The Edge Light

By William Lulow

The next lighting setup is called the “Edge Light.” It is created by placing a light behind the subject and off to one side – about 45 degrees off the camera axis. The effect of the Edge Light is shown in the following illustration:

EdgeLightYou can see that this light just illuminates the edge of the subject’s face. It should not spill over to any part of the front of the face at all. Below is an example of how the Edge Light is used with a Main Light (in this case a HOLLYWOOD LIGHT) to produce a desirable effect. Note the lightness of the hair:


Actually, for this shot, there were two Edge Lights set up to lighten the hair as well as to separate the subject from the background. But you can see the effect of the edge light on the left side of the subject’s hair.

In order to reproduce this highlight created by an Edge Light, the intensity of the light should be at least one f/stop brighter than the main light. Otherwise, if it is the same intensity as the main light (Hollywood Light), it would not be visible. It would just add to the overall light level.

Here is another example of just an edge light with the subject turned towards the light:


Edge lights add highlights to the overall shot. They also help separate the subject from the background. They can be used on people and/or objects.

Look at photographic portraits in which the Edge Light has been utilized effectively. Try to spot the highlights it creates.