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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Rim Light - building a multi light studio set up for photography portraits.

Building a multi light studio set up for photography portraits

Rim Light

We're in the territory of stating the obvious now, but a rim light, is a rim light, in much the same way that a hair light, is a hair light; as I cheesily point out in the next 101. A rim light offers a shallow halo rim of light surrounding the subject from behind. Some may say otherwise, but you can leave the light in shot too rather than hiding it behind your subject, as it'll will still give much the same effect, but you'll have the added bonus (or hindrance) of light flare.

Now, light flare seems to be a very divisive thing in the photography community, so you may wish to use it sparingly, or may be just because you like it and don't care what others think! To be honest, if you like it, the latter is the way to go and best philosophy to apply to your own photography, and of course, so you shoot with integrity. You can only follow trends by pleasing others, so wouldn't you just rather set your own and not care?

As mentioned in the video, a rim light will play havoc on stragglers of hair. Frizz, and those undeniably noticeable flyaways will be lit up light a Christmas tree!

Also, and again, aside from being kinda funky, a rim light's main objective is to helps with tonal separation, but probably in a little more full on and abrasive way in nature. It ultimately still serves a purpose in much the same way as the two kicker lights together, so if your narrative calls for a harder, more shocking vibe, then it could be a good way to go. It's certainly a stronger feeling light effect, and one that may best avoided for beauty and softer stories.. but as always, it's your choice, and just another tool in your lighting arsenal! As per the last 101, it's for those reasons that it's good for sport and images where you want to create a strong, powerful subject. The shadow on the floor from full length images can also serve as leading lines, and/or give a sense of distance in the image, and dare I say it, that implied 3rd dimension. You see it a lot in horror movies too, rim lit silhouettes on atmospheric nights. Big, bold, strong, scary.. you get the picture.


If you fancy learning live with a model and are local(ish) to North Wales, check out - we'll pack in wayyy more information than these 101's, it'll be less awkward than my cheesy voice-overs, and I'll be able to show results in real time via a 4K projector while fielding questions. It'll cover everything from setting up lights, syncing and shutter settings, lighting patterns, to a multi light set up where at the end you'll get some one on one time with the model to try it out and kick-start/bolster your portfolio.

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