How To Set Up A Rembrandt Lighting

by William Lulow

The next lighting set up is called a “Rembrandt Lighting.” It is made with one light placed to the left of the subject and above the camera position. (Could be on the right side as well). It creates a triangular “window” of light under the opposite eye and lights the camera-left side of the subject. Note that the image has quite a bit of drama to it. That is because almost everything on the right side of the image is in shadow. (Can be done from camera-right as well).

Rembrandt Lighting This is a good lighting to use when you want a more “serious” effect. In portraiture, anything with dark shadows tends to be mysterious because of the lack of visual information. Again, notice where the shadows fall both on the subject and the background. Try to determine if you want more visual information and how you might achieve it. Try this setup first without taking any pictures. Move the light around until you achieve the little triangle of light under the opposite eye. Try it from both sides to see which looks better. The human face is by no means symmetrical. Each side looks different.

Again, have your subject move a bit and notice what happens to the face when the light is kept in the “REMBRANDT POSITION” but the face turns. I will come back to this technique in a later article. Try to determine when you would want to use this lighting setup. Try to “previsualize” what that picture would look like. Moving the light in small increments can create interesting visual effects. Always look at the shadows and highlights and notice what they do to the human face.

All of the “one light” setups you will learn here are dramatic lightings by their very nature. We will talk about adding additional lights to the setup in future articles.