Before cameras were invented, people had their pictures “taken” via portraits painted by artists. As with pictures taken with a camera, painted portraits required good lighting. The artist Rembrandt van Rijn favored a specific type of lighting that favored side-lighting and a three quarters view of the face . This type of lighting is still used in portraits taken with cameras. It is called “Rembrandt” or “Old Masters” lighting.
Rembrandt lighting is a combination of two other studio lighting techniques: short lighting and butterfly lighting . In short lighting, you use the main light to shine on the side of the face that is away from the camera . In butterfly lighting, the main light is positioned directly in front of the subject’s face in such a way that a shadow is formed just under the subject’s nose. To achieve Rembrandt lighting, position the main light high and focus it on the side of the face that is turned away from the camera.
You will know that you have positioned the camera properly if a triangle of light is displayed on the short side of the subject’s face. The short side of the face is the face that is turned away from the camera. Achieving the triangle of light requires you to adjust the angle of the main light that is positioned high and focused on the short side of the face. Adjust the light so that the shadow of the subject’s nose connects to the shadow on the short side of the face. If the shadow of the subject’s nose does not connect to the shadow of the short side of the subject’s face, then the lighting is not considered proper Rembrandt lighting; it is short lighting.