Rim lights are the easiest way to add some extra dimension and pop to your photos.

They’re a powerful lighting tool that can help take your portraits from flat, two-dimensional images to something with much more visual impact.

If you’ve ever taken a photo of someone who was standing in front of a window on a sunny day, you’ve probably created an unintentional rim light effect.

The subject is lit by the window directly, while the edge of their body facing the camera is lit by secondary light bouncing off the wall behind them.

Rim lights are essentially just the same idea, but applied intentionally and with greater control.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about rim lights, how they work and how to use them in your photography.

rim light photography

What Is a rim light In photography?

A rim light can be used to separate your subject from the background, or it can be used to create a halo effect around your subject. It’s not difficult to achieve, but the results are very dramatic.

A rim light is created by using a diffuser or reflector to bounce light into the shadows on the side of your subject (the rim), while the main light illuminates the front of your subject.

There are a few ways you can approach this, but the easiest way is to use two flashes: one on either side of your subject, with the diffuser/reflector positioned between them.



What Is A Rim Light?

A rim light, or side light in photography, is a technique that can be used to enhance the form of a subject by using a light source from the side to create a halo or outline effect.

A rim light is sometimes referred to as a hair light, backlight, edge light, contour light, kicker, or side-kick.

Normally the subject of your photograph will sit in the middle of your frame with the key lights hitting them from the front.

The rim light’s job is to create separation between your subject and the background as well as draw attention to the subject.

A good way to think about this is to imagine you are painting your subject and you want to draw attention to it using lighting. You would use brighter colors on the edges (rim lights) of your artwork for separation.

This same concept can be applied to photography.

The best way to learn how to use rim lights effectively is to practice and experiment with them on different subjects.

Try shooting portraits with a single rim light behind your subject instead of directly in front of them.

If you don’t have any speedlights available you can also use window light or natural daylight from behind your subject for a similar effect.


Description: The easiest way to achieve this look is with two flashes with diffusers or reflectors positioned between them.

The main light will illuminate your subject from the front, and the rim lights will bounce in from either side at about 45 degrees.

When you do this, keep in mind that you’ll have to make some adjustments for exposure and white balance if you’re using flashes because they’re different temperatures than daylight.

If you’re using continuous lighting, or there’s daylight coming from behind your subject, then no white balance adjustments are needed.

What Is A Rim Light Used For?

What Is A Rim Light Used For?Rim light is a lighting technique that can be used for a number of different things, whether it’s to add some mystery to your subject or to simply enhance its features. It’s especially popular with portrait photography because it allows you to separate the subject from the background even more than usual.

Towards this end, you can use a rim light in any number of different ways. Perhaps you want your subject to stand out from the background by making them brighter, or maybe you want to add a little drama to their features.

You might also want to give them a bit more mystery by removing some of the details on their face and making them look like they’re hiding something. If so, you could use a rim light to make it appear as though there’s a shadow cast across their face.

In addition to making your subject look better, rim lights can also help you make them look more natural. Such is the case when you’re trying to do some creative portraiture with natural light.

A good example of this would be shooting on a beach during sunset when the sun is behind your subject and therefore doesn’t illuminate them properly. In this scenario, you could set up your camera on a tripod andset your aperture.

Rim Light Photography

Rim light is an effect caused by the light bouncing off of a surface or object and reflecting back towards the subject. In photography, rim lighting is used to enhance a subject, often making it stand out from its environment.

Description: Rim lighting creates the effect of a halo around the edge of the subject in a photograph. 

If you’re photographing on-location, rim lighting can be achieved by positioning your main light source behind the subject, close to the camera.

Note: Rim lighting is best avoided when photographing people with dark complexion because it makes them look as if they have dark eye sockets.

To make your subject stand out from its background, you can also use fill flash to help sculpt the subject’s features and contrast with the background. With this technique, you want to overexpose your background so that it becomes white or very bright in your photo.

When using this technique, you should expose your subject without flash or additional artificial light sources while keeping your shutter speed at 1/60th or faster to avoid motion blur. Description: This picture was taken under artificial light without any additional auxiliary lighting equipment.


What Is A Rim Light Used For In Cinematography?

What is a rim light? When you’re filming a subject, one of the most important things to consider is the quality of the light. Light can make or break an image and it’s important to have a good understanding of how light works and how to take advantage of it when filming.

Tungsten lights are the most common type of artificial lighting used in cinematography. They produce a very warm, yellowish glow that most professionals now find undesirable.

For this reason, they are often coupled with another type of lighting called “kicker lights” or “rim lights.” A rim light is a light that is placed behind the subject, aiming towards them at an angle so that the shadowed area along their back and shoulders becomes highlighted with a cool blue color from the reflected light source.

Rim lights are often used when shooting close-ups or medium shots because they emphasize the shape and texture of the skin. It’s also common for them to be used in conjunction with tungsten lights for an extra kick of blue/cool color over whatever color is already being produced by the tungsten bulbs.

A good place to start when trying to figure out what lights you need is to look at your script. 

What Is A Rim Light Used For In Storytelling?

The use of a rim light not only helps to separate the subject from the background but can also create an illusion of depth to help add shape and shadows. In addition, it helps draw attention to your subject.

Description:There are many different ways to set up a rim light depending on what you are trying to achieve. The placement of the light source as well as the intensity, color, and angle all play into this.

However, there are some basic guidelines that apply regardless of what you set up.The placement of the rim light should never be directly behind the subject; otherwise, all it will do is spill onto them for no reason at all.

Instead, it needs to be slightly off-camera above or below them at about 45 degrees.This allows for some spill onto the subject but not so much that it becomes too bright or harsh on their face and body.

Description:Of course, there is more to setting up a good rim light than just positioning it properly.

Rim Lighting Setup In Photography

Rim lighting is a popular lighting technique that gives photos an edgy and dramatic look. Here’s how to do it.

TECHNIQUE: Rim Lighting Setup In Photography

A rim light works by throwing back light onto the subject. When done properly, this can create a strong highlight on the edge of your subject, separating them from their background.

To achieve this effect, you’ll want to set up your light about 45 degrees off-center from your subject.To accommodate for this angle, you’ll need to start by setting up two lights.

The first will be directly behind your subject and should be pointed at the backdrop of your scene. This will give you light on the edges of the scene and allow you to properly see where your subject is in relation to the background.

The second light will be slightly above and behind your subject, bouncing off the ceiling or top of a wall to create the rim lighting effect. Due to the angle of these lights, they will both have near-identical power settings when adjusted correctly with regard to each other.

If they’re not equal, just tweak one until they are as close as possible while still being different enough to see on camera.

Rim Lighting Setup In Cinematography

Rim lighting is a cinematography technique used to emphasize the edge of the subject by illuminating just the rim of the subject. This creates a more three-dimensional effect and can help prevent flatness in shots.

To achieve rim lighting, you need a key light pointed at your subject which is usually quite powerful, and then a fill light to illuminate the edges and provide detail.

It’s usually placed on the opposite side of the camera from your subject, but not always. I like to think of rim lighting as an extra highlight on your models face, so it’s usually placed above or below your model.

The further away from your model you place it, the larger and more defined the rim will be. So if you want that large hollywood glow then it’s best to have this light off camera near a wall or wide diffusion panel.

You can also use one or two lights off camera as well if you’d like as well.*Key Light:  This is typically the main light that illuminates your subjects face and body.

The closer this is placed to your subject, the brighter they will appear in relation to their surroundings.

What Is A Rim Light In 3-Point Lighting?

Rim lighting, also known as edge lighting, is a method of lighting a subject by using off-camera flash. The technique is used to separate a subject from the background by using a rim or strip of light around the edges of the subject.

The key to rim lighting is in the placement of the lights.

The Setup. There are two basic ways to set up a rim light, and they both require that you have at least one assistant to help.

The first way is to place your main light (or multiple lights) directly behind your subject and then place your strobe on a stand directly in front of your subject. This will give you a rim of light all the way around your subject.

The second way is to place your strobe on one side and then place another strobe on the opposite side with the light aimed at your subject. This will give you more definition along the edges of your subject.

An example:If you want to shoot or take a photo of someone standing against a wall, moving your main light just behind them will provide enough illumination for you to be able to properly expose for the ambient without blowing out any details in their face. Placing another strobe on the opposite side with it aimed at the wall will provide a nice highlight on one side.

When Should You Use Rim Lights In Your Photography?

Rim lighting is a popular effect in photography. It’s used to draw attention to the subject of an image.

It’s been used for years in glamour and portrait photography, but it’s recently become popular in other genres as well.

TECHNIQUE: Rim lighting is usually created by placing a light source behind the subject, illuminating the model from behind with a softbox or other distant light source.

The light hits the back of the subject and casts a light glow on the sides of their face. If you’re creating rim lighting with off-camera flash, you’ll need to add some gels to your light sources since they won’t naturally be able to produce this effect.

WHEN TO USE IT: Rim lights are great for giving models a soft, diffused look that flatters their faces and hides blemishes. They’re also very flattering for products shots because they can hide minor imperfections and make your products appear more professional.

Rim lights are a common technique used in cosmetic advertising campaigns because they make people look better than they would without makeup or retouching. Rim lighting is also used in product photography because it helps to draw attention to specific points on a product or give it some depth. Rim lighting can help hide imperfections.

How To Produce Beautiful Rim Lighting Photography

I was reading an article the other day where the author was writing about how she didn’t like the effect that rim lighting produced and how it made everyone look older.She went on to say that she much preferred the soft light from a reflector, which is used to lighten shadows in a face.

To me, that’s like saying you don’t like fireworks because they are too loud and scary for you. Personally, I love the way rim lights look and try to include them whenever I can.

Here are some examples of images I’ve taken with the rim lighting effect: Notice how the main subject is well lit and there is a shadow around their face? This makes for really dramatic shots. Rim lights are my favorite type of light because they make people look more attractive, especially as your subject gets older (think wrinkles).

The dark area also draws attention to your subject’s eyes. As a side note, I think it’s interesting how people with dark hair and light eyes tend to look better with this type of lighting than people with blonde hair and blue eyes… but that’s just my opinion! 

Rim Light Photography: Silhouettes

Rim lighting is one of my favorite ways to create a silhouette portrait. It’s relatively simple to obtain and the results are dramatic.

It’s one of those things that looks much more difficult in photos than it actually is. It’s hard to believe, but I almost never use flash for my rim light.

Instead, I prefer to use the ambient light that’s already there and supplement it with reflectors when necessary. You can find endless examples of rim light photography on Google, but if you’re looking for information on how to achieve this look, you’ve come to the right place! Rim lighting is really easy and can be achieved using just two lights: an off-camera flash or two, and a reflector (or two).

In this tutorial, I will show you how to achieve rim light using natural light and reflectors. I’ll also show you a trick for photographing your subject outside without having them squint their eyes in the bright sunlight! For this tutorial, I used three main lights: 1 main light, 2 rim lights, and 2 reflectors as fill lights.

The main light was located about 3-4 feet from my subject and above eye level, with a white reflector just below it. The fill lights were

Rim Lighting Issues: Flare And Spillover

The most common issue with rim lighting is flare and spillover. Flare is light spilling in from the background, which creates a silhouette of your subject.

Spillover is light leaking in from the side, which obscures part of your subject’s face. Tackling flare and spillover with rim lighting takes a little extra work, but the results are worth it.

The first thing to do is make sure that you have the right equipment. Ideally, you’ll want to use a long lens (135mm or longer), so that you can get close enough to avoid background distractions.

A faster lens will also be helpful, as you’ll have more control over your depth of field (the distance range that appears to be in focus). If you’re using an on-camera flash, then follow these extra tips: Make sure that your flash is at least three feet away from your subject.*

This will help prevent light from spilling onto the background behind him. Use front curtain sync if possible.

When a flash fires, it sends out bursts of light and then pauses for a moment before sending out more bursts. Front curtain sync causes the flash to send out all its bursts at once, which allows for much better control over how your subject is lit**.

Rim Light Photography: Conclusion

At this point, we have an overview of what rim lighting is and how to set up your environment for the best results. We’ve also seen some examples of the effect it can have on different scenarios.

All that’s left is to give you a few practical tips to help you decide in which situations you should use rim light and when it’s not appropriate.

Some Examples: Anytime you are trying to separate someone from their background, rim light can be very effective.

Here are some examples that you might want to consider:

Portraits – When you want to create separation between your subject and their background, rim light is a popular choice. This does not need to be just portraits but any general photography where the background plays an important role in the image.

For example, if the subject is wearing fashionable clothes then the background will be a key component in the composition of your photograph. Rim light can go a long way towards separating your subject from that background.

The following example demonstrates how well this can work by comparing two photos of different subjects wearing similar clothing behind similar backgrounds. In one case, there is no rim light while in the other case there was a single flash positioned behind the model with a reflector shielding part of it from view.