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Studio photography lighting techniques: 7 ways to shoot great photos

There are several studio photography lighting techniques that photographers adopt to create various moods, atmospheres, and effects in the images. Some commonly used types include split, loop, Rembrandt, butterfly, broad, short, and back lighting. In this article, we will dive into these lighting techniques, telling what it is and how to achieve it.

Split lighting: It emphasizes facial features and creates a dramatic look in studio photography

Split lighting: It emphasizes facial features and creates a dramatic look in studio photography

This technique highlights just half of a subject's face while keeping the other side in the shade. This produces a dramatic effect that emphasizes the subject's facial features and can be utilized to give a dramatic, even mysterious look.

How to achieve:

Position the light source like LED lights for photography studio at 90° to the subject.

To enhance the contrast between dark and highlight, raise the brightness of the light source or bring it closer to your subject while reducing the illumination that strikes the shadow side.

To reduce contrast, dim the fixture, move it away from the subject, and/or use a reflector to fill in the shadows.

Loop lighting: It casts a loop shaped shadow under subject’s nose

This is also one of the studio photography lighting techniques named for the shadow cast on the subject's face. It is named after the "loop" shaped shadow cast by the subject's nose. When used properly, loop lighting casts a circle-shaped shadow under and to the opposite side of the light.

How to achieve:

Place a soft light source (such as diffused sunshine, a flash, or continuous light) at a 45-degree angle to your subject, just above the eye level and slightly down.

Adjusting the angle and height can alter the look of the shadows, so experiment until you are satisfied with the effect.

Adding a reflector or fill light on the side opposite your subject can soften shadows.

Rembrandt lighting: A studio photography lighting technique to create dramatic visual effect without lots of setup

Rembrandt lighting is studio photography lighting technique to create dramatic visual effect without lots of setup

Rembrandt is the name of the Dutch painter who used this type of lighting in several of his portraits. Similar to loop lighting, this studio photography lighting technique has a unique triangle of light generated where the shadows of the nose and cheekbones meet on one cheek.

How to achieve:

Set your light to illuminate the subject at a small angle of 30°, just over their head and pointing downward. To highlight your subject's eyes and fit their face, change the light's height and angle. If your subject is in front of a fixed ambient light source, like a window, move them around until the same effect is achieved.

Diffuse the illumination with a softbox, scrim, umbrella, or sheer curtain (if utilizing a window) for smoother shadow edges.

Consider adding a grid to your modifier for more harsh shadow edges. You may even attempt to use no modifier at all.

Position a reflector or dimmer second light on the other side of your subject to fill in shadow details.

Butterfly lighting: Ideal option for glamor and beauty photography

Butterfly lighting is identified by the shadow it casts behind the subject's nose, which resembles a butterfly, and by the delicate shadows it casts beneath the chin and cheekbones. It shapes the face's shape and produces soft, even lighting, making it perfect for glamor and beauty shots.

How to achieve:

Position a strobe (modified with a softbox or beauty dish) or a big LED ring light just above and slightly behind the camera. Adjust the height until it gives catchlights in the eyes of your subject. Adjust the distance between the light and subject can create more or less contrast.

Position a reflector or little softbox underneath the camera with the base inclined slightly upward toward your subject if you're going for a softer, higher-key appearance.

Broad lighting: A studio photography lighting technique perfect for highlighting cheeks or broadening a narrow face

Any lighting techniques in studio photography - split, loop, or Rembrandt - where the face's brightest side is closer to the camera is referred to as broad lighting. This lighting method works well for high-key photographs because it highlights the main portion of the face. It is perfect for highlighting cheeks or broadening a narrow face since it effectively broadens the front half of the face.

How to achieve:

Angle your subject away from the primary light source and picture them from the bright side of the face.

Short lighting: It features a slimming effect to suit most portrait shots

This is the antithesis of broad lighting. It refers to any lighting style - split, loop, Rembrandt - in which the darker half of the face is more tilted toward the camera. Because it casts the majority of the face in shadow, it is ideal for low-key photographs. This portrait studio photography lighting technique has a slimming effect, which makes it suitable for most faces.

How to achieve:

Take a picture of the subject from the shadow side, with the subject angled toward the primary light source.

Back lighting: It helps define the subject in studio photography and outdoor shooting

Backlighting, as the name implies, is one of the studio photography lighting techniques to illuminate the subject directly from behind. It is sometimes referred to as rim, hair, or edge lighting. When using backlighting in film and photography skillfully, it can produce a brilliant outline, or "rim light". This may assist define your subject, whether you're shooting outside at golden hour or in a studio.

How to achieve:

First and the most important, the light source shouldn’t be visible in the frame. And there are two ways to choose from based on your needs.

Use only one light and expose for the highlights. This means manually basing your exposure on the brightest sections or underexposing until everything is black except for the highlights. In this way, you may silhouette your subject dramatically.

Position a softbox or reflector between your subject and the camera (out of the frame) to fill in shadows and provide a more balanced exposure (with all of your subject's features visible).