Keeping Lighting Simple BUT Classic: Male Portrait

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: September 10, 2017

Category: Photography

Ok so in this post I thought I’d give you a look Behind the Scenes at how the portrait below of Photographer Paul Callaghan was taken i.e. kit, lighting set up…

Glyn Dewis - Paul Callaghan Photographer

Kit Used

  • Sony A7RII with 85mm f/1.4 G Master Lens
  • Elinchrom 135cm (50″) Rotalux Octa Softbox
  • Grey Seamless Roll (Background) ‘Storm Grey’ from Warehouse Express

Ok so for this portrait I used a Rembrandt Style of lighting where one side of the face is lit and one side in shadow albeit for a triangular pattern of light under the eye.

To show how this is done here’s a couple of visuals…

Split Lighting
For this style of lighting you need to have your light off to the side of the subject HOWEVER if you position like the example directly below, you will get what is commonly called split lighting where one side of the face is lit and the other is in shadow. This can be quite a dramatic lighting style but for the portrait of Paul Callaghan I didn’t want anything quite so severe and quite so contrasty.

Glyn Dewis - Paul Callaghan Photographer

Rembrandt Style
So, to have the light on one side of the face and shadow on the other albeit for the pattern of light under the eye all we need to do is move the light source and modifier away from the model and towards the direction of the camera (still keeping it to the side). As you do so you’ll start to see that light sees past the nose and as a consequence hits the cheek area as in the visual below…

Glyn Dewis - Paul Callaghan Photographer

Once you get the light hitting the cheek, it’s then down to personal taste how much light you want i.e. the further away from the model and nearer to the camera position, then the more light will be on the cheek. Move the light back towards the model and you’ll start to get the split lighting again. Make sense?

Here’s a  short video I recorded showing how to create the cross lighting effect which is kind of similar to Rembrandt except for the fact that Rembrandt lighting is higher up and angled down; which is exactly what I ended up doing in this portrait. Having the light higher up and angled down changes the shape of the light on the cheek and how shadows join. I’ll do a more up to date and in depth video on this very soon.

Here’s a look at the Before (Out of Camera) and After (Print Ready) images and you can see here how important the lighting is for the final look…

Glyn Dewis - Paul Callaghan Photographer

YouTube LIVE
Following on from this Behind the Scenes post, I’ll be LIVE over on my YouTube Channel this Tuesday (12th September) at 8pm (UK time) going through the Retouching / Post Production steps for this picture.

Here’s the LINK … hope you can join me.

Oh and if you’re a member of my Email Community I’ll be sending you the Out Of Camera / RAW file so that you can follow along with this too which is without doubt THE best way to learn.

Glyn Dewis Photography - Paul Callaghan

Right that’s all from me so as always if you have any questions / comments feel free to make use of the comments section below and I’ll be sure to reply.

Other than that…hope to catch you online Tuesday evening (8pm UK)


•Check out a LARGE version of my portrait of Paul Callaghan by CLICKING HERE

•     •     •

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  1. suruha

    How cool! I like this effect! Your model is excellent! I like his hat! LOL
    Thank you for the tip!

    • Glyn Dewis

      You’re welcome 🙂

  2. Ineke Mighorst

    Thanks Glynn for the effort you took sharing this.

    • Glyn Dewis

      No worries Ineke…thanks for looking in

  3. Dario Mirisciotti

    Glyn Dewis Hello Glyn, I subscribed to your newsletter but you didn’t give to me the RAWFILES of the video “MALE PORTRAIT”. So please if you could give to me the RAWFILES to follow step by step:


  4. thatotherguy2

    What aperture did you use for this portrait?

    • Glyn Dewis


  5. mdtinoz

    What software do you use to create your lighting layout diagrams (as per two above)?

  6. Pierre Clemente

    Glyn, this is lighting from the silent film era always a classic go to studio lighting. Check out the lighting of cinematographer Gordon Willis and Micheal Chapman . These two will give you some nice lighting idea. Also look at post war Italian cinema, their philosophy was too light black.

    • Glyn

      Thanks for the suggestions Pierre; I’ll definitely check them out

  7. Tim

    Very helpful.


  8. David Portwain

    Great Glynn, nearly as good as seeing you .live at the Photography show in Birmingham. Thanks.

    • Glyn

      Cheers 😉

  9. Szabolcs

    Great image! May I ask what light did you use for this? Is it possible to achieve the same (or close) result with speedlight?

  10. Robert Ross

    Hi, can I still practice with a raw copy of your friend Roy?

    • Robert Ross

      Hi, Glyn I’m watching a youtube video and you are using a raw file of Paul Callaghan and I wanted to follow along, sorry I had the name wrong!!

  11. David Bateman

    Hi Glyn, I’ve just caught up with your video ‘Complete Male Portrait Retouching in Photoshop from Start to Finish’. Could you please send me a copy of your raw file so I can attempt to imitate some of your brilliant techniques.


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