Good lighting is crucial for capturing stunning portraits. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, understanding the different lighting techniques can greatly enhance your portrait photography skills. In this article, we will explore various lighting setups and techniques that will help you create beautiful and captivating portrait photographs.

1. Natural Light

One of the simplest and most accessible sources of light is natural light. When shooting portraits outdoors, take advantage of the soft and diffused light during the golden hours – the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. This natural light provides a warm and flattering glow that can bring out the best in your subjects. Position your subject facing the light source, or use reflectors to bounce the light and fill in shadows.

2. Studio Lighting

Studio lighting allows for complete control over the lighting environment. There are various types of studio lights to choose from, including strobes, continuous lights, and LED panels. Strobes offer powerful bursts of light, while continuous lights provide a constant and steady source. LED panels are versatile and can be adjusted for different intensities and color temperatures.

When using studio lighting, consider the key light, fill light, and hair light. The key light is the main source of light and is typically placed at a 45-degree angle to the subject. The fill light helps reduce shadows and is positioned on the opposite side of the key light. The hair light adds depth and separates the subject from the background.

3. Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting is a classic technique that creates a triangular highlight on one side of the face. To achieve this dramatic effect, place the key light slightly above the subject and at a 45-degree angle. This lighting technique adds depth and dimension to portraits, emphasizing the facial features.

4. Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting, also known as paramount lighting, is often used for capturing elegant and glamorous portraits, particularly in the fashion industry. It involves placing the key light directly in front of the subject and slightly above eye level. This creates a shadow under the nose that resembles a butterfly shape, hence the name.

5. Broad and Short Lighting

Broad and short lighting techniques are variations of portrait lighting that can dramatically alter the mood and shape of a subject’s face. Broad lighting involves positioning the main light source towards the front of the subject’s face, emphasizing the larger side. Short lighting, on the other hand, positions the main light towards the side of the face, highlighting the smaller side.

Experimenting with different lighting techniques can help you develop your own unique style and create visually interesting portraits. Remember to consider the mood, style, and personality of your subject when choosing the appropriate lighting setup.


Understanding and utilizing different lighting techniques is essential for capturing captivating portraits. Whether you prefer natural light or want to explore the creative possibilities of studio lighting, mastering the art of lighting can greatly enhance your portrait photography skills. So go ahead, experiment, and create stunning portraits that leave a lasting impression.