What is Rembrandt lighting in photography

Lexicon of film terms

Rembrandt light

Variation of chiaroscuro lighting and low key. Named after the painter Rembrandt (1606; based on the latest research 1607-1669), who paid great attention to the study of natural incidence of light and who in his paintings and graphics often set off details from the surrounding darkness by means of strong incidence of light. At the end of the 19th century, the Rembrandt Renaissance was in full swing - both among modern and traditionalist painters. The style principle was also adapted in photography. There Rembrandt light was used throughout the pictorialistic phase (1870-1920) for the purpose of ennobling. From here it migrated to film in the early 1920s, supported by the development of powerful, electrified arc lamps, by means of which - for example through the use of backlights - the people in the picture could be separated from their surroundings.
Rembrandt light is still used today to illuminate film sets so that certain details can be seen better or worse. This accentuation can make an image appear more expressive and a situation more dramatic. Rembrandt light in the film is a highly selective lighting with surfaces in half or full darkness, sharply (hard) separated surfaces (shadows), which are generated by direct spot lights with gates. The light is derived from at least one strong, dominant light source - the spotlights of the light arrangement, which can only be located off-screen, are very close outside the picture frame, so that the harshness of the shadow always appears motivated.

Literature: Schöne, Wolfgang: About the light in painting. Berlin: Gebr. Mann 1954; numerous New editions. - Strauss, Ernst: Color history studies of painting since Giotto. Munich / Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag 1972; repr. 1983.

Article last changed on October 12, 2012

Author: WSKJTM