New Lighting Samples (Rembrandt Light)

by William Lulow

Here’s a great example of the REMBRANDT LIGHTING, which is the next in the series of new samples I’ve put together (with help from January):


This lighting gets its name from the old Dutch Masters (painters who lived in Holland in the 1500s). In those days, of course, there was no electricity so if a painter was doing a portrait, he often told his subjects to “go sit by the window.” Many of those houses had windows placed rather high up so that they could get the most light during the day. And, the type of light that painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer saw was the type pictured here. That’s where the name comes from. I still visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York City and visit the rooms where these painters’ works are kept, just for more inspiration!

As you can see, the Rembrandt Lighting is placed about 45 degrees to either side of the camera position and up high like the Hollywood Light. (Check where the catchlights are).  It produces a small triangle of light on the subject’s opposite cheek. It’s a very dramatic lighting that creates dark shadows on the subject’s face.

It’s often a starting point for portraits in which I try to make my own statement about the subject. Most of the time I find this lighting by itself, much too dramatic for my purposes. So, I usually fill-in the dark side with another light or maybe a white reflector card just to lighten the shadows somewhat. (More about fill-in lights later). But this type of lighting makes a statement.