Rembrandt Lighting Technique

This simple style of portrait lighting is identified by a triangle of light on one cheek. It was of course named after Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn, the 17th Century painter, who used this style in many of his paintings.

A Bearded Man in a Cap National Portrait Gallery

In this style, the shadow caused by the nose touches the shadow caused by the cheek creating a small bright triangle that is about the same size as the subject’s eye and nose respectively.

When using this style of lighting it is important to create a catchlight in both eyes otherwise the eye on the shadow side will appear a little lifeless.

It is best to turn the model away from the light slightly and ensure that the light is higher than the model so that the shadow from the person’s nose drops towards the cheek.

The lighting diagram shows a set up for recreating the Rembrandt lighting technique but the window can be replaced by a studio light, and some people will use a reflector to add some highlight and texture to the shadow side of the face.

Rembrandt Lighting

This is my photograph of a classmate using the Rembrandt style of lighting. The triangle is extended a little longer than the nose, but all in all it isn’t a bad attempt.


In the two parts of this video, Rankin takes inspiration from Rembrandt and tries to recreate four of his paintings. He doesn’t refer to the detail of this style of lighting particularly but it is a very interesting video to watch.