Edge Light: A Simple Way to Create Stunning Photos (With One Flash)

Rim Light: A Simple Way to Create Stunning Photos (With One Flash)

rim light photography a simple way to create stunning photos

In this article, I’ll introduce you to rim lighting – and I’ll describe how to create a rim lighting with a single flash .

Rim lighting is not especially common, but it is extremely easy to create and can allow you to capture interesting plus powerful images like this:

rim light photography

And all you will need is an external flash.

(The only other accessory you might want – for additional convenience – is a light stand or a tripod in order to easily keep the flash in position. )

Let’s dive right in!

Learning flash doesn’t have to be hard

If you are just getting started in portraiture, chances are you have been confronted with the “flash versus organic light” dilemma, and you probably went with natural light . I discover many amateur and newbie photographers are intimidated by lighting equipment because they believe that in order to get something good, they need to use complicated setups with many pieces of equipment.

But in my opinion, the problem with learning to use flash is that the simplest possible setup – a single flash used off-camera – is often presented as a way to make a basic image that always must be improved by adding more gear and by creating more difficult lighting setups. As if no serious photographer would ever use just one light.

So I can see why flash photography is intimidating.

However , the idea that flash portraits need more than one light to look good is simply false. There are plenty of great one-light setups, including the rim lighting technique I clarify in this article.

What is rim light photography?

In rim gentle photography, you create a rim light – that is, the ring of light that will goes around the rim of your subject. Like this:

rim light photography with low-key style
Rim lighting and a low-key style are a powerful combination.

Note that the flash highlights only the contours of the subject, so the photo looks dramatic and cool and wonderfully visual.

How to build a rim light

The rim light setup is simple. Just hide the flash right behind the subject, then point it back (so it’s facing toward you, the photographer).

When you fire the flash, it’ll be mostly blocked from your subject. But some light will certainly hit the subject’s edges and make a stunning edge.

You may see rim light digital photography as the reverse of a silhouette , in which the subject is a black shape against a brighter, frequently white, background:

rim light photography
Self-portrait silhouette.

In the  business, the light setup for a shape is, in fact , the same as that used to create rim light, except the flash is pointing at the background instead of at the subject.

For rim light picture taking, you ideally want to work only with the rim lighting and not record any background light. However , this does not mean you have to work in the dark room. Your display power just needs to greatly overpower the ambient light – that way, no background light affects the scene.

However , you will do need to be careful with the adobe flash output. It’s important that the power is strong enough to obliterate any ambient light, but not so strong that light spills over and around the subject’s edges. You only want light running along the subject’s contours.

rim light from behind
Edge light photography is all about that will thin light running along the subject’s edges.

Refine your rim light with editing

Once you have taken a rim lighting shot, do a bit of modifying. Make sure the blacks in your picture are deep and the illustrates are bright. That way, you can get a truly low-key photo , like this one:

rim light photography
Here, I’ve allowed the light to spill a little more, so as to light my hands and the mobile phone screen.

Plus that’s pretty much all the post-processing you need to do!

What I like about this technique is that the resulting photo has a mysterious look that captures the viewer’s imagination.

Adding emotion

Rim light is great for conveying emotions. We had a new infant girl a  few months ago, and before the due date, We experimented with a rim lighting in the living room with the pregnant partner.

I decided to take the usual, very cliché  photo of the father kissing the particular belly of the mother. Yet while kissing my partner’s baby bump, I had the particular vision of the sun increasing from behind the Earth because seen from space, and am thought, “Use a rim light! ”

This is the result:

rim light photography
Rim light can transform a cliché image right into a very moody and fascinating one.

I think this easy light setup transformed the same kind of photographic cliché into a much more powerful and interesting picture.

Include effects in your rim light pictures

Because a rim lit scene is backlit, an easy way to add interest is to include smoke or aerosols in the shot. Both will capture the light and spread it around, creating some interesting effects.

I sprayed water in making this self-portrait shot more interesting:

rim light photography water effects

You can also try to turn the model toward the light and allow the flash to lighting their front for an fascinating result:

rim light photography man with hands around head

Rim light photography: final words

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this rim light tutorial. And I wish I’ve given you some ideas pertaining to playing with an off-camera expensive in a simple and non-intimidating method.

The bonus is that, even as a person learn flash, you can create some stunning photos!

Now over to a person:

Have you ever tried rim light photography? Share your images (and tips) in the comments below!

Learning much more from our Guidelines & Tutorials category

Andrea Minoia

Andrea Minoia

is an enthusiast, self-taught professional photographer and freelance writer located in Brussels, Belgium. He is mainly active in tabletop digital photography (food and still life) and studio portraiture, but will not disdain to step outside looking for interesting landscapes. You can follow his work on his personal web site or on 500px .

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