Discover how to use light to illuminate the edges of a subject to create moody low-light portraits
Rim light, as you may have already guessed from its name, involves lighting your subject in such a way that only their outer profile is highlighted, with the majority of their features remaining in deep, dark shadow. With only very bright highlights and dark shadows visible within the frame, this form of lighting is great for creating high-contrast imagery with a distinctly artistic feel to it. It’s for this reason that the rim lighting technique is most commonly used by expressionist portrait photographers, with the images being converted to black and white to further enhance the textures, contrast and form within the image.
Although rim lighting can be used for both male and female portraits
Although rim lighting can be used for both male and female portraits, the results between the two are often very different. When used with male portraits, rim lighting helps to enhance textures to create a gritty, sultry-looking portrait. However, when used with a female model, it allows the photographer to enhance the subtle curves of the female form and can create a photo that’s much softer and more delicate as a result.
Rim lighting can be achieved by using either off-camera flash or a bright continuous light
Rim lighting can be achieved by using either off-camera flash or a bright continuous light source, though the former is usually preferred as it’s able to kick out much more light, which helps to boost contrast. One of the most important things to remember when attempting rim lighting for yourself is to ensure that you’re photographing your model against a dark, ideally pitch-black, background, as shooting against a bright backdrop will diminish the effect. If you don’t have access to a professional black backdrop, you can always try hanging a black sheet from a curtain pole, or even shoot against a set of dark curtains, while ensuring that all the room lights are switched off.
Rim light with a flash
Fire Flash off-camera In order to achieve a rim-light e ect, attach a set of wireless radio triggers to both your flashgun and camera. Make sure the connection is working.
Use a light stand The ash will need to be red some way away from you, so secure it to a light stand. The flash should be pointing at the side of your model’s torso.
Dial in the settings Switch the flash to manual and power to 1/32. Set your DSLR to manual with a shutter speed of 1/125 sec and aperture of f/4, then take a test shot and adjust as needed.