Video Production Tips

What is Rembrandt lighting and how to use it in video?

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Lights, sound, camera, and action! That’s how it goes, isn’t it? Well, that’s because lighting is a key department in video production. You can’t shoot a video without proper lighting. You can shoot your video in natural light but there’s an art to hitting perfect angles. What if you set up to shoot on a cloudy day? There are numerous options to shoot your video outdoors but what about creating good lighting indoors? You won’t always need to hire a studio if you know how to light up the subject of your video. If you're passionate about shooting a video but have limited light equipment, this article is for you.

Learn about the art of lighting with limited resources at your disposal. It will help you to achieve great output that you can later edit on an easy online video editor. Turns out Rembrandt lighting can enhance your video-making experience by ten folds. Let's explore what exactly is Rembrandt lighting. 

Man with Rembrandt lighting

What is Rembrandt lighting? 

Rembrandt lighting is a portrait lighting technique in which a minute inverted triangle of light is formed on the subject’s eye. It creates beautiful and professional portraits with limited equipment. Rembrandt lighting derives its name from the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt Harmenszoon Rijn. His paintings used to have an inverted triangle of light under the subject’s eye. Rembrandt lighting creates mood by using the chiaroscuro style that highlights the contrasts between light and dark. Here is Rembrandt's piece, 'The Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III'.

Rembrandt portrait of Jacob III de Gheyn sourced from Google art project

Why is it important to understand Rembrandt lighting?

Hollywood uses Rembrandt lighting to create mysterious frames that tell us about the state of the character in a story. It creates a slimming effect for round faces. However, when you use the lighting in your video you must have a reason to do so. The primary reason being what is the character’s motive along with the mood of a scene.  Rembrandt lighting enhances storytelling in a video by helping the visual aesthetic to align with the emotional representation. It can be used in dark films where the character is yet to reveal a lot, it can be also used to ignite the feeling of mystery or to uphold the suspense in a scene. 

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How to use Rembrandt lighting in video production?

Rembrandt lighting according to the mood shall take time to master but you will be good to go after applying the setup a few times. Here’s how you can set up the light to achieve the Rembrandt lighting. 

You will need three things to start with:

1. A light source 

A light source that emits light strong enough to light up the subject, you can use a diffusion light to ensure that the harsh light is omitted. If you don’t have a studio light, you can use a ring light or led light for good results, although even a house lamp shall do. 

2. A reflecting surface 

A reflector that would bounce off the light from its surface you can get a professional one but if you’re on a budget you can use reflective cardboard covered in foil. 

3. A model or talent’s face  

What will you do without a model or an actor? You need a face to light up. There are no parameters applicable for this the lighting doesn’t discriminate. 

Can Rembrandt lighting be used in social media photos and videos?

Rembrandt lighting is no different for social media photos and videos. Here’s how you light your subject using the things mentioned above. First, you need to place your subject in a zone where they minimize movements. Then you would want to place the light source at a 45-degree angle facing towards the subject slightly above the head. You can make adjustments as per your subject’s height. Once you set up the source light you need to place the reflecting cardboard on the opposite side mirroring the height of the source light. Have the subject face towards the light source and capture your shot by standing in between the reflector and light source.

Once you start clicking and adjusting the light, you will learn to change the setup according to your need. 

If you don’t have a studio set up, you can create this setup in a dark room or location it will still give you the perfect results.

Bonus Tips

  • Choose your background wisely

The background plays an important role in enhancing your portrait videos and photos. Keep a less intrusive background that doesn’t distract the viewer from the subject. You want all the focus to be on the subject. 

  • Try perfecting the triangle

When you’re learning it’s okay to miss the triangle sometimes, but make sure you’re technically correct and not letting the triangle go beyond the tip of the nose. 

Want to learn more about lighting your photos and videos?

Has your face lit up with intrigue after reading this article about Rembrandt lighting? Why not learn more about the basics of video and film production in Clipchamp's Video Glossary. If you want to find out how to use diffused light on set, what is ambient light, or what is white balance, we have you covered. When you're ready to edit, just drag, drop and edit your video or film by signing up to Clipchamp.

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