rim lighting photo of a smoking woman

6 Lighting Setup for Rim Lighting Photography

May 26, 2022

Do you want to take your rim lighting photography to the next level?

If so, you will need to set up some great lighting. In this article, we'll walk you through six lighting setups that will help you achieve great results.

Whether you are looking for the light that's soft and gentle or harsh and dramatic, we've got you covered. So what are you waiting for? Get started!

Lighting Setup 1: One Light Rim Lighting Photography

Rim Lighting Photography---one light setup

The goal of this type of photography is to create a moody and atmospheric photo by using just one light source to light the entire scene. 

  1. Start by choosing the right light source. You can use a traditional light bulb, an LED light, or even an off-camera flash. If you want some versatility on your shoot, a light modifier is a must to help create the mood or ambiance you’re aiming for.
  2. Once you have chosen your light source, it is important to position it correctly. Place it directly behind your subject and towards your camera.
  3. Prop your camera in a monopod or tripod to stabilize your shots and reduce camera shake. But you can always go freestyle. The only caveat for this is you need to adjust the settings every now and then.
  4. Once you have your lighting and camera set up, it is time to start shooting! Remember, the goal here is to highlight the person's face and direct the light downwards towards the ground. 

This technique is perfect for photos that require a more traditional look, such as wedding photography or portrait photography.

Lighting Setup 2: Two Light Rim Lighting Photography

Rim Lighting Photography---two lights setup

By using two light sources to create rim light, photographers are able to create an ethereal look that is captivating and stunning.

  1. Set up your two lights either on stands or clamps. Again, your choice of lamp and mood is up to you.
  2. Next, you will want to position the subject so that the light from one light falls on their center and the light from the other falls off to one side or the other. Be sure to keep things close to the subject so that there is enough light on their face.
  3. Finally, use your camera to capture the perfect photo!

Whether you are looking for a unique portrait style or want to add some extra depth of field to your photos, Two Light Rim Lighting Photography is sure to deliver!

Lighting Setup 3: Three Light Rim Lighting Photography 01

Rim Lighting Photography---three lights setup

You can use this technique to help accentuate features in your subject. Here's how to do it:

  1. Place your main light on an angle so that it falls in front of your subject – but not directly, just enough to create a shadow.
  2. Then position the other two lights so that they fall on either side of your subject. You may check the diagram above for reference.
  3. Position your subjects in front of a background that is similar in color and brightness to the skin of your subjects. This will help to reduce the contrast between your subject and the background.
  4. Shoot the photo as shown in the diagram below, using a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the lights. You can also try using a low ISO to keep noise levels down.

By taking two side-by-side shots and one front shot, you can create some great depth and perspective in your photos. 

Lighting Setup 4: Three Light Rim Lighting Photography 02

Rim Lighting Photography---three lights setup

This set-up uses the same tools as before, but the placement is different from creating more natural lighting by filling in the shadows.

  1. Retain the two lights on the back, the same as set-up 4.
  2. This time, you need to position your front light on either side of your subject.
  3. Position the subject in the middle of these three light stands. But this time, make sure that the subject is also facing the direction wherein you place the front light.
  4. Turn on all three lights and adjust them until you get the desired effect. Be sure to experiment with different settings to find what works best for your photo!

If your client requested a side profile, then this lighting set-up is the way to go!

Lighting Setup 5: Three Light Rim Lighting Photography 03

Rim Lighting Photography---three lights setup

As you can see in the diagram, we have traded our other light source with a beauty dish. This will distribute the light directly but not in an unflattering manner.

  1. Retain the right lighting on the back. This will add more depth and dimension to your image. But do not go overboard, as it may overpower your key lighting.
  2. Switch the left lighting with a beauty dish for a larger light source. Place it to the right of your subject but directly to your camera.
  3. Position your frontal strip box to the left. It will capture the tiny details, such as the subject’s hair, in the diagram.
  4. And since we have changed the position of the strip box, you also need to adjust the position of your subject so that they are facing the frontal strip box.
  5. Shoot away! You may instruct your subject to tilt their heads to capture better lighting on the front, but be wary of how the other two lightings can effect your results.

Breaking photography rules, like this setup, can lead to some amazing shots. By learning to break the rules, you will be able to produce shots that are unique, interesting, and above all else, captivating.

Lighting Setup 6: Three Light Rim Lighting Photography 04

Rim Lighting Photography---three lights setup

In order to create great Three Light Rim Lighting Photography, you will need the following three light sources: a backlight, a fill light, and a key light.

Here's how you would set up each one:

  1. Setup the backlight in the background of your scene. This should be a very bright light source that highlights the subject's hair, clothing, and any other areas that you want to highlight. You can use artificial light or sunlight if you are shooting outdoors.
  1. Setup the fill light in front of the subject and slightly to the side. This should be a softer light source that allows the subject to look natural while still being lit up. You can use an off-camera flash or a daylight bulb if you are shooting indoors.
  1. Setup the key light in front of the subject and slightly to the side again. This should be the brightest light in your scene and should help make your subject's face look clean and sharp. You can use an on-camera flash or an LED light if you are shooting outdoors.

Finally, take a picture and enjoy your beautiful Three Light Rim Lighting Photography with backlight, fill light, and key light photo!


The lighting setup for rim lighting photography can be quite daunting if you're just starting out. But by following one of the suggested setups, you will be able to capture the beautiful light around your subject.

Be sure to experiment with different settings and angles to see what produces the most visually arresting results.

And once you have got the basics down, it is time to start experimenting with different lighting effects and styles!

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