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Portrait Photography Lighting Setups


Portrait photography is a popular genre that focuses on capturing the essence and personality of individuals. Lighting plays a crucial role in creating compelling portraits. In this article, we will explore various lighting setups that can elevate your portrait photography to the next level.

Main Light Sources

When setting up your lighting, you have several options for the main light source. The most common ones are natural light, studio strobes, and continuous lights. Natural light can create beautiful, soft portraits, especially during golden hours. Studio strobes provide powerful and adjustable light, while continuous lights offer constant illumination for a more cinematic look.

1. Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting is a classic portrait lighting setup that creates a triangle-shaped light on one side of the face, with the opposite side in shadow. This setup adds depth and dimension to your portraits, and it works well for dramatic and moody shots.

2. Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting is named after the butterfly-shaped shadow it creates under the subject’s nose. It involves placing the main light source directly in front and above the subject’s face, resulting in even and flattering illumination. This setup is commonly used in beauty and fashion photography.

3. Split Lighting

Split lighting is achieved by positioning the main light source to one side of the subject, creating a clear division between light and shadow. This setup creates a strong contrast and can be used to convey a sense of mystery or drama in your portraits.

4. Loop Lighting

Loop lighting is characterized by a small loop-shaped shadow under the subject’s nose. It is achieved by placing the main light source slightly to the side of the subject’s face, between 30 to 45 degrees from the camera. This setup produces a flattering and natural-looking result.

5. High Key Lighting

High key lighting is a bright and even lighting setup commonly used in portrait photography. It involves using multiple light sources to eliminate shadows, resulting in a clean and crisp look. This setup is ideal for capturing a soft and ethereal mood.


Experimenting with different lighting setups is essential for developing your portrait photography skills. By understanding the characteristics and effects of various lighting techniques, you can create stunning and captivating portraits. Remember to consider the mood and style you want to convey and adjust your lighting accordingly. With practice and creativity, you can master the art of portrait photography lighting setups and produce extraordinary images.