Skip to content

+49 (0) 156 787 16 525

0 items


Portrait photography lighting

by Jan Hofhus 08 Dec 2021

Lighting for portrait photography: Put your portraits in the right light

Portrait photography is one of the most popular genres of photography and is associated with a high level of fascination. Good portrait photos are atmospheric and convey the essence of the person being photographed. Effective recordings can be made outdoor, for example, but the studio also offers many opportunities for professional portrait photos.

In order to take beautiful portraits, there is a large selection of aids for photographers in stores - especially for setting up portrait lighting. But although lighting is very important for portrait photography, beginners do not necessarily need an extensive arsenal of equipment. It is of great importance to know the basics of portrait lighting and to choose your equipment for portrait photography appropriately. Read here how to work properly with light when taking portraits and what you should pay attention to in this regard.

The important things first

• There are different types of lighting for portrait photography, such as daylight, clip-on flash, studio flash and continuous light.
• Not only the types of light influence the image effect, but also the set-up for the portrait lighting - that is, the position of the individual light sources.
• Depending on which lighting technology you choose, very different effects can be achieved in the portrait and you can emphasize or conceal certain areas.

What types of light are there?

First of all, it is interesting to know which types of light exist for portrait lighting. A basic distinction is made between daylight, clip-on flash, studio flash and continuous light for portrait photography.

Daylight (Available Light)

For portraits outdoors, daylight is often sufficient as a light source. Natural sunlight - possibly in addition to a reflector - makes portraits look atmospheric. Here you can experiment a lot and, for example, take portraits against the sun. A reflector ensures that the face is evenly illuminated against the somewhat burnt-out background. This creates an attractive impression.

In the photo studio, too, natural daylight can at least be used in addition to artificial light. The natural light makes the portrait look soft and atmospheric. Of course, you need a window to use the daylight. The problem is that natural light is not as controllable as artificial light. Beginners in particular often have difficulties working with the daylight. The rule here is: Practice makes perfect. Don't give up just because you can't implement your ideas right from the start. Try different set-ups and improve your result until you are satisfied.

Attachment flash

The camera's internal flash is unsuitable for portrait photography, but a clip-on flash can achieve acceptable results. It is more powerful and properly illuminates the scene in front of the camera. In addition, it offers you more flexibility than the internal flash, as it can usually be swiveled. For example, you can flash against the ceiling to provide softer lighting. The clip-on flash is ideal for small photo studios. It can be easily mounted on the camera and is immediately ready for use. Often you can also use the clip-on flash individually. Only in larger photo studios is this flash often not powerful enough.

Studio flash

In the case of a studio flash, the flash tube protrudes from the device. The light is therefore distributed in all directions. This is ideal for large photo studios. The flash can be connected to a power source and combined with different light shapers. For example, you can use softboxes, reflectors or spot attachments for your portrait lighting to specifically generate soft or hard light. Studio flashes are particularly suitable for ambitious amateur photographers or professionals, because they are designed for continuous use.

Continuous light for portrait photography

A flash only illuminates the scene at the moment of taking the picture. With a permanent light for portrait photography it is different: this light source remains switched on all the time. This is a big advantage, because you can see the effect the light has on the portrait before you take the picture. Continous Lighting can be handled flexibly and in a user-friendly manner. However, it can lead to a large amount of heat being generated in continuous operation.

Different light set-ups

Different light settings are suitable for the portrait lighting setup, with which you can get the best out of your recordings. In the next sections you will find out which light set-ups are possible for your portrait illumination.

Flat light

Flat light is the easiest option for good portrait light. The light comes directly from the front of the camera. With this lighting technology, there are hardly any shadows on the face. The complexion appears flat, the facial contours are flattened and the facial features hardly have any ups and downs. This is why the set-up is ideal if you want to correct an uneven complexion on your model. Even if you use hard light, you can take powerful photos with the flat light technique.

Paramount (butterfly light)

This lighting technique originates from film and television and was used for Hollywood productions in the 1950s. The lighting hits the person who is to be recorded from the front, but at a slightly higher level. This gives the nose a butterfly-shaped, symmetrical shadow. This is why this light set-up is also called a butterfly light. The light makes the model's eyes look expressive and highlights the cheekbones. The lips also appear fuller. The light source must not hang too high, because that would lead to dark eyes.

Split light

As the name suggests, this setting of light results in a face that looks like it's split in half. The light falls strongly from the side on the person, so that one half of the face is brightly illuminated and the other half is completely in the dark. Additional shadows can be avoided by not placing the light source too high. A light shaper that is at face level is also recommended. This light set-up makes the portrait appear dynamic and exciting. Make sure, however, that pores, skin imperfections and wrinkles become more noticeable with this lighting technique.

Broad Light

With this set-up, you illuminate the side of your face that faces the camera - i.e. the wider half of your face. The narrower side, on the other hand, disappears in the shadow. Broad Light is a softer alternative to Split Light. This set-up is particularly popular in video productions, as it mimics natural window light and movements are not a problem. With this light setting you have to make sure that the eye facing away from the camera does not get too dark and lose its highlight. A small reflector or brightener can help.

Short Light

Another possibility for a good portrait light in the studio is the short light. It's the opposite of Broad Light. You illuminate your model in such a way that the half of the face facing the camera is darkened, while the narrow side is illuminated and thus highlighted. Often you need a brightener or another light source here to avoid a shadow that is too harsh. This lighting setup in the studio is perfect for taking an exciting and impressive portrait.

Loop light

With the Loop Light, the light source is mounted centrally in front of or slightly above the model. This is then moved a little to the left or right. In this way, the nose shadow shifts to the opposite side - and looks like a loop. This rather complex lighting technology has a number of advantages: The shifting of the light to the side gives the photo tension and dynamism. One side of the nose automatically becomes dark, which gives the portrait depth and is also pleasantly skin-flattering.

Rembrandt light

The artist Rembrandt preferred dramatic light set-ups for his drawn portraits. In order to generate the Rembrandt light, you have to position the light source similar to the Loop Light - but further to the side. The loop shadow of the nose should coincide with the shadow of the cheek. On the half of the face that is turned away from the light, a small, illuminated triangle is created below the eye. This is the typical feature of Rembrandt light.

What equipment do you need for portrait photography?

Of course, beginners don't want to invest so much money to start portrait photography. However, every portrait photographer should have the following equipment for portrait photography:

The right lens

When choosing a lens, first pay attention to the focal length: For a blurred background you need a small distance to the model and a long focal length. Longer focal lengths are therefore well suited for classic portraits. A light wide-angle lens, on the other hand, is ideal if you are aiming for scenic portrait photos that also capture the surroundings. In addition, it depends on the light intensity: the further the aperture can be opened - i.e. the smaller the maximum possible aperture value - the more blurred and softer the background becomes.


An open aperture requires that you hold the camera very still. Otherwise your photo will not be in focus. It is therefore generally advisable to work with a tripod in portrait photography. It doesn't have to be an expensive tripod. A table tripod is also a good alternative for amateur photographers.

Collapsible reflector

Regardless of which light set-up and which type of light source you ultimately decide: a collapsible reflector is always recommended. This removes unsightly shadows and makes the light appear softer. Instead of a professional collapsible reflector, you can also use a sheet of white paper. Experiment with the reflector and hold it at different angles in the light to find out how it affects the portrait light.

More tips for portrait photography

In addition to portrait lighting, there are a few other tips that you should consider when taking portraits in order to get really lively and atmospheric photos:
• Interactions: Make sure that your model is always busy. Give directions or make it work with accessories.
• Assistant: Ask a friend or family member to help you with your portrait shoot. Your assistant can take care of the arrangement of the objects, keep an eye on the model's hair and take on small auxiliary work.
• Stay relaxed: If you want your model to relax, you should also appear calm and calm yourself. Show that you enjoy the shoot and enjoy your work. Then your model will also relax - and that is the best basic requirement for great and impressive pictures.
• Change perspective: In portrait photography, perspective is crucial. Often it is enough to change them only minimally in order to create a completely different portrait expression. Try out how it looks when the lens is a little above the model's eye level. A picture from below can also make the portrait look very interesting. There is no right or wrong here - experiment and see the differences.

Conclusion: good light is essential for professional portraits

The portrait lighting setup is important for successful portraits. By working with different lighting sources and set-ups, the portrait light can be influenced - and thus ultimately the entire image effect. Which type of portrait lighting is right for you depends on what goal you are pursuing with the shot. It is best to experiment with different settings to emphasize or hide parts of the face. The equipment for portrait photography does not have to be expensive. Often it is enough to get on board with little equipment such as a clip-on flash, a reflector and a photography LED Panel. If you also use the daylight, you have good prerequisites for impressive portraits.

Prev Post
Next Post
Someone recently bought a
[time] ago, from [location]

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Draco Broadcast Europe
Sign up and receive 10% discount. Stay updated on the latest arrivals, exclusive promotions, and more!

Recently Viewed


Edit Option
Do You Have Any Questions?
Terms & Conditions
This website is operated by Draco Broadcast Europe. Throughout the site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Draco Broadcast Europe. Draco Broadcast Europe offers this website, including all information, tools and services available from this site to you, the user, conditioned upon your acceptance of all terms, conditions, policies and notices stated here. By visiting our site and/ or purchasing something from us, you engage in our “Service” and agree to be bound by the following terms and conditions (“Terms of Service”, “Terms”), including those additional terms and conditions and policies referenced herein and/or available by hyperlink. These Terms of Service apply to all users of the site, including without limitation users who are browsers, vendors, customers, merchants, and/ or contributors of content. Please read these Terms of Service carefully before accessing or using our website. By accessing or using any part of the site, you agree to be bound by these Terms of Service. If you do not agree to all the terms and conditions of this agreement, then you may not access the website or use any services. If these Terms of Service are considered an offer, acceptance is expressly limited to these Terms of Service. Any new features or tools which are added to the current store shall also be subject to the Terms of Service. You can review the most current version of the Terms of Service at any time on this page. We reserve the right to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Service by posting updates and/or changes to our website. It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes. Your continued use of or access to the website following the posting of any changes constitutes acceptance of those changes. Our store is hosted on Shopify Inc. They provide us with the online e-commerce platform that allows us to sell our products and services to you. SECTION 1 - ONLINE STORE TERMS: By agreeing to these Terms of Service, you represent that you are at least the age of majority in your state or province of residence, or that you are the age of majority in your state or province of residence and you have given us your consent to allow any of your minor dependents to use this site. You may not use our products for any illegal or unauthorized purpose nor may you, in the use of the Service, violate any laws in your jurisdiction (including but not limited to copyright laws). You must not transmit any worms or viruses or any code of a destructive nature. A breach or violation of any of the Terms will result in an immediate termination of your Services. SECTION 2 - GENERAL CONDITIONS: We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time. You understand that your content (not including credit card information), may be transferred unencrypted and involve (a) transmissions over various networks; and (b) changes to conform and adapt to technical requirements of connecting networks or devices. Credit card information is always encrypted during transfer over networks. You agree not to reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, resell or exploit any portion of the Service, use of the Service, or access to the Service or any contact on the website through which the service is provided, without express written permission by us. The headings used in this agreement are included for convenience only and will not limit or otherwise affect these Terms. SECTION 3 - ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS AND TIMELINESS OF INFORMATION: We are not responsible if information made available on this site is not accurate, complete or current. The material on this site is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information. Any reliance on the material on this site is at your own risk. This site may contain certain historical information. Historical information, necessarily, is not current and is provided for your reference only. We reserve the right to modify the contents of this site at any time, but we have no obligation to update any information on our site. You agree that it is your responsibility to monitor changes to our site. SECTION 4 - MODIFICATIONS TO THE SERVICE AND PRICES Prices for our products are subject to change without notice. We reserve the right at any time to modify or discontinue the Service (or any part or content thereof) without notice at any time. We shall not be liable to you or to any third-party for any modification, price change, suspension or discontinuance of the Service. SECTION 5 - PRODUCTS OR SERVICES (if applicable) Certain products or services may be available exclusively online through the website. These products or services may have limited quantities and are subject to return or exchange only according to our Return Policy. We have made every effort to display as accurately as possible the colors and images of our products that appear at the store. We cannot guarantee that your computer monitor's display of any color will be accurate. We reserve the right, but are not obligated, to limit the sales of our products or Services to any person, geographic region or jurisdiction. We may exercise this right on a case-by-case basis. We reserve the right to limit the quantities of any products or services that we offer. All descriptions of products or product pricing are subject to change at anytime without notice, at the sole discretion of us. We reserve the right to discontinue any product at any time. Any offer for any product or service made on this site is void where prohibited. We do not warrant that the quality of any products, services, information, or other material purchased or obtained by you will meet your expectations, or that any errors in the Service will be corrected. SECTION 6 - ACCURACY OF BILLING AND ACCOUNT INFORMATION We reserve the right to refuse any order you place with us. We may, in our sole discretion, limit or cancel quantities purchased per person, per household or per order. These restrictions may include orders placed by or under the same customer account, the same credit card, and/or orders that use the same billing and/or shipping address. In the event that we make a change to or cancel an order, we may attempt to notify you by contacting the e‑mail and/or billing address/phone number provided at the time the order was made. We reserve the right to limit or prohibit orders that, in our sole judgment, appear to be placed by dealers, resellers or distributors. You agree to provide current, complete and accurate purchase and account information for all purchases made at our store. You agree to promptly update your account and other information, including your email address and credit card numbers and expiration dates, so that we can complete your transactions and contact you as needed. For more detail, please review our Returns Policy. SECTION 7 - OPTIONAL TOOLS We may provide you with access to third-party tools over which we neither monitor nor have any control nor input. You acknowledge and agree that we provide access to such tools ”as is” and “as available” without any warranties, representations or conditions of any kind and without any endorsement. We shall have no liability whatsoever arising from or relating to your use of optional third-party tools. Any use by you of optional tools offered through the site is entirely at your own risk and discretion and you should ensure that you are familiar with and approve of the terms on which tools are provided by the relevant third-party provider(s). We may also, in the future, offer new services and/or features through the website (including, the release of new tools and resources). Such new features and/or services shall also be subject to these Terms of Service. SECTION 8 - THIRD-PARTY LINKS Certain content, products and services available via our Service may include materials from third-parties. Third-party links on this site may direct you to third-party websites that are not affiliated with us. We are not responsible for examining or evaluating the content or accuracy and we do not warrant and will not have any liability or responsibility for any third-party materials or websites, or for any other materials, products, or services of third-parties. We are not liable for any harm or damages related to the purchase or use of goods, services, resources, content, or any other transactions made in connection with any third-party websites. Please review carefully the third-party's policies and practices and make sure you understand them before you engage in any transaction. Complaints, claims, concerns, or questions regarding third-party products should be directed to the third-party. SECTION 9 - USER COMMENTS, FEEDBACK AND OTHER SUBMISSIONS If, at our request, you send certain specific submissions (for example contest entries) or without a request from us you send creative ideas, suggestions, proposals, plans, or other materials, whether online, by email, by postal mail, or otherwise (collectively, 'comments'), you agree that we may, at any time, without restriction, edit, copy, publish, distribute, translate and otherwise use in any medium any comments that you forward to us. We are and shall be under no obligation (1) to maintain any comments in confidence; (2) to pay compensation for any comments; or (3) to respond to any comments. We may, but have no obligation to, monitor, edit or remove content that we determine in our sole discretion are unlawful, offensive, threatening, libelous, defamatory, pornographic, obscene or otherwise objectionable or violates any party’s intellectual property or these Terms of Service. You agree that your comments will not violate any right of any third-party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, personality or other personal or proprietary right. You further agree that your comments will not contain libelous or otherwise unlawful, abusive or obscene material, or contain any computer virus or other malware that could in any way affect the operation of the Service or any related website. You may not use a false e‑mail address, pretend to be someone other than yourself, or otherwise mislead us or third-parties as to the origin of any comments. You are solely responsible for any comments you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any comments posted by you or any third-party. SECTION 10 - PERSONAL INFORMATION Your submission of personal information through the store is governed by our Privacy Policy. To view our Privacy Policy. SECTION 11 - ERRORS, INACCURACIES AND OMISSIONS Occasionally there may be information on our site or in the Service that contains typographical errors, inaccuracies or omissions that may relate to product descriptions, pricing, promotions, offers, product shipping charges, transit times and availability. We reserve the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions, and to change or update information or cancel orders if any information in the Service or on any related website is inaccurate at any time without prior notice (including after you have submitted your order). We undertake no obligation to update, amend or clarify information in the Service or on any related website, including without limitation, pricing information, except as required by law. No specified update or refresh date applied in the Service or on any related website, should be taken to indicate that all information in the Service or on any related website has been modified or updated. SECTION 12 - PROHIBITED USES In addition to other prohibitions as set forth in the Terms of Service, you are prohibited from using the site or its content: (a) for any unlawful purpose; (b) to solicit others to perform or participate in any unlawful acts; (c) to violate any international, federal, provincial or state regulations, rules, laws, or local ordinances; (d) to infringe upon or violate our intellectual property rights or the intellectual property rights of others; (e) to harass, abuse, insult, harm, defame, slander, disparage, intimidate, or discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, race, age, national origin, or disability; (f) to submit false or misleading information; (g) to upload or transmit viruses or any other type of malicious code that will or may be used in any way that will affect the functionality or operation of the Service or of any related website, other websites, or the Internet; (h) to collect or track the personal information of others; (i) to spam, phish, pharm, pretext, spider, crawl, or scrape; (j) for any obscene or immoral purpose; or (k) to interfere with or circumvent the security features of the Service or any related website, other websites, or the Internet. We reserve the right to terminate your use of the Service or any related website for violating any of the prohibited uses. SECTION 13 - DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES; LIMITATION OF LIABILITY We do not guarantee, represent or warrant that your use of our service will be uninterrupted, timely, secure or error-free. We do not warrant that the results that may be obtained from the use of the service will be accurate or reliable. You agree that from time to time we may remove the service for indefinite periods of time or cancel the service at any time, without notice to you. You expressly agree that your use of, or inability to use, the service is at your sole risk. The service and all products and services delivered to you through the service are (except as expressly stated by us) provided 'as is' and 'as available' for your use, without any representation, warranties or conditions of any kind, either express or implied, including all implied warranties or conditions of merchantability, merchantable quality, fitness for a particular purpose, durability, title, and non-infringement. In no case shall Draco Broadcast Europe, our directors, officers, employees, affiliates, agents, contractors, interns, suppliers, service providers or licensors be liable for any injury, loss, claim, or any direct, indirect, incidental, punitive, special, or consequential damages of any kind, including, without limitation lost profits, lost revenue, lost savings, loss of data, replacement costs, or any similar damages, whether based in contract, tort (including negligence), strict liability or otherwise, arising from your use of any of the service or any products procured using the service, or for any other claim related in any way to your use of the service or any product, including, but not limited to, any errors or omissions in any content, or any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the service or any content (or product) posted, transmitted, or otherwise made available via the service, even if advised of their possibility. Because some states or jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion or the limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages, in such states or jurisdictions, our liability shall be limited to the maximum extent permitted by law. SECTION 14 - INDEMNIFICATION You agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Draco Broadcast Europe and our parent, subsidiaries, affiliates, partners, officers, directors, agents, contractors, licensors, service providers, subcontractors, suppliers, interns and employees, harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, made by any third-party due to or arising out of your breach of these Terms of Service or the documents they incorporate by reference, or your violation of any law or the rights of a third-party. SECTION 15 - SEVERABILITY In the event that any provision of these Terms of Service is determined to be unlawful, void or unenforceable, such provision shall nonetheless be enforceable to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, and the unenforceable portion shall be deemed to be severed from these Terms of Service, such determination shall not affect the validity and enforceability of any other remaining provisions. SECTION 16 - TERMINATION The obligations and liabilities of the parties incurred prior to the termination date shall survive the termination of this agreement for all purposes. These Terms of Service are effective unless and until terminated by either you or us. You may terminate these Terms of Service at any time by notifying us that you no longer wish to use our Services, or when you cease using our site. If in our sole judgment you fail, or we suspect that you have failed, to comply with any term or provision of these Terms of Service, we also may terminate this agreement at any time without notice and you will remain liable for all amounts due up to and including the date of termination; and/or accordingly may deny you access to our Services (or any part thereof). SECTION 17 - ENTIRE AGREEMENT The failure of us to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Terms of Service shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. These Terms of Service and any policies or operating rules posted by us on this site or in respect to The Service constitutes the entire agreement and understanding between you and us and govern your use of the Service, superseding any prior or contemporaneous agreements, communications and proposals, whether oral or written, between you and us (including, but not limited to, any prior versions of the Terms of Service). Any ambiguities in the interpretation of these Terms of Service shall not be construed against the drafting party. SECTION 18 - GOVERNING LAW These Terms of Service and any separate agreements whereby we provide you Services shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Germany. SECTION 19 - CHANGES TO TERMS OF SERVICE You can review the most current version of the Terms of Service at any time at this page. We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Service by posting updates and changes to our website. It is your responsibility to check our website periodically for changes. Your continued use of or access to our website or the Service following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Service constitutes acceptance of those changes. SECTION 20 - CONTACT INFORMATION Questions about the Terms of Service should be sent to us at
this is just a warning
Shopping Cart
0 items