enter image description here

Aside from the lighting setup, certain background settings? What I can't seem to understand is the "glow" around the head and shoulders.

Is there some recipe? Considering the shadows I can count at least two light sources but the background glow is the thing I cannot understand..


2 Answers 2


There are probably four lights.

The key light is to camera right. It is in front of the subject. The reflection is visible as catch lights in the subject’s eyes.

There is a fill light to camera left to reduce shadows on the subject’s face. It is also toward the front of the subject. It could be a reflector bouncing the key light, but for a studio setting, a dedicated light is probably more likely.

The third light is behind the subject at camera left. It produces specular highlights on the subject’s hair. The hair light may also be referred to as a scratch or rim light in other contexts.

Finally there is a background light behind the subject on the camera lens axis. It creates the bright spot behind the subject’s body. It separates the dark outfit from the background while the darker area outside its beam separates the lighter colors of the subject’s head.

The setup is a standard four light configuration.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ is the background light pointed towards the subject or the backdrop? \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 10:27
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I think almost certainly the background light would be pointed towards the background - using the back of the subjects jacket would be pretty awkward, and since it's a black jacket you'd have to pin a reflector to them or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – bdsl
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 12:16
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ youtu.be/moX3z2RJAV8 \$\endgroup\$
    – Seb
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ths toward the back drop. If it was pointing at the camera it would glare into the lens or be entirely obscured by the subject. The good thing about a gray backdrop is it can be lit toward white or shaded toward blank or anything in between. It also takes colored light reasonably well. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 21:00

My interpretation:

  1. One really big light source, in a classical Rembrandt position, 45° on the right and 45° downwards. (see also: What is Rembrandt lighting, and when do I use it?)

  2. A lightbox behind as a hair light, more or less at 45° downwards. As the look is a bit classical I am guessing that is 45° also on the Z-axis.

  3. A spotlight (with some small diffusion) on the background exclusively.

enter image description here

  1. There is a hint of a reflection on her chest on the left side, that suggests a silver reflector, or one dim light.

  2. And there is also a hint of another hair light, probably a diffused snoot with some barn doors, pointing more at the shoulders than the hair.

enter image description here

The specific glow on the arm, is a bit hard to understand because of the low resolution. But IMHO is a random result of the diffusion of light No. 3. on the background, plus a bit of glow of light No. 5.

It can also have some vignette added later on the far right side.

enter image description here


I found a high res version of the image. I see no evidence of the 5th light on this case. The highlight of the hair on the right side is because of the main light.

enter image description here

But you still can use the 5th light as a hair light if you want.


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