Using Rim Lighting For Portraits

On this video photographer, Gavin Hoey looks at how to create a perfect rim lighting for a portrait shot.

Hoey starts this tutorial with the background and he uses a black background which as you will see by the end of the video is very useful although you might be able to reach similar results with a grey or even white background as long as it isn’t lit).

Now to the main question – how would you lit your model to get the perfect rim light? first, a good idea is to have your model facing sideways (you can try shooting the model looking forward or backward but that will be a far less common option and it isn’t right in a lot of cases).

In terms of the actual lighting – Hoey is using either 2 or in the final shot 3 lights – two with modifiers and one without (although we are pretty sure that you can use 3 strobes with 3 softboxes as well), two of them behind the model on each side and one from above creating a sort of “light arch” around the model that makes the nice rim.

The post-processing part is also pretty simple and educational – as long as you have a black background and you want to move something around and create a composite out of two images shot in the same lighting conditions – all you need to do is drag and drop the part that you want to edit on top of the main image and all you need to do is change the layer blending to screen and not everything matches.

One last point that we have to make after watching this video (and has nothing to do with rim lighting) is that working with a model that known what he or she is doing makes the world of difference as you can see in Hoey’s video very clearly (he almost didn’t need to say anything and got amazing shots with lots of expressions).

You can check out many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section here on LensVid. You can also check out some of Gavin Hoey’s other videos here on LensVid.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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