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 http://www.barrypage.co.uk/ 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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