5 Lighting Portrait Positions for Couples

Lighting two people can be difficult to do, so I’m going to use 5 portrait lighting positions to breakdown how to best light a couple.

If you haven’t watched the 5 Portrait Lighting Setups yet, you can watch it here first:

So we are going to try different head and posing positions with each of the lighting positions.

Same Direction, Same Light

Butterfly Lighting to Loop to Rembrandt

The easiest idea to start with is facing the two of them in the same direction and having the same light shine on both of them. They are both in a butterfly lighting, right now and they look great, but they don’t look like they are together. Let’s turn them into one element instead of two, so by changing their posing, we see what happens.

When we turn them to face each other now, they are in a good position to adjust the lighting to a different style. So we can turn the light from a butterfly to a loop to a Rembrandt.

Now I can take my V-flat and just slide that in to open up the faces. This concept can be applied in a variety of different ways. We can turn them to a profile side view, but this pose is very stiff, so let’s see how we can adjust it.

With their heads turned, they now have a Rembrandt light on their faces. This is still an example of one lighting direction.

Different Direction, Different Lighting Positions

Rembrandt and Butterfly Lighting

So we are going to see what happens when we have them positioned in opposite head directions with different lighting on their face. When we turn Kay in slightly towards David she turns into a nice Rembrandt light, and when we turn David in as well we see that he has a butterfly light on his face.

Now let’s move them into another position here, if David turns to face the camera and we put Ksenia behind him they are positioned with two different lighting situations. David has a nice Rembrandt lighting on his face, and Ksenia has a butterfly light on hers.

Let’s switch places! Now she’s in a Rembrandt light and he’s in a butterfly light. Don’t be afraid to mix and match lighting situations to create a new combination.

Butterfly and Loop Lighting

She has a beautiful butterfly light on her face, and he has a loop light on his face. This pose is great for showing off both people in a way that isn’t too straight to the camera. By allowing her face to rest along his shoulder it creates some interest compositionally. We don’t have her other hand to rest on his shoulder because it’s too distracting.

We are going to change up the pose, but we are keeping the same butterfly and loop lighting. This is working because their faces are working together in the shot. As you set up your models and these lights, you can play around with how you want the light to fall on each of them and adjust them accordingly. If the light is up high enough with a softbox, it’s going to give you the ability to use the 5 Lighting Portrait Positions to light a couple.

Thanks to our models David and Ksenia Ishoot for helping us out with today’s lesson!

About the author: Jay P. Morgan is a commercial photographer with over two decades of experience in the industry. He teaches photography through his company, The Slanted Lens, which runs a popular YouTube channel. This article was also published here.