Friday, January 17, 2014

Day Five, Learning Five: Classic Lighting

The Four Classic Lighting Patterns:  Butterfly, Loop, Rembrandt, Split.

There are four basic or classic lighting set-ups.  The terms refer to the shadow created by the main or “key” light.  In order to reduce the severity of shadows, there is often a fill light for the shadows, and a rim or hair light to help separate the model from the background.  I’ve ordered the light patterns here:

Butterfly:  the light is “on axis” with the camera, typically slightly above the camera at a 15 to 30 degree angle, but also right around the lens as circle light.


Loop:  Here the light is 15-40 degrees to one side of the model, and slightly above the eye line.  Go to high, and you create ugly shadows in the eye socket.  In Loop lighting, the shadow of the nose does not touch the shadow of the cheek.

 Here is an example of a fairly subtle loop lighting.  The shadow barely moves camera right; the flash is probably 15 degrees off axis.
Rembrandt:  now the light is 45-75 degrees to the side.  The shadow of the nose merges with the shadow of the cheek, creating a small triangle on the cheekbone.  Often the far side eye is in darkness.

Split:  This is light directly from 90 degrees to the side of the model and lights just half her face.  Sometimes you’ll see dual split lighting-- with the key and fill light to either side.
A little deeper into the classic light patterns:  Usually, the fill light is on axis for loop and Rembrandt lighting.  This allows for the most natural look.  Move the fill light to the side and it becomes more dramatic.

 Here's an example of Split Lighting from the sun:
You can see that the sun is just shy of 90 degrees... probably closer to 85, but his face is clearly divided down the middle.  Here's another, more subtle example:

This image is from a runway event using natural light.  She has a bank of windows camera right acting as the key light, and there's another set of windows behind me creating gradual shading on the left side of her face.

If this is new to you, set up your lights and practice.  See where the shadow falls.  Each face is different-- the height of the cheekbones and the depth of the eye sockets are huge factors in where, exactly, you can position the light.  Remember, you want to see a catch light in the eyes (preferably both eyes).

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