Studio: Patterns in hard light

In studio portrait photography, there are four main patterns: butterfly, split, loop and Rembrandt. The latter three are demonstrated here. (Butterfly, which I’ll show next week, is straight on, with a butterfly shadow thrown just below the nose.) These portraits were shot using ‘hard’ light, in order to demonstrate more vividly the shadow effects. Soft light is more usual in portraits however. The featured image was shot from a lower vantage point, in order to give the subject a more commanding presence. Shooting straight on, or even from a higher point, makes a subject seem more approachable.

  1. Loop: The shadow from the nose loops slightly to one side or the other, with the light source above the subject and to one side.
  2. Split: The light is split down the centre of the face between light and dark, by lighting from the side.
  3. Rembrandt: Named after the artist because this is how he liked to light his portraits, the shadows of the nose and the cheek join to create a triangle of light below the left eye. Ideally, the eye above the triangle of light should have a ‘catch’ light in it. (I managed to achieve the catch in the second ‘split’ portrait, but not in the Rembrandt lighting. Often, the ability to do this is determined by the subject’s physiognomy and a failure can be corrected in processing.)



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