Building Dramatic Photography Portrait Lighting One Light at a Time

Dan Eitreim

August 23, 2015

In portrait photography, the way to taking flattering portraits is as simple as knowing where to put the lights. There are six common techniques for portrait photography.


This is the most used technique in portrait photography. The shine of the bulbs create a loop shape on the subject’s face. It is ideal for most face types and is considered one of the most flattering patterns. This pattern uses three lights. Place the first light above the subjects head. Slowly move the light to the left side of the subject until a loop shape shadow appears on the face. The second light is aimed at the hairline and it is placed opposite the first light. Place the third light on the right side of the subject. Position it close to the camera and aim in it the same direction that the subject’s face is pointing.


Butterfly lighting is mostly used on woman. It highlights high pronounced cheekbones. It creates a butterfly shadow under the nose. Place the shine of the bulb directly in front of the face and line it up with the subject’s nose. Place a light directly under the first light. Next to those lights, place a third light and aim it at the hairline. Place a reflector on the opposite side of the camera to achieve the proper shadowing.


Spilt lighting is created with one light. Place the light to one side of the subject. Move the light up to just above eye level. It should light up half the face. The other half will be in a shadow.


This technique is used to create a small triangle on one cheek. The triangle needs to be equal to the width and length of the subject’s nose and eye. Place the light so it is facing the subject at a 45 degree angle. Raise the light so it is just above the subject’s head. Place the reflector on the opposite side of the subject. Place the camera in the middle of the light and reflector. The subject should stand and face the light. Next the subject needs to turn their head to face the camera.


The subject should sit at an angle facing the camera. Place one light to the side of the camera. It should be above the subject’s head and aimed at the closest side of the face. The second light goes on the opposite side at a 90 degree angle.


Short lighting narrows the subject’s face. Slightly angle the subject’s face to right of the camera. Point the light so it lights up the short side of the face.

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Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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