The Halo Light

by William Lulow

The next lighting setup is called the “Halo Light.” It is achieved by placing the light behind the subject in such a way as to make the shadow of the subject fall directly on the camera lens. It creates a “glow” around the subject and, combined with a main light in the front, can produce a dramatic effect. Here is what the Halo Light, by itself looks like:

HaloLight I sometimes use this setup effectively while shooting weddings or portraits outdoors. I position the subject(s) with their backs to the sun. This lets the sun create the halo. It can also work with an additional strobe or speedlight placed behind the subject. But without some sort of light to light up the faces, they would all be in shadow like the shot above. So, I need to place a light or a reflector in front of the subject. This is an example of this kind of lighting setup:


This image was made using a strobe placed on a light stand behind the subjects as a halo light and a portable flash in front to fill in the shadows. This kind of set up can be used to simulate sunlight when there is none, but it is not a particularly “natural” look. So, use it judiciously. It works better in a church wedding situation because it tends to give some light to the background as well:


When the light source is behind the subject, you have to be careful to keep the lens in the shade, otherwise you will get some lens flare. If I use the sun as the Halo light source, I position myself in the shade and let my subjects stand in the sunlight. Or, I can create shade by using an umbrella to shade my lens. Indoors, of course, just make sure that the camera doesn’t “see” the light source.