This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
220. Rembrandt is a style of lighting in which the lights and shadows are quite sharply defined, and usually the greater portion of the face is in shadow. This style of lighting, founded on the principles of Plain Portrait Lighting, although not suitable to all classes of subjects, is employed to a great extent in regular studio portraiture, and is beautiful when properly executed. Practically all of the principles involved in properly lighting a subject according to Plain Portrait Lighting are applicable to Rembrandt, except that, instead of photographing the subject to secure the larger proportion of the face in light, an opposite position is chosen, reproducing the greater portion of the face in shadow. In other words, instead of having the camera near the skylight, thus obtaining a broad lighting of the face, the camera is placed farther from the light and directed toward the shadow side of the face.
221. This form of lighting is used by various artists of the brush, but most successfully employed by the well known painter, Rembrandt, after whom it was named. There is a mistaken idea, quite prevalent among photographers, as to the exact nature of the requirements of a Rembrandt Portrait Lighting. There is but one typical form of this lighting, and that is the one employed by Rembrandt himself. Frequently we see photographs of the Rembrandt style of lighting, in which the picture is a mass of black. There can be no shadow without light and Rembrandt's effort was to emphasize light rather than to produce darkness.
222. Beauty is shown also to a greater extent in shadows and half-tones, than in strong high-lights. They add to the attractiveness of this style of lighting, and to secure the right effect one must understand what is required in order to be able to secure the proper result. It is imperative that there be detail in all portions of the portrait. Some have formed the impression that, when a "Rembrandt Lighting" is mentioned, reference is made to the head being turned to secure a profile view with a strong light falling upon the outline, the rest of the face and figure being practically void of detail. Absence of detail is exactly what a Rembrandt portrait should not show. It is also possible to make practically a front view of the face in Rembrandt Lighting, but the most popular form employed is to have the face turned to exclude the ear on the high-light side. 223. A properly lighted Rembrandt subject will have the light falling at an angle of 45°, which is exactly the same as for Plain Portrait Lighting. It is permissible to have the light come a little more from the rear, yet to all intents and purposes the subject may remain in practically the same position for Rembrandt Lighting as for a Plain Lighting, much depending upon the width of the skylight room. While this style of lighting may be produced in many ways, a very simple method is to work exactly the same as for Plain Lighting effects. As this method permits of the use of a large volume of light, it also cuts down the required exposure, which is essential. The subject may be placed in nearly the same location and the camera moved to the shadow side of the subject.
224. The diffusing curtains, as well as the reflected light must be used, in order that roundness may be preserved and a sufficient amount of detail secured in the deepest shadows. The tendency, however, is to employ much too strong a light, which, as a natural consequence, produces too great a contrast of light on the subject. The high-lights in the negative are thus fully exposed and on development, become quite dense, while the shadows have not received sufficient time. Or, if the shadows are fully exposed the high-lights are solarized, so that all modeling is lost. On the other hand, if the light is properly soft in character there is danger of over-developing, which will also give a harsh-printing negative. Again, the face is often turned toward a strong light, and the subject placed too close to it, with the result that the catch-lights in the eyes are too large and need scraping down on the negative. This is a very delicate piece of work, liable to destroy proper expression. Besides, the strength of light causes the pupils to contract, and the actual expression is not as good as when the pupils are larger or more dilated.
225. More accuracy is required in controlling the light for Rembrandt effects than for the Plain or Broad Lighting. Care must be exercised, in properly controlling the light, that the high-lights be not too hard and the shadows lacking in detail. There must be detail in all parts, and a gradual blending from the highest point of light down into the deepest shadow.
226. The artist, Rembrandt, found joy in concentrating the light to make brilliant accents upon the face and drapery. His power of producing these striking effects was certainly wonderful, yet the photographer can produce similar results if he will but study the effect of light and learn to control it.
227. The painter, by using color, is able to do many things which the photographer cannot hope to accomplish, as he has to work in monochrome, yet a study of the reproductions of Rembrandt will enable anyone to secure ideas regarding the relative values of the high-lights and shadows. In real Rembrandt Lighting there must be a gradual fading away from the chief bright spot. (See Illustration No. 13.) The strongest illumination is between the cheek and nose. The light should dwindle away over the shoulder and background, here and there arrested upon embroidery, lace, or other forms of drapery. It must strike everything clearly and sharply, without the least approach to fuzziness, or flatness, but always of a lessening strength as it descends from the chief point of accent.
228. Another point in which Rembrandt examples should be respected is in the matter of backgrounds. There should be no meaningless darkness. They should always contain something solid upon which the light may fall, even though the suggestion of this is extremely faint. The light usually falls on them in a soft, luminous glow, always well graded. The head of the subject should not sink into the ground, but always appear free from it.
Illustration No. 15. Rembrandt Lighting - Floor Plan.
See Paragraph No. 229.