Ep 220: Classic portrait lighting styles and how to create them using daylight or flash

There are some classic lighting styles that every photographer needs to understand. And you also need to be able to create them whether you only have daylight to work with – or flash.

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss classic portrait lighting styles including beauty lighting, loop lighting, split lighting, Rembrandt lighting, short lighting, broad lighting and much more.

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Show Notes

Knowing how to manipulate light in relation to your model is a game changer. These rules apply to ALL light, daylight,flash,led,torch or light saber. If you understand light you can achieve any light style.

Using the classic portrait lighting styles is not an essential skill there are some photographers who light intuitively and that’s ok but just like knowing colour theory or composition rules it’s a great idea to be aware of them

Factors that influence lighting

  1. Quality of light (hard vs soft)
  2. Position of light in relation to your subject
  3. The amount of fill light or contrast in your image

1. Quality of light (hard vs soft)

Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia

2. Position of light in relation to your subject

How close or far your image is to your subject also influences brightness of light. (This is a no brainer)

3. The next two laws are counter intuitive:

How close or far away your subject is from the light source with influence contrast.

The size of the light source in relation to your subject will influence how soft or hard your light is.

If you want to create a low contrast image move your subject away from the light source.

1. Classic Beauty lighting

Main light is positioned directly above the model’s head

Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia


Image by Gina Milicia
Image by Gina Milicia. In this image of the cast of Underbelly I have used Loop and paramount lighting.
Image by Gina Milicia.

A variation of Beauty lighting is called loop lighting. This is basically the same setup as beauty lighting but instead of having the light in front it’s to the side slightly.

2. Split lighting

Rockstar Tommi for the Drop Bears Promo using split lighting. Image by Gina Milicia.

3. Rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt Lighting. Image by Gina Milicia.

4. Rim lighting

Kate Ritchie This is a combination of rim light (hair) and daylight lighting the face. Image by Gina Milicia
I’ve used rim lighting in this star wars parody. The rim light separates the models from the heavy background . Image by Gina Milicia
Using the sun as rim light and flash to fill in the shadows. Image by Gina Milicia.

Short and Broad lighting

Short lighting. Image by Gina Milicia.
Broad lighting. Image by Gina Milicia.
Short lighting. Image by Gina Milicia.
Broad lighting. Image by Gina Milicia.

Moody vs Flat lighting

Use moody lighting for drama to add character and depth.

Avoid moody on older female models as it’s not flattering.

Flat lighting is flattering (see what I did there)

Hard lighting can be manipulated using fill light.

Soft light can be manipulated using cutters or negative fill.

#ginachallenge #lightingstyle


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About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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