When it comes to portrait lighting there are many different styles Clamshell, Beauty, Three point, Rembrandt … They all have their own unique characteristics which play a large part in the mood of your image. I’ve been looking for lighting inspiration everywhere over the years from cinema to graphic novels and of course, the Grand Masters Caravaggio who uses hard light with deep dark shadows in his development of Chiaroscuro, Rembrandt who is known for the triangle of light on the unlit side of the face under the eye and of course Vemeer known for that soft cross light that beautifully transitions across he face. I have to admit to being a little bewitched by Vermeer’s work at the moment, The Girl with a pearl earring, The Milkmaid, Girl Interrupted at her Music. Vermeer’s understanding of light in these works is a thing of beauty and easy to get lost in, So I wanted to see if I could borrow a little from these works and use it in my portraits.
Okay so on the face of things this is a very simple lighting setup. I shot against an old mottled backdrop and I used a 50mm lens at F1.8 ( Canon nifty fifty ) The subject was lit with a Canon Speedlite and a shoot through umbrella – Just out of shot camera left, The shoot through umbrella gives a really soft light when this close, There is also a bare bulb Speedlite as a hair light which I had at it’s the lowest power and with some Neutral density to reduce it further.
I find the most important thing with this lighting is where the shadow lies, You want the light to start to fall off very gradually just after the eye, This brings a sense of depth, almost allowing the viewer to believe it is a three dimensional image, I really like this natural soft light and how it creates mood in a subtle way, I will definitely be using this more in the near future.
If you want to find out more about lighting you can look at my video on Rembrandt light below. As always happy shooting and feel free to comment, Adrian