How & Why I Use Rim Lighting
Jenna Reich | Generations Photography
One thing I absolutely love about photography is that there are countless ways to photograph your subject. By using various perspectives, exposures, backlighting, side-lighting, natural light, artificial light, lens variety, etc., you can drastically change the outcome of your shot. There are so many choices, and some techniques may really speak to you!
As I was developing my style and beginning to understand which images spoke to me the most, I found that dramatic lighting was definitely one key element in getting the results I was after. One of my favorite ways to capture my subjects with a bit of drama is by using rim lighting. If you’ve never tried this technique before, I hope this post will inspire you to go out and try it. Not tomorrow, but today!
I probably can’t tell you all of the reasons I use rim lighting in one blog post, however I can share a few examples of why I choose to. (which is often… I’m kind of an addict)
It makes your subject stand out. Consider it as painting with light. It’s a way of giving your subject depth. As a child, do you remember outlining the drawings in your coloring book before filling them in? Or, was that just me? If you did, why do you think that appealed to us? Did it enhance our coloring pages? It was important stuff – Strawberry Shortcake coloring pages needed to be pristine and perfect!
It can evoke certain emotions & moods. I LOVE using rim lighting in my kids bedroom. I like how it creates a quiet, intimate tone to the image.
I want the content behind my subject (which may otherwise be blown) to be part of the story. For example, on a trip to the zoo, a tiger came right up to the glass, just inches away from my daughter. I really wanted to capture the size of that enormous tiger compared to my then 2 year-old. But, if I had exposed the image so that she was properly lit, the tiger and the rest of the exhibit would have been completely blown. By metering off the tiger (who was in an outdoor exhibit), my daughter became slightly silhouetted with a touch of light defining her shape against the glass making it a much more dynamic image. And more importantly, by including the content in the background, the image told a story.
On the flip side, sometimes I use it to eliminate the background entirely- when the backdrop would otherwise be distracting or unappealing. But also, I use it creatively to allow the negative space to isolate my subject.
A little tip:
In order for the background to be blackened, the light source should illuminate your subject mainly. If there is a wall behind your subject, bringing your subject away from the wall will help keep the background darker than the subject.
This image was taken at night with the headlights from our car. I spot-metered off the brightest part of her face so I didn’t blow any highlights. By doing so, it created this lovely negative space around her and the rim lighting emphasizes the shape of her profile while adding depth to the overall image and separating her from the black background.
– Framing your subject. I love using framing in my compositions. One way I do this is by using backlight from a doorway or window. By placing your subject within the door/window frame, it guides viewers to your subject (think, leading lines).
So how do you create this effect?
Rim lighting is achieved by placing your light source behind your subject. Most often, you’ll see rim lighting hit your subject when the light is coming at them from an angle. To get started with my camera settings, I usually spot meter off the brightest spot on my subjects face so that I’m properly exposing for highlights, not the shadows.
So, tell us… what is your favorite reason for using rim lighting? And if you’ve never tried, tell us in the comments what from this article you are excited to put into practice!?
Answer this question in the comments and we will select our favorite to win your choice of any Beyond the Wanderlust Action or Preset Package!!