography is a passion that you are following. You will gain new skills every day, which will help you to become a better photographer. You will need to put in the work to become a true master at face lighting. You are now aware of the leading 6 techniques of lighting for portrait photography. Your portrait photography will dramatically improve almost overnight. Make your unique portfolio.



6 portrait lighting patterns every photographer should know

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