Rembrandt Lighting: Creating Mood & Depth in Portraits

Rembrandt lighting, named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, is a popular lighting technique used in photography and cinematography to create a dramatic effect that draws attention to the subject’s features. This technique is characterized by an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject, on the less illuminated side of the face. This lighting style emphasizes depth and dimension, making it a favorite among portrait photographers.

Why Use Rembrandt Lighting?

The allure of Rembrandt lighting lies in its ability to add a sense of volume and drama to a portrait. It enhances the facial features and brings a sculptural quality to the photograph. This technique is particularly useful for creating moody and evocative images that convey emotion and character, making it ideal for artistic portraits, actor headshots, and even moody fashion photography.

Setting Up Rembrandt Lighting

To achieve Rembrandt lighting, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Light Source: Begin with a single light source, such as a strobe or continuous light. The key is to use a light modifier like a softbox or an umbrella to soften the light, reducing harsh shadows.
  2. Positioning the Light: Place the light at a 45-degree angle from the subject, slightly above the head level, so that the light points down towards the face. This angle is crucial as it determines the shape and presence of the characteristic triangle of light.
  3. Adjust the Subject: Have the subject turn their face away from the light until the shadow of the nose and cheek meets to form a small triangle of light on the cheek opposite the light source. This triangle should not be larger than the eye and no longer than the nose.
  4. Experiment with Modifiers: Utilizing different modifiers can alter the softness and spread of the light. Experiment with reflectors to fill in shadows mildly, which can be particularly useful in softening the contrast for female portraits or commercial shots.

Visual Examples and Their Analysis

When examining photographs that utilize Rembrandt lighting, you’ll notice the play of light and shadow creates a compelling visual narrative. For instance, a portrait with Rembrandt lighting can highlight the rugged features of a male subject or the gentle curves of a female subject’s face, adding layers of depth and emotion to the image.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Overexposing the lit side of the face, which can lead to loss of detail.
  • Underexposing the shadow side, which might bury essential facial features in darkness.
  • Misplacing the light, which fails to form the triangular highlight and loses the effect.

Applications in Different Photography Genres

While traditionally used in portraits, Rembrandt lighting can also be adapted for use in various other genres like fashion photography, where it can add a dramatic flair, or in product photography, where it can enhance texture and contrast.

Rembrandt lighting is more than just a technical skill; it’s a creative tool that allows photographers to explore the interplay between light and shadow. By mastering this technique, photographers can elevate their portraits, capturing not just images, but stories and emotions. Whether you’re a budding photographer or a seasoned professional, incorporating Rembrandt lighting into your photographic repertoire can significantly impact your visual storytelling.

Key Aspects of Composition in Flower Photography

Flower photography is an art form that allows us to capture the delicate and ephemeral beauty of flowers. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiast capturing blooms in your garden, understanding the principles of composition can significantly enhance the impact of your photographs. In this blog post, we’ll explore the most crucial aspects of composition in flower photography to help you create stunning, evocative images.

1. Focus and Clarity

The focal point in flower photography is paramount. It’s essential to decide what part of the flower or scene you want to highlight. This could be the vibrant petals, the intricate patterns of the stamen, or even droplets of dew on the flower’s surface. A clear focus point draws the viewer’s eye and establishes the subject of your photograph. Employing a shallow depth of field can help isolate the subject, ensuring it stands out against a softly blurred background.

2. Lighting

Lighting can make or break a flower photograph. The best flower photos often utilize natural light, which can highlight the translucence of petals or cast fascinating shadows, adding depth and texture. The golden hours—shortly after sunrise or before sunset—offer soft, warm light that can enhance the colors and mood of your floral subjects. Conversely, overcast days provide diffused light that evenly illuminates a flower, minimizing harsh shadows and highlights.

3. Composition Rules

Understanding and applying composition rules can significantly improve your flower photography. The rule of thirds, for instance, involves dividing your image into nine equal segments with two horizontal and two vertical lines. Placing the flower or an interesting part of it at the intersections or along the lines can create a more engaging photo. Meanwhile, the use of leading lines or patterns can guide the viewer’s eye through the image, adding interest and movement.

4. Color and Contrast

Color plays a vital role in conveying the mood of your flower photographs. Warm colors can evoke feelings of passion and energy, while cool colors can impart a sense of calm and tranquility. Utilizing contrasting colors can make your subject pop and add vibrancy to your image. However, it’s essential to balance color contrast to ensure it enhances rather than overwhelms the subject.

5. Background and Context

The background can either complement your flower or distract from it. A cluttered or busy background can detract from the subject, while a simple, unobtrusive backdrop can make it stand out. Sometimes, including contextual elements like other flowers, leaves, or even the environment can add depth and tell a more compelling story. The key is to maintain a balance that supports the subject of your photograph.

6. Perspective and Angle

Changing your perspective or shooting angle can unveil a flower’s character in unique and unexpected ways. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different viewpoints, such as shooting from a low angle to capture the grandeur of a flower reaching towards the sky or getting close to reveal the intricate details of its texture and patterns. Each angle tells a different story and can evoke distinct emotions.

7. Simplicity

Sometimes, less is more in flower photography. A simple composition that emphasizes the flower without unnecessary distractions can be powerful. Simplicity often encourages the viewer to pause and appreciate the beauty and details that might otherwise go unnoticed.

In conclusion, mastering the aspects of composition in flower photography allows you to not only capture the beauty of your floral subject but also convey emotion and story. By focusing on these key elements, you can elevate your flower photographs from mere snapshots to compelling images that resonate with viewers. Remember, the best way to improve is to practice consistently, so don’t hesitate to explore, experiment, and let your creative vision flourish through your lens.

The Most Popular Focal Length for Landscape Photography

When it comes to landscape photography, choosing the right focal length is crucial for capturing breathtaking and expansive scenes. The most popular focal lengths for landscape photography typically fall within the wide-angle range, as they allow photographers to include as much of the scene as possible within the frame. Here’s a look at why certain focal lengths are favored and how they impact landscape photography.

The 24mm focal length has become the gold standard in landscape photography for several reasons, contributing to its popularity among enthusiasts and professionals alike. This preference stems from its ability to provide a wide field of view, capturing vast landscapes in a single frame without the extreme distortion often found with wider lenses. It offers a natural perspective that closely mirrors the human eye, making scenes appear expansive yet true to life.

Photographers favor 24mm because it excellently balances foreground interest with the depth of the background, creating dynamic and engaging compositions. Its versatility in various settings, from mountain ranges to urban landscapes, further cements its status as a preferred choice. The 24mm lens, by offering this unique blend of wide-angle perspective and minimal distortion, has become an indispensable tool for capturing the beauty and grandeur of the natural world, making it a clear favorite in the landscape photography community.

Wide-Angle Lenses (24mm to 35mm)

Within the wide-angle category, lenses ranging from 24mm to 35mm are particularly beloved for their versatility. These focal lengths capture a broad field of view, making them ideal for including sweeping vistas and dramatic skies in the composition. A 24mm lens is especially favored for its balance, as highlighted above, but even moving towards 35mm can offer a slightly tighter composition while still retaining a wide perspective.

Ultra-Wide Lenses (14mm to 24mm)

For photographers aiming to capture an even wider perspective, ultra-wide lenses ranging from 14mm to 24mm are the go-to choice. These lenses excel at emphasizing foreground elements and creating a profound sense of depth and scale. However, they may introduce noticeable distortion, which can either be used creatively or need to be corrected in post-processing.

Standard to Short Telephoto Lenses (50mm to 100mm)

Beyond the realm of wide and ultra-wide lenses, standard to short telephoto lenses (50mm to 100mm) offer a unique perspective in landscape photography. A 50mm lens provides a view close to that of the human eye, offering compositions with minimal distortion and a natural feel. Lenses in the 70mm to 100mm range are excellent for isolating subjects, compressing scenes, and highlighting specific features of the landscape, offering a different approach to capturing nature’s beauty.


The choice of focal length for landscape photography depends greatly on the photographer’s vision, the landscape being captured, and the desired outcome. While wide and ultra-wide lenses are popular for their capacity to envelop expansive scenes, longer focal lengths provide unique perspectives and compositional opportunities. The 24mm lens, in particular, stands out for its unparalleled ability to balance the vastness of landscapes with realistic perspectives, making it a favorite among landscape photographers. Experimentation with different focal lengths can unlock new and exciting ways to depict the natural world, continually enriching the art form of landscape photography.

Travel Photography Tips and Techniques – Really simple and easy for all

With travel photography you want to convey not only the scenes you have seen but also the feelings and emotions associated with the locations. The unexpected is always around the corner when you travel and with some careful preparation and a keen photographic eye you can produce some memorable results.

Good travel photography starts at home or the office before you leave for the airport and weeks in advance of your trip. Here’s how capture great travel images.

1. Research before you leave

Purchase the best travel guide you can afford and find out everything about the locations you will be visiting. Find out about the natural beauty, tourist sites, and the culture. Look at the images in the guides and see what the important areas are and what you need to record.

Learn about local transportation and distances as well as timing to reach the areas you want to visit. Learn about the culture and find out what you can photograph and what is taboo, what the dress codes are and any local laws or rules. Buy a phrase book and learn some of the key phrases to communicate when photographing. You will be amazed at how this will open doors for you.

2. Prepare a checklist

Essential for any photographer is a checklist of everything you will need for the trip, photographically as well as you normal travel needs. Check that all your gear is covered by insurance and that it is up to date. Take proof that you purchased your equipment at home and not abroad so you don’t get landed with customs duty on your return.

3. Avoid cliches

Don’t return with all of the images that are in the guide books which everyone has seen. Use new angles and try get to viewpoints that are not traditionally used for photos. Leave the tourist path and get away from the bus. If you can afford it, hire a private guide to take you off the beaten track.

4. Photograph local life

Local life in foreign countries is rich with sights and scenes that are brand new to you. You’ll often find that you will experience your photography much more by getting to know the local folk and seeing just what their daily life is like. By capturing the essence of their lives and homes you will experience the journey and capture memories that are unique and far more interesting.

5. Make yourself the subject

As the photographer you probably find that in all aspects of your life there are few images of you in front of the camera. So go out of your way to include yourself in photos while touring. Ask a travel companion, a guide or another tourist to take photos of you experiencing the local life. With digital you can see immediately the results of their work and whether you’ll need to reshoot it.

6. Take portraits

By respecting the local culture and as I mentioned learning a few of the most important phrases most locals will allow you to shoot their portraits. When photographing them close-ups are great and reveal character and the beauty of people you aren’t familiar with. But, this is the time to photograph portraits of people within their environments so shoot fewer head and shoulders and more with some of the background. Use wide angle lenses more often for great shots.

7. Shoot candids

With a longer lens and the ability to stay in the background and keep your distance you are able to photography people without them knowing. Unposed photos have people behaving totally naturally in their environments without the pressure to pose. The key here is to remain unobserved. Reveal yourself only once you have your shots. Look for opportunities that will reflect the local culture and people naturally.

8. Look for detail

By getting in closer and photographing the traditional clothes and jewelry you will see details in the color and styles. Look for details in the architecture, transport and local costumes that reveal something more than a traditional shot. A macro or telephoto is great for this type of shot.

9. Tell a story

By shooting a series of shots at a location you will be able to tell a story of the life of the local people. How they dress, work, have fun and where they live and relax. Select a theme or shoot at a market and try to think about the end result and how you will tell friends and family about your trip in just pictures. Maybe shoot a day in the life of a local you have befriended from morning till bedtime.

10. Take lots of photos

Work out how many images you think you should shoot and then double it. And then double it again. You can never take too many images. This may be the only opportunity for you to see this country and rather edit later than lose the memories by shooting too little. Not every picture will be perfect but it will be a memory. You are not just looking to create perfect photos but also great memories. Digital film is inexpensive so take lots of memory cards with you.

Travel is often a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people so go well prepared and come back with memories that will last a lifetime. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years. Passionate about photography, radio and video. He is a Radio CCFm producer and presenter in Cape Town.

The Most Photogenic Clouds and Where to Find Them

Clouds are nature’s masterpiece on the canvas of the sky. Their constantly evolving forms and ethereal presence create some of the most captivating images for photographers. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, capturing clouds can elevate your photography game. Here’s a guide to the most interesting types of clouds to photograph and the best places to find them.

1. Cumulus Clouds:

  • Appearance: These are the classic, fluffy white clouds that often resemble cotton balls. They are relatively low in the sky and have well-defined edges.
  • Best for: Daytime landscapes, creating contrast against a deep blue sky.
  • Where to find them: Almost everywhere, especially in fair weather. Mid-day is often a good time.
  • Formation: Cumulus clouds form due to vertical convection currents caused by warming at the Earth’s surface. As warm air rises, it cools and condenses into these puffy clouds.

2. Cirrus Clouds:

  • Appearance: Wispy and thin, cirrus clouds often look like feathery strokes painted high in the sky.
  • Best for: Sunsets and sunrises, as their ice crystals can reflect vibrant colors.
  • Where to find them: They are high-altitude clouds, so they are pretty much everywhere. Look up on clear days.
  • Formation: Cirrus clouds form at high altitudes where the atmospheric pressure is low. Here, water vapor freezes into ice crystals. They are often formed from the outflow of other clouds or can be remnants of cumulonimbus clouds.

3. Stratus Clouds:

  • Appearance: These clouds form uniform layers, often covering the sky like a blanket, leading to overcast conditions.
  • Best for: Creating moody, atmospheric shots. Great for black and white photography.
  • Where to find them: Common in coastal areas or during foggy mornings inland.
  • Formation: Stratus clouds are typically formed through the gentle lifting of a large, relatively flat air mass. This lifting can be due to subtle features in the landscape or even an incoming weather front. They can also form from fog lifting off the ground.

4. Cumulonimbus Clouds:

  • Appearance: Towering giants, they can develop anvil tops and can produce severe weather, including thunderstorms.
  • Best for: Capturing dramatic weather events like lightning or a storm’s approach.
  • Where to find them: Regions with frequent thunderstorms, like the American Midwest or tropical areas during the monsoon.
  • Formation: Cumulonimbus clouds are the result of vigorous convection currents. These are initiated by intense heating at the Earth’s surface. The warm air rises rapidly, and as it does, it cools and condenses. If the rising air is moist and unstable enough, it can lead to the formation of these towering storm clouds.

5. Mammatus Clouds:

  • Appearance: They are bubble-like pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud, often associated with severe weather.
  • Best for: Adding drama and intrigue to your photos.
  • Where to find them: Often seen after severe thunderstorms have passed.
  • Formation: The exact cause is still debated, but one theory suggests that they form when cold air sinks down, creating pockets contrary to the usual puffy cloud formation. They’re often associated with severe weather and can appear after a storm.

6. Lenticular Clouds:

  • Appearance: They resemble UFOs or lens shapes and form over mountains or other geographical features that disrupt the flow of the air.
  • Best for: Surreal landscapes, especially during sunset or sunrise when they can take on brilliant hues.
  • Where to find them: Mountainous regions like the Rockies or the Andes.
  • Formation: These form when moist air flows along the surface of the Earth and encounters obstructions like mountains or hills. These obstructions force the air to rise, and lenticular clouds form at the crest of the wave of rising air. Once the air passes over the obstruction and descends again, the cloud dissipates.

7. Nacreous (Mother of Pearl) Clouds:

  • Appearance: They shimmer with iridescent colors and form in the lower stratosphere over polar regions.
  • Best for: Ethereal, other-worldly shots.
  • Where to find them: Polar regions during winter, especially after sunset or before sunrise.
  • Formation: They form in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 meters (49,000–82,000 ft). They’re made up mostly of ice crystals. The clouds’ iridescence is due to the diffraction of sunlight around the ice crystals.

Tips for Cloud Photography:

  • Golden Hour Glory: The time just after sunrise or before sunset provides a soft, golden light that can make clouds look especially breathtaking.
  • Use Filters: Polarizing filters can enhance the contrast between clouds and the sky.
  • Patience Pays: Cloud formations can change rapidly. Waiting can sometimes reward you with a magical shot.

General Principles of Cloud Formation:

The foundation of cloud formation is the Water Cycle. Here’s a brief overview:

  1. Evaporation: Sun heats the Earth’s surface, causing water to evaporate from oceans, lakes, and rivers into the atmosphere.
  2. Condensation: As the warm, moist air rises, it cools. When the air temperature drops to its dew point, the water vapor condenses into tiny droplets around particulates in the air, forming clouds.
  3. Precipitation: When these water droplets combine and become heavy enough, they fall as precipitation.

In essence, clouds form when warm, moist air rises and cools, causing the water vapor in the air to condense around tiny particles, such as dust or smoke. Different atmospheric conditions, temperatures, altitudes, and more can result in the various cloud formations we see in the sky.

The world is full of breathtaking cloudscapes waiting to be captured. With patience, the right timing, and a bit of luck, photographers can capture the ethereal beauty of clouds in all their glory. So the next time you’re looking up, remember, the sky isn’t the limit—it’s the canvas!