Chapter 2: a Rembrandt lighting inspired photo shoot [+ video]

Did you know that although Rembrandt did paint portraits using what they call Rembrandt lighting, he actually didn’t use it all that often? #funfact

Welcome to chapter 2, where you get to see how a Rembrandt inspired photo shoot starts to bring my ‘Hatchling’ portrait to life. And, of course, I made you another fun video!

Duration: 2 minutes. If you enjoyed this video, please like, share + leave me a comment on YouTube!

Or, if you prefer to read, here you go:

I love soaking in the Old Master paintings

And Rembrandt in particular was a master of light and mood.

Full credit to photographer, Chris Knight. For one of my creative learning investments, I took his Finding Rembrandt course. Chris does a fascinating analysis of Rembrandt’s portraits so we can recreate the look and feel on camera.

In the course, Chris then uses soft boxes, spots, flags, and all sorts of fancy studio lighting equipment to demonstrate making his photos. Me, I don’t have anything like that… But, I do have what Rembrandt had – a window!

My first photo shoot practicing Rembrandt lighting with natural light from the window.
My first photo shoot practicing Rembrandt lighting with natural light from the window.

The first tricky part was getting bright but soft light. I needed an overcast day where light streamed softly through the window at just the right angle. (Oh yes, and winter was here – with the rain and gray and dark…)

As for the pose…

I’d had the idea of my little dragon maquette on my shoulder for a while. And before you ask, Game of Thrones was not an inspiration (I happen to have strong opinions about gritty fantasy…)

One of the things I wanted was this checkerboard effect where the light and shadow in the image goes dark, to light, to dark, to light.

Demonstrating the "checkerboard" effect. Self portrait practicing Rembrandt lighting.
Demonstrating the “checkerboard” effect where the light in the image goes dark, to light, to dark, to light…

I use it a lot in my drawings and paintings. It helps the subject look more three-dimensional and stand out from the background. Like in these images:

Other drawings and paintings where I've used "checkerboard" lighting.
Other drawings and paintings where I’ve used “checkerboard” lighting. Top left: 5-minute charcoal sketch from life drawing. Top right: © 2018, Ailene Cuthbertson, Shining. Digitally painted. Bottom left: © 2018, Ailene Cuthbertson, Luminous. Digitally painted. Bottom right: © 2015, Ailene Cuthbertson, “Tell me,” he said, “Does the dance of the Sashiana mean anything to you?” Digitally painted.

It did take 3 photo shoots to try different set-ups and poses. But I finally got closer to what I was looking for.

Image from my Rembrandt lighting inspired photo shoot with my little dragon maquette on my shoulder.
Image from my Rembrandt lighting inspired photo shoot with my little dragon maquette on my shoulder.

In the next chapter…

I’ll show you how I put all these photos together to make a reference. And I find inspiration at an exhibition of film costumes. See you there!

Keep on shining bright,

Ailene