Loop lighting is a type of lighting technique in portraiture. It can be used to provide a more natural lighting effect, as well as to enhance the facial features of the subject and add character to photographs.

It is a popular choice for many portrait photographers.

However, it can also be used in some fashion photography and is favored among makeup artists because it gives them an opportunity to highlight their work.

Let’s take a look.

loop lighting photography

What Is loop lighting?

Loop lighting is a popular lighting technique that uses one main light source, and it’s one of the three standard portrait lighting styles (the other two being broad and short). It’s characterized by a small shadow on one side of the subject’s face.

There are different types of loop lighting, but in all cases, there is a small shadow under your subject’s nose.

This shadow helps define the contours of the face, making it more interesting than flat lighting

For a basic setup, you need to place your light at a 45-degree angle to your subject. How far away you set your light depends on the lens you’re using and how big your subject is in the frame.

Placing your light too close will create hard shadows and overpowering highlights, while placing it too far away will result in flat lighting with few shadows.



The same principles apply to loop lighting when using multiple lights, only now you’ll be adjusting their positions as well as their intensity.

The results can be much more dramatic than single-light looping.

There are different kinds of loop lighting available. Loop lighting can be a great way to add a little more light to your photos, whether it’s for product shots, portraits or other types of photography.

Let’s look at some of the different types of loop lighting and how you can use them to improve your photography.

Types of Loop Lighting:

Slave flash.

The simplest way to set up loop lighting is with an external flash unit that’s connected by wire to the camera by wire. These flashes are typically set up on either side or behind the subject, producing a looped effect that surrounds the target area.

Wraparound flash. 

Another way to achieve loop lighting is through a wraparound softbox.


This kind of setup is useful if you’re shooting on location and don’t have access to stands or other gear. You can wrap a sheet or blanket around a small flash unit to create a softbox effect, then position it near your subject so that the light wraps around them.

Some photographers also choose to use gaffer tape to secure the fabric instead of pins or clamps.

What Is Loop Lighting Photography?

Loop lighting is a term that you often see mentioned in product photography articles and tutorials.

It’s an essential part of product photography, but it can be confusing for beginners.

Loop lighting tends to produce a much softer light than direct light, which makes it perfect for showcasing products with delicate or intricate details, like jewellery and cutlery.

The reason loop lighting works so well is because it creates areas of highlight and shadow around individual elements on your product.

Some areas will be very brightly lit, while others will be in deep shadow.

This draws attention to the most important details by highlighting them against a dark background.

How To Set Up Loop Lighting

In order to set up loop lighting, you need to have a light source coming from just one side of your product, normally the left-hand side as you’re looking at it.

Ideally, this should come from a soft box or other diffused light source with no shadows cast on other areas of the object.

A reflector can also be useful to help fill shadows with extra light when needed.

Loop Lighting Photography — Definition, Setup & Creative Uses

The loop lighting technique shines a light on the subject from an angle, forming a “loop” behind the subject. 


This type of lighting has several key benefits: 

  • Creates more dimension in the subject, especially if you’re using a shallow depth of field to blur out the background.
  • Creates soft shadows and diffused highlights under the eyes or cheekbones of your subject, making them look less tired, less gaunt, and healthier overall. This technique is commonly used in fashion and beauty photography.

The best way to create loop lighting is with two lights, one on either side of the camera and slightly above eye level pointing down at a 45-degree angle toward the model. The lights should be approximately 45 degrees apart from each other.

Experiment with positioning to get this right because you need enough distance between the lights so they don’t create harsh shadows or spill onto one another. 

Characteristics Of Loop Lighting Photography

Loop lighting photography is perfectfor taking pictures ofproducts in a studio.

This technique is not easy, but with some practice, it can be done.

Equipment needed for Loop Photography:

  • Tripod – This is a very important component for any type  of photography. Tripods ensure the camera does not move and keeps your hands free to adjust other aspects.
  • Flash – Flash must be used when shooting in the dark or in a place where there is low light. However, for loop lighting photography, you will have to use an off-camera flash instead of an on-camera flash.
  • Trigger – The flash needs to be triggered by something so it can fire at the same time as the shutter button is pushed down. This can be done by using a cable release or a wireless remote trigger.
  • Light Meter – Although you don’t need one, a light meter helps you measure the amount of light present in the scene before taking your shot. 
  • White Background – Another essential for this type of photography is a smooth white background which will reflect light without showing any shadows.


What Is Loop Lighting Used For?

It’s impossible to create a 100% realistic photo. At the very least, there has to be some light source that is acting as the sun.

But how do you create this artificial lighting? 

Tungsten lights are by far the most common type of artificial lighting used today, but newer and better options are being developed every year.

The most popular of these new forms of artificial lighting is known as loop lighting. 

The purpose of loop lighting is to cast shadows on a subject, creating the illusion that the subject is being lit by the sun.

This allows you to create very high-quality images without having to worry about harsh shadows, or sometimes even over-exposed highlights. It also means that you can use your flash for fill-in, which makes for much more natural images.

Loop lighting is great for creating product shots, but it can also work very well in portrait photography. You can create very soft and even lighting across your subject’s face.

There are two main components that make up loop lighting: 

  • the reflector
  • the diffuser

The reflector creates the loop while the diffuser helps soften the light coming from behind it.

Loop Portrait Photography

I took a photo of a friend recently and was asked how I did the cool loopy bokeh effect in the background. It was done in camera with a Lensbaby Composer Pro lens, but it’s an effect that can be done in Photoshop as well.

Here’s how to do it:

Take your photo and make sure you don’t have any objects in the background that you want to keep sharp.

This step is optional, but it can help if you desaturate the image. Change the saturation back to 100% just for the background layer. 

You can do this with the Hue/Saturation tool or by creating a blank layer, then using Image>Adjustments>Desaturate and Image>Adjustments>Colorize (set all colors to 100%).

Now we’re going to create some selection lines around our subject using the Pen Tool (P). The Pen Tool creates white-to-black gradient selections, which is what we want since we want to keep our subject black and our background white.

It also helps to zoom in to at least 200% so you can see what you’re doing.

Loop Portrait photography is all about building fun, creative and engaging portrait images.

The best part of loop portrait photography is that it’s a very organic process. While you can use a lot of camera gear , the real emphasis is on having fun with your subject and creating an image that tells a story.

TIP! If you want to get the most from your loop portrait photography, you’ll want to start with a great model. Make sure the person you choose is comfortable and confident in front of the camera.

Don’t forget to have a good time while shooting!


How To Capture Loop Lighting

Loop lighting is created when a light source, like the sun, is reflected on to a subject from the side. It creates a smooth, even glow that can be captured using an off-camera flash.

Trying to capture loop lighting without an off-camera flash requires loop lighting modifiers.These modifiers are basically reflectors placed to the side of your subject and can be used in conjunction with strobes, bounce boards or natural light.

There are different types of loop lighting modifiers available and each has its own unique characteristics. 

Next,I will show you some different loop lighting modifiers and demonstrate how you can use them in your photography.

Honeycomb Grid 

This type of modifier looks like honeycomb and is made up of hexagonal shapes with each hexagon being approximately 1 inch in diameter.

When placed above a subject it creates point light sources that have a cool, blueish tint. This is useful if you want to add depth and dimension to your light source but don’t have access to daylight.

Grids also have the benefit of reducing broad shadows cast by hard sunlight or studio lights.

Strip Grid 

A strip grid is similar to a honeycomb grid except that it has more rectangular-shaped holes instead of hexagonal ones cut out of it.

How Photographers Use Rim Lights

What is a rim light? 


A rim light is a subtle and often barely visible light used to illuminate the subject’s face while the background remains dark. If you’ve seen movies that look like they were shot in black-and-white, it’s because the filmmakers placed large lights behind their subject to create this effect.

A rim light is also known as a hair or edge light because of its common use in highlighting the edges of hair and creating a visual interest in the image. 

How photographers use rim lights to create depth in portrait photography:

Low contrast images with a little haze work great for adding rim lights.

The soft, ambient light from the other side of the subject can seep around her face and onto her hair. Keep these lights out of the camera’s view so your model isn’t overpowered by harsh shadows.

Rim lights help define a shape by separating it from its surroundings. Without it, your subject would blend into her background or appear flat against it.

You’re able to emphasize her visage while showing off a dramatic backdrop like this city mural.

Rim lighting can be used to draw attention to specific details on your subject’s face such as eyelashes or freckles while surrounding them with darkness.

Loop Lighting A Lighting Pattern Every Photographer Should Know

Whether it is a product shot or an image of someone’s face, loop lighting lends itself really well to almost any situation.

Loop lighting is also referred to as Rembrandt Lighting because it was popularized by the famous Dutch painter.

TIP: Loop lighting is a great way to set up shots because it creates depth in an image and also brings out details.

It is especially good for close-up shots because it helps produce more accurate skin tones while creating enough shadows to prevent an image from looking flat. 

Loop lighting works best when you are very close to your subject and your main light source is coming from either the top left or top right of the frame.

To achieve this look you will need:

  • One light source placed high above the camera,left or right. 
  • A reflector in the opposite corner (top right or bottom left).
  • *Optional: One fill light placed behind subject. If you have two lights, you can place them on either side of the subject. This will give you more shadows but will not be as dramatic as using one single light source.

There you go. This guide should help you get started with Loop Lighting photograpy. Happy snapping!