Clean, Contemporary Headshot Lighting
My lighting is punchy and glamorous. It shows form and creates depth on my client's face in a radically different way from what you will see other photographers using. I like this lighting because it has a clean, crisp, and contemporary feel and is appropriate for professional headshots, especially in Silicon Valley.
Traditional Low-tech lighting.
Most photographers use “Rembrandt Lighting.” It’s prevalent because it’s a beautiful light that painters originally developed during the Baroque period in the early 17th century. (I believe it’s known as Rembrandt lighting because he’s the most universally famous artist from that period.) This lighting style depends on positioning the light to the side and slightly ahead of the subject to cast shadows that create depth and form in an image.
It’s a good solution given the low level of technology available to them at the time. They didn’t have electric lights. They had daylight, mirrors, candles, and lanterns; positioning was the only means of manipulating the light available to them. It’s effective and creates a wonderful romantic presentation that has been remarkably popular for centuries.
The (simplified) science.
My lighting relies on applying the inverse square law, a scientific principle unknown to the people of the 17th century. For my application, headshot photography, the inverse square law states that for every doubling of the distance from a light source, the intensity of the light is reduced to 1/4 of what it was.
Imagine that a lightbulb’s intensity is measured at 100 lumens one foot away from the bulb to provide a very simplified description. At two feet, the intensity of the light will be only 25 lumens. At four feet, it is only 6.25 lumens.
High-tech techniques for a high-tech world.
I arrange my lighting to create an effective or virtual light source an inch in front of my subject's face. The contrast that defines the contours of their face is created by the dramatic reduction of the intensity of light as it washes over their face and wraps around their head.
The plane of their face is effectively twice as far from the virtual light source as the tip of their nose. Their cheeks will be darker than the tip of their nose. Their ears being twice as far from the light source as their cheeks will be correspondingly darker.
I like this lighting because it is dramatically different from any lighting I’ve seen in headshots before. It captures the attention of the viewer and focuses it on the expression and presence of my customer.
You can see the impact of the effect in all my headshots.
Chelsea Ramm, CEO & Founder Sum Savvy Consulting, Woman's Executive Headshot
Dean Birinyi is an award-winning photographer, founder, and owner of Professional Headshots Palo Alto and Silicon Valley Headshots. He specializes in expression coaching to guide his customers on presenting themselves as confident, approachable professionals ready for the next opportunity.