Creating dramatic lighting patterns is easy to do with a strobe. You can be very deliberate with your strobe placement to mold the light and shadows, but investing in lighting gear isn’t for everyone. Thankfully you can mold natural light with your surrounding environment… and it’s free! I think almost everyone knows how to pull off flat light and back light, but there are six more lighting patterns that every portrait photographer should know how to achieve. I converted all these images to black and white so you can better see the light and shadows.
No.01Split Light (Side Light)
Shadows: Split half and half. Sometimes called side light. It’s the easiest to achieve, especially indoors. It creates an image that is split between light and shadow. I also love this lighting pattern for food photography. Read more: Split lighting made easy with 5 steps. Just set your subject parallel to a single light source and shoot.
Shadows: Similar to split light except a small triangle of light on shadowed side of the face. This is one of my favorites for moody or very dramatic portraits. Rembrandt lighting leaves a triangle shape of light below the eye on one side of the face. Position your subject slightly below your light source at a 45 degree angle. I positioned her right below the window and bounced a little light back with a reflector.
Shadows: Shadow on the side closest to the camera This is my favorite lighting pattern and especially easy to do with kids. Simply set your subject at a 45 degree angle towards a single light source, like a window.
Shadows: Shadow on the side farthest from the camera Very easy light pattern to achieve and basically the opposite of short light. Set your subject 45 degrees away from your light source so the light illuminates the entire side of the face closest to the camera.
Shadows: Below and to one side of the face. This type of light is flattering for portraits. Similar to short light except the light source is higher. You’ll notice the shadows to the right and right below her nose giving it a little more depth. The light source needs to be slightly higher than your subject. Then have your subject face the light source somewhere between 30-40 degrees
No.06Butterfly Light (Beauty Light)
Shadow: Directly below nose. This is another very flattering light pattern for portraits and consider it flat light’s prettier sister. This light pattern is also called beauty light. It does a great job at smoothing skin. Butterfly light is also really fantastic for newborn photography. Position your subject directly in front of your light source with the light angled slightly downwards.