This post is a day late as it was prompted by the 407th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth (15/07/1606). I wouldn’t have been aware of the anniversary but for the Google Doodly that appeared on their site yesterday. That’s what prompted me to post on the subject.

Google Rembrandt
Image source: (2013/07/15)

Rembrandt Lighting 

(A quick tutorial courtesy of the Web – see source references)

This topic has been covered by Seamus on a number of occasions during his workshops so this is just a quick reminder for anybody interested in the topic and would like to have some reference notes.

Rembrandt lighting is identified by the triangle of light on the cheek created by the key light placement.

“Normally, the key light is placed high and to one side at the front, and the fill light or a reflector is placed half-height and on the other side at the front, set to about half the power of the key light, with the subject, if facing at an angle to the camera, with the key light illuminating the far side of the face.

The key in Rembrandt lighting is creating the triangle or diamond shape of light underneath the eye. One side of the face is lit well from the main light source while the other side of the face uses the interaction of shadows and light, also known as chiaroscuro, to create this geometric form on the face.

The triangle should be no longer than the nose and no wider than the eye. This technique may be achieved subtly or very dramatically by altering the distance between subject and lights and relative strengths of main and fill lights.”


Lighting setup

Rembrandt lighting at its most basic level is constructed with a single light source placed approximately 45 degrees offset from the subject and a bit higher than eye level, lighting the side of the face that is farthest from the camera. Often times the single light source is augmented with a reflector or another light placed approximately 45 degrees offset to the shadowed side of the face and at ½ the power of the main light source (called the key light). This is used to lighten the shadows on the dark side of the face. (Without the augmentation of the fill light the effect is moodier).

Lighting Diagram (this setup uses a fill light):
Rembrandt Lighting diagram

Image source:

This is not intended as some kind of definitive guide to the subject, just an brief introduction, so go ahead and Google this topic for a deluge of information and sample images.

Rembrandt documentary:

There’s a BBC documentary on Rembrant available on Youtube (it doesn’t discuss lighting techniques, it’s just an interesting documentary on his life, his art and the city of Amsterdam during his life):




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