The Magic of Edge Lighting


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Article by Harika M. Chanana

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Rim lighting helps separate a subject from a dark background but can be used creatively for different effects. You can place a rim light directly behind the subject if shooting head on, or to the side to light the edge of one side only.


It can be a single light or one of several lights, depending on the effect you want to achieve and it can be any kind of light, including a softbox – again, it depends on the effect you want to achieve. The idea behind hair and rim lighting is to accent various parts of the body. This is why these lights are sometimes referred to as accent lights.


Rim lighting of your subject is usually accomplished in one of two ways, either through strip boxes or metal reflectors outfitted with grids. To get a hard Edge light you can use a 10 degree grid on a reflector. If a greater area of the subject needs rim lighting then it would be a good idea to switch to 20 or even a 30 degree grid. If a Soft diffused edge light is required then one can use a strip light or a big soft box. Again the Quality of light is a subjective taste.

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For colorful rim lights one can add colored gels inside the grid.


Basically, the light intensity captured by the camera is based on the actual angle of incidence in relation to where the camera is positioned, so it can fluctuate. Your best bet in using a rim light, especially in digital photography, is to set it up, aim it to strike your subject where you want it, test it, and adjust it to your personal tastes. Just be sure that not to blow out this highlighted area you’ve introduced into the image.

When using rim light as a hair light, keep in mind that darker hair will absorb more light and lighter hair will reflect more light. Again, the final results vary depending on the angle of incidence in relation to your camera lens angle. Normally, placing the light high and pointed down onto your subject in the direction of the camera is best.

Rim lighting helps bring out a mood in the pictures and can be used to make great low key images.

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