6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer (and Filmmaker) Should Know

Darlene Hildebrandt covers six types of portrait lighting that you can use as a portrait photographer or for shooting your close-ups.

In classical portraiture there are several things you need to control and think about to make a flattering portrait of your subjects, including: lighting ratio, lighting pattern, facial view, and angle of view. I suggest you get to know these basics inside out, and as with most things, then you can break the rules. But if you can nail this one thing you’ll be well on your way to great people photos. In this article we’re going to look at lighting pattern: what is it, why it’s important, and how to use it. Perhaps in another future article, if you enjoy this one, I’ll talk about the other aspects of good portraiture.

Lighting pattern I’d define as, how light and shadow play across the face to create different shapes. What shape is the shadow on the face, in simple terms. There are four common portrait lighting patterns, they are:

There are also Broad and Short lighting which are more of a style, and can be used with most of the patterns above. Let’s look at each of them individually.

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