Seeing Rembrandt lighting and then creating it

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/500

This morning while eating breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo, Hawaii, I noticed what appeared to be a mother and daughter together. After analyzing the photograph, I know it caught my eye because of the lighting on the mother’s face.

We call Rembrandt lighting, named after the famous painter known for using this lighting technique in many of his paintings.

Ken’s House of Pancakes Around the Island Trip

There is a little triangle of light on the dark side of the face when the light is 45º to the subject’s side and 45º above the issue.

Tomorrow the students in the class will learn how to create the triangle on a person’s cheek to create Rembrandt lighting. Rembrandt lighting is my first lesson in lighting, which I think is a great place to start.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, , ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200–four Alienbees

To get this triangle, the students will use a similar setup to this shot. For this shot, I used four lights. The students will only use one.

They will use just one light with a spot grid on it.

Here is the assignment they will get tomorrow. How about you try it yourself?

Rembrandt Lighting Assignment

I gave the class an assignment on making a Rembrandt light portrait using just one light with a 10º or 20º spot grid.

Most of the class has never even turned on a studio strobe before.

Here is the assignment:

SOP 1 Studio Shots

Rembrandt’s portrait uses one grid light


Please get the best possible expression. For example, it would be best if you saw a triangle on their cheek. Be sure the triangle includes lighting their eye.

Monobloc with 10 or 20-degree grid
You may use any power setting you choose. Be sure skin tone is exposed correctly and correct white balance.

Choose the lowest ISO setting for your camera. For example, use a portrait lens of 85mm – 100mm; if you don’t have a full frame, then 50mm will be OK.

You may use a black background as well. No other lights are to be used in this assignment.

Here is one of the students shot from the past:

Photo by: Lauren R. Tercero