46 : Rembrandt Lighting


Learning From The Greats

This week we are going to practice a very specific style of portrait lighting. Rembrandt lighting is named after the famous painter and is characterized by a triangle of light under the eye of the subject on the side of the face that is less illuminated. This dramatic lighting style creates a strong mood and a darker feel because light is coming from the side of the subject.


Rembrandt lighting can be achieved without fancy studio equipment. All you need is a window and a bit of patience!



  • Work slowly and deliberately to achieve this effect. Look at how the light hits the face in relation to the subject. Since you are not working with studio lights that you can adjust, ask the subject to turn their head or reposition themselves if necessary.

  • Even though it may be in shadow, make sure there is a catch-light in the eye on the less illuminated side. Without a catch-light, the face will appear lifeless.

  • It's important that your light is not so strong that is creates sharp shadows. Light coming from the window should be bright but not direct!

Here is how Heidi was positioned when she took the portrait of the teenager, above:


Creative Prompts

  • Use this week as a chance to practice control, rather than spontaneity.

  • Look for windows in your house that you can use to illuminate a person from the side.

  • Dramatic lighting can happen anywhere. The portrait below was created in a very small (12' x '12') room that had just one window.

Share your images!

As always, we look forward to seeing your images in the Facebook group! If you have never posted a picture, it's fine to start any time. The Facebook group is a positive, no-judgement zone. We also hope that reach out for advice or help if you need it!