4 Basic Studio Lighting Techniques for Portraits

In order to take the perfect portrait, the right studio lighting is crucial. Lighting can have a slimming effect and can allow shadows to accentuate different facial features. It is extremely important to know how to use lighting to create these effects and apply them in order to take great portraits. Here are a few simple studio lighting techniques to use for portraits:

Paramount lighting

Paramount lighting is also known as “butterfly lighting” because of the butterfly shaped shadow that is created below the nose. This technique is often used for more feminine or fashion portraits because of the emphasis created on the cheekbones and the slimming effect it has on the face.

This studio lighting technique is achieved by placing the main light directly in front of the subject but higher than the camera to create that butterfly shaped shadow under the nose. Reflectors and rim lights can also be used to fill in darker shadows and light the hair.

Loop lighting  

Loop lighting is very similar to paramount lighting with a few variations. It is called loop lighting because of the loop shaped shadow created at an angle of the nose. This type of studio lighting is often used for subjects with average oval faces.

To set up this studio lighting technique, the main light is lowered and moved toward the side of the subject’s face to create the loop shaped shadow. This shadow really should not drop any lower than the subject’s lip. A fill light can also be used to illuminate the face but make sure that it is not creating any conflicting shadows with the main light.

Split lighting

Split lighting illuminates half the face splitting it into half shadow and half light. This studio lighting technique is used when a dramatic or mysterious effect is wanted and is great for slimming wide faces or noses.

The main light is moved lower than most other studio lighting techniques but is also moved farther to the side of the subject’s face. By using no other studio lights, you will create a very dramatic split but the use of reflectors or fill lights can soften the shadow a bit.

Rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt lighting is a studio lighting technique that really emphasizes texture and mixes both light and shadow. It is characterized by one side of the face being very bright and a triangle shaped highlight on the opposite cheek.

Similar to split lighting, the main light is moved lower and farther to the side of the subject’s face. The triangular highlight can be adjusted using a reflector if need be.