TC; Butterfly Lighting…

  • Lit from directly in front and high up with directional, strong light,
  • Shadow under the nose and chin
  • Shape of the shadow = butterfly
  • Named after Marlene Dietrich, Paramount Studios
  • Variants are being used in fashion and beauty photography (I.e. see glamour lighting…)

The butterfly studio lighting setup is also known as Paramount Lighting, or Dietrich Lighting. I am a sucker for it! It got its name from Marlene Dietrich who refused to be photographed with any other setup. This very simple lighting setup is used in various variations to photograph especially females; a quite elegant way to accentuate the cheekbones and often used by fashion and beauty photographers.

It is such a simple setup in that you need to place your key-light right in front of your subject and position it high up and angled downward towards the model. The key features of this light setup is the butterfly-like shadow directly under the nose and then also a shadow under the underlip and under the chin.

When shooting women with flawless skin, one can get away by using a only single light source. However, due to the fact that the shadows under the nose and neck may be too hard, photographers would often place a reflector under the model to soften the shadows. Another light source, like a softbox may also be placed in front of the model as a fill light. (As long as the fill light does not interfere with the keylight).

Here’s a diagram to show how simple this light setup really is to use…


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