Lighting is one of the most important aspects of studio portrait photography. It can affect the mood and tone of a photograph and make a subject look their best. In this article, we will explore the most common lighting setups for studio portrait photography.

The Three-Point Lighting Setup

The three-point lighting setup is one of the most popular and versatile lighting setups in studio portrait photography. It consists of three lights: the key light, fill light, and back light.

The key light is the main light that illuminates the subject. It is usually placed at a 45-degree angle to the subject and slightly above their eye level.

The fill light is used to soften the shadows created by the key light. It is usually placed on the opposite side of the key light and at a lower intensity.

The back light is used to separate the subject from the background and add depth to the photograph. It is usually placed behind the subject and pointed towards them.

The Butterfly Lighting Setup

The butterfly lighting setup is a popular lighting setup for portrait photography. It is achieved by positioning the key light above the subject and slightly in front of them, aiming it down towards their nose. This creates a butterfly-shaped shadow under the subject’s nose, which gives the photo a more dramatic and flattering look. This lighting setup is often used for fashion and beauty photography, as it helps to accentuate the subject’s features.

The Rembrandt Lighting Setup

The Rembrandt lighting setup is named after the Dutch painter Rembrandt, who was known for using this type of lighting in his paintings. It is achieved by positioning the key light to the side of the subject and slightly above their eye level, creating a triangle of light under the subject’s eye on the shadow side of their face. This lighting setup is often used for portrait photography as it creates a sense of drama and depth in the photograph.

The Split Lighting Setup

The split lighting setup is achieved by positioning the key light to one side of the subject, creating a sharp divide of light and shadow on the subject’s face. This lighting setup is often used for dramatic or moody portrait photography, as it creates a sense of tension and contrast in the photograph.


Lighting is an essential aspect of studio portrait photography and understanding the most common lighting setups can help photographers achieve the best results. The three-point lighting setup, butterfly lighting setup, Rembrandt lighting setup, and split lighting setup are all popular and versatile options that can be used to create different moods and effects in a photograph. For photographers and photography enthusiasts looking to improve their studio portrait photography, experimenting with these lighting setups is a great place to start.

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