Needed for this class

  • Camera or cameraphone
  • A window w/daylight
  • A model if possible or you can take self-portraits

Portrait Lighting Styles

There are a 5 basic lighting styles for portrait photography. Each style is defined by how light falls on the face. The examples below were all shot with lights in a studio but you can replicate these patterns with window light.

  1. Rembrandt Light – the model is face forward, main light is at 45 degrees and casts a light on the opposite side of the face to form a triangle on the cheek.

Rembrandt Lighting
Michael B. Jordan. Photographer: Peggy Sirota

2. Broad Light-model’s face in 3/4 view-light falls on the side of the face with the visible ear. Good for controlling the reflections on glasses.

Danny Devito. Photographer: Gregory Heisler.

3. Short Light-model’s face is in 3/4 view, the light falls on the side of the face with the features. (Not on the side with the visible ear.)

Both of these are examples of short light.

Chadwick Boseman. Photographer: Caitlin Cronenburg

4. Butterfly Light, Clamshell or beauty or glamour light-model is face forward, front light.

Tyra Banks. Photographer: Matthew Jordan Smith

5. Split Light-model is face forward, the main light is at 90 degrees to the camera and falls on one side of the face. 

Lewis Wickes Hine (U.S.A., 1874–1940), One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mfg. Co. N.C. December 1908.

When we shoot portraits in the studio, we can move the lights around the model. When shooting a portrait with a window, we have to ask the model to move their position in relation to the window.

This video shows how to use a window to create Rembrandt, split, broad and short light.

And while not exactly a portrait, window light is terrific for creating silhouettes.

To create a silhouette, have the subject stand close to the window and aim the camera towards the window. Set the exposure for what is outside the window so the subject is very underexposed.

Eleanor and Barbara. Chicago. 1954. Photographer: Harry Callahan.


Lab Exercises

Please complete the following lab exercises, creating a post on Openlab with the category indicated to share your results.

Homework Assignment

Final Project