Beginner's guide to
perfect rim lights
Rim light is an essential element of lighting that emphasizes the outlines of your subject and makes it stand out dramatically from the background in a visually pleasant and attractive way. Rim lights add depth, tension and dynamic to your photography and are generally perceived as pristine, stylish and highly professsional, as they are a little more equipment extensive than just using a normal fill light in your setup.
Rim light or back light is generally achieved by placing the light source behind the model, just slightly outside the camera's view, facing the model and camera.
With light facing the camera, glare and lens reflections are imminent. Flashlights pointing towards the camera often produce haziness and loss of contrast in the final image.
In order to avoid rim lights hitting the lens directly, they must be shielded from view in the camera. This is done using a shade or black cloth placed between the photographer and the light source, just so it cover?s the source but doesn?t obstruct the image itself. Often the shades may also appear in frame and are later removed in post.
The most important factor to make your edge lights look beautiful is an even distribution of light along your subject. Long narrow softboxes or striplights are ideal for this job, you can also use evenly lit scrims. Try to avoid unmodified single bulb light sources, pint lights or round lighting fixtures. Fluorescent lights also work well.
The look of your rim light greatly depends not only of the light shaper used, but of the placement of the light source aswell. Try to find the optimum balance between getting as closely behind your subject as possible, without the lightsource being in sight. This normally means placing the light at roughtly a 45 degree angle behind your subject, to the left or/and right, depending on where you want your light edge to be. The further behind, the sharper the edge will be. The further away or the bigger your lightsource is, the softer your edge may appear. See what best fits the style of your image and always try out a few settings to familiarize yourself with the changes.
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