Learn with Calumet. Butterfly lighting for portrait photography.

The essence of photography finds its foundations upon the workings of light and shadow, or as the Italian masters of Renaissance Art would call it Chiaroscuro. And when it comes to portrait lighting, the use of light and shadow has very different effects on the final image. In order to create some common ground between photographers, Rory Lewis has put together a few key photography lighting setups that you should get to know.

Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting, also known as Paramount lighting, became a regular form of lighting the Hollywood photographers of the 1930s utilised. This lighting is characterized by the butterfly-shaped shadow that it casts below the nose. The butterfly  pattern can be quite useful for a variety of faces, but is at its best on lean subjects with high and pronounced cheekbones.  It is produced by placing the light source above the face (typically 25-70 degrees) and in line with the direction in which the face is pointing.



Butterfly consists of a single light pointed directly at the subject straight on, and raised high enough to create a downward shadow on the subject.


Equipment List

Bowens XMS Studio 500 Monolight

Bowens Lumiair 80 x100 Softbox

Bowens 40º Soft Egg Crate for Lumiair 80-100 Softbox

Lastolite 1.5mx1.8m Collapsible Reversible Background – Black/White

Profoto 80cm ReflectorBlack/White


If you’re looking for the right camera to help you achieve the Rembrandt effect, head on over to our camera range to find the right one for you. And if you need some help, get in touch with us on social media, call us on 0333 003 5000, email us at customer.support@calphoto.co.uk, or see our Help Centre for FAQ and answers.

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