Understanding the different lighting patterns we use in the studio

I was assisting a big name photographer in the studio today and he was very precise in his use of lighting and it was almost like having a masterclass in photography lighting.  For commercial reasons I can’t say who I was working with but let’s say he is a biggy!

His lighting was very very classical – normally a lot of the fashion guys I work with have very simple lighting setup and are more focused on the posing and styling of the model – today things were very different – he had me adjusting lighting all over the place to get the exact look he was achieving, so I though I would share his techniques and terms here:-

Fill light – this is the light we use to fill in the shadows and he was working with a lighting ratio of 2 to 1 meaning his shadows were 1 stop darker that his main light -so quite soft/grey shadows, but still giving great muscle and cheek bone definition

Key light – this si the main light that give direction to the shot and defines the lighting pattern itself.

Accent light or rim lights – typically these would be used to add an accent to a model’s hair or give some separation of the model’s clothing from the background

Rembrandt Lighting pattern – this is the famous lighting pattern taught to studio photographers world-wide – the key light is 45 degrees to the left or right and above the model – resulting in a triangular nose shadow – named after the famous painter

Butterfly lighting – this is where the key light is positioned directly in line with the models nose and above her so that the tip of the nose casts a small butterfly-shaped shadow between the bottom of the nose and the lip (see the image below)


I was inspired to go and look around the web at photographers who exploit beautiful lighting and I came across the website of Sussex Wedding Photographer Barry Page – his work which you can find on his website at is lovely and he really uses classical lighting well – I recommend having a look.

So here’s a challenge for you my lovely readers – go an study the work of Rembrandt on the web – look at how he used light in his paintings and try and emulate that in your studio shoots this week.

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Discovering the World of Portrait Photography

Portrait Photography is a field of expertise that requires real talent and practice. Although it is not defined by boundaries, the ability to captivate moments and transform them into still photos is developed when one is seriously determined to deliver messages about life and its details. Any photograph that does not hold any deeper message is less artistic.

Portrait photography focuses on an individual’s face, and requires fewer extras—just people looking at their best. And because there are lesser details when it comes to portrait photography, it is important to take the best shots in order to deliver stunning pictures. There is no need for beautiful sunsets and flowers—just the captivating face of a person framed in a still photo.

Portrait Photography TipsHere are a few beautiful portrait photography ideas that we use in the studio you can also use:

1. Framing.

Framing your subject, whether an entire face or an element of a face, is an effective technique that attracts attention towards whatever you want to highlight within your photo.

You can use a window, a doorway, or any thing that will look like a frame—even the hands of the subject.

2. Use wide-angle lenses.

Wide-angle lens enable you to take more memorable portrait photography. You can play and be creative with your shots, as those taken with wide focal lengths can be experimented with different artistic distortions. You can also take better portrait photos as you include dramatic settings in your framing by using wide-angle lens.

3. Choose different backgrounds.

Depending on the mood of the portrait photo, you can choose the most appropriate background that will emphasize or improve your output. Backgrounds can be minimalistic or dramatic and colorful, depending on what you want.

4. Take shots from different angles.

Portrait photography is not limited to horizontal and vertical framings. You can hold your camera by using a different angle in order to take a more dramatic shot. A diagonal angle makes a photo more fun and exciting.

5. Experiment with out of focus shots.

Deviate from the usual—experiment with unfocused shots in order to deliver more drama to your photo. You can focus on a different subject other than the person in your photo.

6. Show movements.

You can capture a movement in a still photo and make a story out of it. You can focus on your main subject and let the others on the background move in their normal pace.

7. Try out different facial expressions.

Serious or happy—extreme emotions make up wonderful portrait photos. Depending on what you want to achieve, play with your subject’s facial expressions.

There are a lot more things and techniques that you can experiment with when it comes to portrait photography. With the rise of taking selfies in today’s highly technological world, people have discovered a variety of styles that make portrait photographs more fun and creative. The point is to discover things that will allow you to bring out the best in all subjects by using different styles and ideas. There are no limits, so take your chances and see improving results as you see what suits you best and learn from your own experience.

There are lots more tips on portrait photography here –

Now having read all that – go watch a master at work:-

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