What’s Loop Lighting and Easy methods to Use It for Portrait Pictures

What is Loop Lighting and How to Use It for Portrait Photos

Loop lighting is a quite common model of portrait lighting that’s seen fairly often in portrait images. In truth, if you happen to’ve spent a lot time in any respect taking pictures in a studio, you’ve in all probability employed loop lighting with out particularly making an attempt to.

Trying by my very own archive of portraits, I discovered I’ve numerous loop lighting examples the place that wasn’t a selected objective. Since this sort of lighting may be flattering and likewise provides some drama, because of the shading it creates, it’s no surprise that loop lighting seems in lots of portrait photographs.

Loop lighting supplies definition to facial options just like the nostril along with making a shadow alongside the jawline and neck reverse the facet from the sunshine supply. By altering the relative place of the primary gentle and/or utilizing a fill reflector or different gentle supply, one can tailor the general look to create the specified remaining picture.

Desk of Contents

Figuring out Loop Lighting

Loop lighting may be recognized by the “loop” shadow that comes from the nostril. In Determine 1 of Zemfira, I’ve highlighted this shadow with the yellow oval. At first look, loop lighting seems just like Rembrandt lighting, and for good purpose. Each loop and Rembrandt lighting are created by having the primary gentle in your setup positioned at an angle to the facet and above the topic.

Determine 1. Loop lighting seems just like Rembrandt lighting, however the impact is much less dramatic

Rembrandt lighting, nonetheless, locations the sunshine additional across the facet of the topic to the purpose the place the shadow on the far facet from the sunshine creates a definite triangle of sunshine on the cheek. Loop lighting doesn’t have as sturdy an impact and exhibits extra gentle on the facet of the face reverse the primary gentle.

A portrait shot with a loop lighting setup.

Easy methods to Create Loop Lighting

The position of the primary gentle for loop lighting can range as there isn’t a “arduous, quick” rule as to how lengthy the “loop” shadow finally ends up being. Usually talking, the primary gentle must be to at least one facet round 45 levels and above the topic’s eye line. In Determine 2, I’ve the primary gentle positioned comparatively excessive, nonetheless, Tanya goes to be tilting her head again so the additional top is important.

Determine 2. Studio setup for the shot in determine 3 with the primary gentle set excessive to realize the end result

The outcomes of the setup in Determine 2 are proven in Determine 3. Right here we’ve got a low-key picture utilizing the one important gentle excessive and at digital camera left. The shadows create a little bit of drama with out getting the temper as darkish as what one may see in a Rembrandt-lit picture.

A hair gentle can be used on this shot behind Tanya and at digital camera proper. It’s seen in Determine 2 on the precise facet of the picture however is about decrease in that view than the place it truly was for the ultimate shot. I also needs to be aware that there’s a grid within the magnificence dish on the primary gentle, which is maintaining many of the gentle off the backdrop.

Determine 3. Outcomes from the setup in Determine 2

Thus far, the instance pictures on this information have had an total darker tone and darkish background. Not like Rembrandt lighting, loop lighting can simply be utilized in high-key environments and may be present in portraits and style proper together with kinds equivalent to butterfly lighting.

Determine 4 exhibits a typical loop lighting setup that, on this case, employs a light-weight on the background to carry the general tones of the picture. Right here the primary gentle is about to digital camera left and above by about twenty levels or so above the topic.

Not like butterfly lighting, loop lighting doesn’t require the primary gentle to be instantly above and according to the digital camera place. This makes establishing the primary gentle simpler because it doesn’t require a growth or extension arm to maintain the lighting assist out of view of the digital camera.

Determine 4. A typical setup for loop lighting (created in Set.A.Mild 3D)

The outcomes from Determine 4 are proven with Maya in Determine 5. We have now the distinctive “loop” shadow on Maya’s left cheek and on the similar time, we’ve got a pleasant edge shadow from her jawline/chin that creates a skinny body round her face. The seamless grey background being lit raises the general tone of the picture right here for a lighter “really feel”.

Determine 5. The background behind Maya being lit creates a lighter total really feel to this picture

The primary gentle in Determine 5 was truly lit with a Phottix Raja 65 which is a spherical, 65cm softbox as an alternative of the sweetness dish proven within the diagram. Softboxes which have their diffusers in place will provide a softer gentle and subsequently softer shadow than a magnificence dish. Preserve this in thoughts when selecting your important gentle supply modifier with a view to obtain your required end result.

The identical applies to the space of the sunshine to your topic. The farther the primary gentle is from the topic, the smaller the sunshine supply will turn out to be in relation to that topic, which is able to lead to extra distinct shadows.

What Gear do You Want

On the very least, you must have an off-camera gentle supply and a medium-sized gentle modifier. This might be a softbox, magnificence dish, or comparable modifier round 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100cm). The form may be spherical, rectangular, and even “strip” sort packing containers. In truth, strip packing containers can provide some nice high quality of sunshine in this sort of lighting (strive it, belief me!).

I ought to level out that whereas the earlier examples on this information are utilizing at the very least two lights of their setup, loop lighting may be finished with merely one gentle. I all the time encourage photographers which are new to studio lighting to discover how far they’ll take simply utilizing one gentle. It’s not solely a great train to know how that important gentle acts by itself, however it prepares you for that point if you find yourself caught with just one gentle attributable to unexpected circumstances.

Taking a Step Again

Shut-up portraits are clearly good candidates for the usage of loop lighting, however it additionally works simply positive for photographs the place we see the whole topic. Determine 6 of Jaquarius is an instance of a high-key picture utilizing loop lighting the place we see the topic head to toe.

Granted, on this picture he’s sitting down, however it demonstrates how loop lighting can work for pictures that aren’t close-up portraits. The one important gentle to digital camera left not solely provides definition to Jaquarius’ face however throws some nice shadows on his jacket in addition to the seen portion of his chest.

Determine 6. Loop lighting is equally at house in low-key in addition to high-key pictures like this one

Broad and Quick Lighting

One other approach to range the general feel and appear of your picture when utilizing loop lighting is to vary from broad lighting, like many of the earlier examples, to quick lighting. In Determine 7 loop lighting is getting used, and I moved the digital camera place (and me after all) round to the short-lit facet of Mandy’s face.

This modifications the general aesthetic of the picture with out altering the lighting setup. Utilizing a darkish background and utilizing a grid in place on the primary gentle has resulted in a low-key picture that provides extra element of the face than Rembrandt lighting would. A low-set hair gentle is positioned at digital camera proper to offer some delicate element to the hair on the left facet of Mandy’s head.

Determine 7. Loop lighting utilizing quick lighting

Broad lighting refers to having the primary gentle directed along with the face nearer to the digital camera place. Quick lighting is the other, the place the facet of the face closest to the digital camera will comprise shadows of facial options which are being lit from the opposite facet of the face.

Loop Lighting is Very Versatile

The flexibility of loop lighting to work nicely in quite a lot of portrait varieties makes it fairly the versatile lighting model. The truth that it really works equally nicely with high-key and low-key pictures makes it a fantastic start line for including further lights, reflectors, or different modifiers to finish the ultimate look. In Determine 7 we’ve got a extra “formal” look to the photograph of our topic, whereas Autumn (Determine 8) has a extra business or style vibe.

Determine 8. On this instance of loop lighting, we’ve got a lighter and extra business look than Determine 7


For anybody beginning out utilizing studio lighting to seasoned professionals, loop lighting is unquestionably an necessary and useful gizmo to have readily available when taking pictures portraits. It really works simply positive in a single-light state of affairs, and it will also be a powerful base to a multi-light setup. Lastly, your important gentle is usually a magnificence dish, softbox, and even umbrella so the “value of entry” can match into tight budgets.

So, sufficient studying about it, proper? Get out your gear and sit somebody in entrance of your digital camera and begin working with this lighting model ASAP!

Picture credit: Images by Brandon Jackson

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