Friday, May 21, 2010

Portrait Lighting: Three Quarter

How to light a head is one of the most basic decisions that every portrait artist makes. For the next ten posts or so, we’ll take a look at various types of lighting and the effects they give your portrait.


Most portraits are painted with light coming from about forty-five degrees in front of the model. The light reaches most of the visible form, leaving only a fraction of the form in shadow. The light is low enough to illuminate both eyes.

In this portrait by Rembrandt, the main light casts a shadow onto the man’s left cheek, leaving a lighted triangle on the shaded side.

This pattern is called three-quarter lighting since three-fourths of the form is illuminated. Three-quarter lighting is straightforward, clear, and flattering. It’s good to use if you want to capture a recognizable likeness.

6 comments:

jeffkunze said...

One idea is that this is pretty close to the Golden Ratio, split between the lights and shadows.
Just a thought on why this might be appealing.

Zeke said...

ooo this is going to be a good series to study from, I've been doing tons of portrait sketching lately.

BTW, I just ordered Imaginative Realism and can't wait to absorb it's contents. Your paintings and the whole dinotopia world has been one of my favorite inspirations since I was knee high to a grasshopper

Eric Braddock said...

Awesome series of posts coming up, Jim! I'm really excited to hear your input on this subject because I have a great passion for portraiture.

Also, that Rembrandt is a fantastic piece.

Rockhopper said...

As a portrait photographer we use this lighting scheme all the time its called rembrandt lighting. The tell tale that the lighting setup is correct is the triangle of light on the cheek.

Main light is a 3/4 to the left and high on the subject. Reflected fill light is then placed on the right of the subject.

To make a flattering portrait of a fat person the light is placed further away. But on a skinny person the light is placed closer.

Rich

bill said...

continued generosity

Morgen said...

This lighting is also the best for painting the most difficult feature, the nose!