A studio doesn’t need to be big with lots of lights and backdrops. You can create a studio at home with a sheet to use as a background and a lamp. However, softboxes can be purchased inexpensively and will give you a lot more flexibility with your lighting.
One of the best things about working in a studio is you have full control of the lighting; the direction, brightness and colour of light can be manipulated for effect. It is fun and you can be very creative.
Some of the lighting styles might suit some faces more than others, so it is important to choose a style that is the most flattering for your subject. Split lighting is dramatic and more masculine and it suits men very well where the clamshell or butterfly styles are perfect for a woman. Rembrandt style suits faces with high or prominent cheek bones.
Here are nine different lighting styles, all done with one or two softboxes and sometimes a reflector. A flash hasn’t been used in any image. The images show how you can get completely different looks just by positioning lights.
Split lighting splits the face into equal halves with one side being in the light, and the other in shadow.
Split lighting is used to create dramatic images for things such as a portrait of a musician or an artist and tends to be a more masculine pattern.
To create split lighting simply put the light source 90 degrees to the left or right of the subject, and possibly even slightly behind their head.
Loop lighting is made by creating a small shadow of the subject’s noses on their cheeks. In loop lighting the shadow of the nose and that of the cheek do not touch.
Loop light is probably the most common or popular lighting pattern as it is easy to create and flatters most people.
To create loop lighting, the light source must be slightly higher than eye level and about 30-45 degrees from the camera.
Rembrandt lighting is identified by the triangle of light on the cheek, the shadow of the nose and cheek meet which creates that trapped little triangle of light on the cheek.
Not every face is ideal for Rembrandt lighting. If they have high or prominent cheek bones it will work. If they have a small nose it may be difficult to achieve.
To create Rembrandt lighting the subject must turn slightly away from the light which is angles at about 45°. The light high so that the shadow from their nose falls down towards the cheek.
Butterfly lighting creates a butterfly shaped shadow under the nose.
Butterfly lighting is most often used for glamour shoots and to create shadows under the cheeks and chin. It is also flattering for older subjects as it de-emphasizes wrinkles.
Butterfly lighting is created by having the light source directly behind the camera and slightly above eye or head level of the subject.
Broad lighting produces a larger area of light on the face, and a shadow on the side which appears smaller.
Broad lighting makes a person’s face look broader and can be used on someone with a very slim face to widen it. Most people however want to look slimmer, so this type of lighting would not be appropriate for someone who is heavier or round faced.
To create broad lighting the subject’s face is slightly turned away from the camera and the side of the face which is toward the camera is in the light
Short lighting puts the side of the face turned towards the camera in more shadow.
Short lighting is often used for low key, or darker portraits. It puts more of the face in shadow, is more sculpting and is slimming and flattering for most people.
In short lighting, the face is turned towards the light source putting the shadow on the largest part of the face.
Underlighting can give a dark, dramatic effect and will help to sculpt a subject’s face.
Underlighting is dramatic and more so if the subject is wearing darker colours. This lighting style can help to stereotype the subject, a villainess for example.
Place the light directly in front of the subject, angling it up to hit the face.
Doubleback lighting is a two-light setup that helps to emphasize shadows.
Depending on the power and modifier used, the shadows can range from very harsh, which works for chiselling a man’s face, to soft gently outlining and enhancing the subject’s features.
For this type of lighting setup, place two lights behind the subject, one on each side.
Clamshell lighting is a form of beauty lighting that pretty much eliminates shadows on a subject’s face as the lights are positioned to cancel out the shadows.
Clamshell lighting is generally used to emphasize natural beauty or to highlight makeup. It suits all faces.
A light is placed in front of and just above the subject aiming down on the subject’s face. A reflector is placed just below the face aimed up onto the face.
Enjoy working on your studio lighting.