Rim Lighting Photography for Stunning Portraits

Using rim lighting as a backlight is an ideal way to shape a subject and, if used correctly, can result in some stunning images.

For this rim light portrait photography tutorial Karl is joined by Urs Recher for a single light setup demonstration.  Together, they demonstrate how to create beautiful soft rim lighting using backlighting with a special twist.

Learn a surprisingly simple but clever technique to achieve what looks like a four-light setup but is, in actual fact, just a single, modified light.

Stunning female portrait using rim lighting as a backlight.

Stunning female portrait using rim lighting as a backlight.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • Portrait photography using a single light
  • How to use backlighting for creative effect
  • How to avoid flare
  • How to modify rim light
  • Using reflectors and flags
  • How to control shadows

Note: This course is available with English subtitles.


  1. Good tips if you have one light with a big softbox. I see if I can get my camera out next week to work on a project.

  2. i have a question regarding the “window” you are shooting through. i understood that the measure is depending of the mm of the lens. how do you calculate the measures of the rectangle window ?

    1. Hi Johan, it is the same ratio as your sensor. So if you have a 36mm x 24mm sensor (full frame 35mm) then you could expect the same shape for your window – 36cm x 24cm divide by 2 = 18cm x 12cm

  3. Wonderful lesson learnt Karl. Thankyou for teaching us and creating like minded people in Industry for a big boom.

    Plz let me know which power output lights you use.

  4. Would a similar result be achievable with a large window, or is a soft box of this size essential to create this effect?

    1. Hi Sophie, a large window with some diffusion in front of it or on a cloudy/bright day would work if you follow the same technique we use here.

  5. Hi Karl, very interesting video as always! Just one quick question: I understand that the “square hole” in the window mask has to match the aspect ratio of my sensor so in my case 3:2 but is there a specific size recommended for the hole in the board? Is there a minimum size I should take in consideration for the long and short edge of the hole or even maybe a maximum size, after which, the window mask doesn’t work anymore to protect from flare?
    For example is a window mask with a hole of 30×20 cm enough?

    1. Hi Daniele, that’s a good question! You need a few sizes simply because sometimes they benefit from being at different distances based on which lens you are using and the lighting setup. I have 3, big, medium and small. The big is around the 30cm size, the small around 10cm (long edge). My guess is the medium is 20 long edge. Make them from black foam board, a good edge and stanley blade takes 5mins to make one.

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