The Rembrandt lighting, as it is known to photographers since its first introduction, has been a favorite of ours. When it is properly made, photographically speaking, it is one of the most striking" and attractive lightings we have. A few years ago it was a common thing to hear our patrons, and especially in the smaller towns, exclaim "it is too dark on one side." But since the advent of the ground glass lights, and a better knowledge of how to use them, we rarely hear any complaint even from the most ignorant in photography. Like nearly all things that are especially beautiful, this effect in lighting is especially difficult to make. One of the greatest troubles we have is in getting reflections that destroy the delicate gradations that go to make it so attractive in its nature. The greater portion of the face being in shadow, a very small amount of reflected light will show very perceptibly.
We must, therefore, guard against all white surfaces that are calculated to throw back any reflections. The old maxim, "that anything that is worth doing at all, is worth doing well," holds good here, and this lighting should be made up as well as it is possible to make it, and this can only be done by constant practice. In fact an operator should never let a day pass that he does not make up the different effects in lighting and thus keep in touch with the workings of his light. A light will work differently one day from another. One day may be cloudy, the next a perfect, clear day, thus causing-the light to give different gradations of light and shade. This constant practice will, of course, bear fruit, and that fruit will be a thorough knowledge of how to use every curtain on the light, without having to stop and study over the matter. Nothing causes a subject to lose confidence in an operator so quickly as to see him hesitate, and "chase" around searching for what he wants to do. Every subject will require different treatment from every other subject, in the way of lighting and posing and the operator should be able to tell at a glance what lighting and position will suit. This cannot be accomplished without hard work, constant practice and persistent reading of the various journals published on this subject. It is frequently the case that a very plain subject can be made to appear a good one by a little trick of lighting, and at the same time not destroy the likeness.
An Example of Rembrandt Lighting.
In making up this lighting, and in giving a description of it, we will suppose that we are using the double slant light as in plain lighting, and also that we are working from the east end of the room. That is, our camera is in the east end of the room facing the west, while our subject is facing the east.
Place your subject directly under the center of the skylight. Have the background far enough in the rear to be out of focus, say three feet or more. Draw the two curtains on the east end of the top light down to within about five feet of the side light, and the two remaining curtains down to within about six feet. Draw the two curtains on the east end of the side light up to within a foot of the top light, and the two remaining curtains up to within four feet of the top light. By this method of using the curtains it will be noticed that most of the light is falling on the subject from the rear. We will say the subject is about nine feet from the side light. Now place the camera about the same distance from the light. To make a three-quarter view of the face, have the subject turn the body just a tritle away from the light, and the face back toward the light, until the ear on the light side of the face is just hidden. Now take the head screen which should be of some opaque cloth and divide the light and shadow as nearly in the center of the forehead as possible. Do not shade the whole face with the screen; only the shadow side, leaving the light side of the face strong and brilliant. Notice the points of light; they should be the same as in plain lighting. The highest light should be on the left side of the forehead, next running down the nose, next on the left side of the upper lip, and the next on the chin, with the delicate light or halftone on the shadow side of the face, and blending back into the soft shadow. If there is no broad partition between the side and top light, as was spoken of under "Notes on Plain Lighting," the catch lights will be sharp and round. If there should be such division in the two lights, there will be two catch lights in the eyes, and one will have to be etched out in the retouching room.
A very soft light will be noticed just tipping the shadow shoulder. This little touch of light is of great assistance in giving detail to the drapery on the shadow side of the figure. After directions have been followed, if it is found lighting is too strong or harsh, the diffusing curtains may be drawn over the light, until the desired effect is secured. There should be no harsh shadows in this lighting. Even the deepest of shadows should have detail in them. Have no fear that the use of the diffusing curtains will necessitate longer exposure, for they will not. They are not to reduce the volume of light, but to spread, or blend the light, and do not increase the length of exposure.
For profile, pose the subject just the same as for three-quarter view, and then move the camera around from the side light until only the shadow side of the face can be seen.
In making this lighting, it matters not what position may be used, a side reflector of white goods should be used on the shadow side of the figure, but it should be done very carefully and should be drawn well up to the front of the subject. In fact it should be drawn forward close to the camera. If it is placed too far to the rear of the subject, it will cause a strong reflected spot of light to form just under the ear, and on the neck. This portion of the face should be in the deepest shadow on the face. This false reflection of light will spoil the true modeling of the face, and give the retoucher unnecessary work. The reflected light should begin its effect, where the direct light leaves off, and that is just on the rise of the cheek bone. This can only be secured by drawing the reflector well in advance of the subject. A little practice and study of its nature will set one right.
This style of lighting will be found especially attractive for light draperies, as it gives little darts of light on the prominent points of drapery which are followed up by soft, silky shadows, full of details. There are innumerable positions to be made in this lighting, although we have only used two in our description. Use judgment as to position, suiting the position to the requirements of the subject's face, but work on these principles for securing the lighting, and after a few trials you will have less trouble in getting what is wanted. While we have given directions for working from the east end of the operating room it is just as easy to reverse everthing and work from the other end. This is also true in making any of the other lightings.