Making portraits with a rim light is awesome. It gives depth and punch and when you do it really well you’ll notice that it looks more natural. Take a close look the next time you’re having a conversation anyplace with windows and you’ll probably see that the person you’re talking with has a rim light illuminating their cheek from one side. That rim light will help you make a lot of people happy with their portraits (which helps you make a lot of money). You should always use a rim light.

And you should always turn it off.

Check out that rim light coming from the back on the right. You’ll see this kind of light naturally occurring in all kinds of situations.

Simplicity and Variety

Once you’ve made portraits with the front light and the rim light, making a few more without that light shining forward will give you variety from your shoot with the flick of the power shoot. You’ll find pictures with more drama and mystique and vulnerability. Move your subject forward and backward in relation to the front light and you’ll have even more variety.

Each of these two portraits simply has the rim light removed. It really highlights the face and the simplicity of the portrait becomes powerful. It’s so easy to make both types, with and without rim light, that there’s no reason not to do it on every shoot.


Using a rim light gives you modern-looking photos with a natural looking kind of light. But you’ll look like star fro your client when you create a completely different set of pictures by simply flicking the power switch on that rim light and making a few more pictures with more moodiness. Variety means happy clients, and that leads to more sales. The power switch on your rim light may be the most profitable button you own.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.