Faceless Portraits Using Rimlights

For 2020 Llanelli Photographic Society are running a series of monthly challenges. At the start of each month we receive four subjects and the challenge is to produce a photo during the month that fits each theme. This approach is much easier than a weekly challenge – as we had last year – as it means you have longer to figure out your shots. It also means that if you leave it to the last minute you have 4 times the amount of work.

One of the themes for January was “portrait without a face” or “faceless portrait”. This is according to Guru Shots where you attempt to capture the personality of a subject without seeing the face. Inspired by these rim light shots I decided to do a self portrait for this particular theme. I’m not that comfortable being in front of the camera but given that I’ll be more rim light than anything else then that was acceptable.

Setting Up The Shot

Setting up the shot was actually quite easy. I darkened the room as best I could and placed the speedlight to face the camera. As the subject I stood between the two so that the flash would go off behind me so as to create the rim light effect. The diagram below shows just how simple it is to set up.

Faceless Portrait Set Up

Camera settings were as follows: f16, 1/500s, 46mm and ISO 100. These settings generated the darkest images with just the rim light showing. After settling on these settings the hardest part of the process was creating the final image. The biggest mistake I made was setting the heights of the camera and flash tripods too low for my height. This meant I had to duck down a little bit to ensure I appeared on shot.

Best Poses

Once I figured out how and where to stand it was simply a case of trying out various poses. This involved using the camera’s self timer and quickly getting back in position. This can be made easier if you use a remote control. The two best shots are shown within the blog. The first image shows I wear glasses whilst the bottom one conveys emotion. I did try a prayer pose which worked well and poses wearing a hat. Being athiest the prayer one just wasn’t me and I found that the hat ruined the rim light effect. I process my images with Capture One for Sony.

Overall I’m quite pleased with the results. Portraits aren’t my thing and so this was well out of my comfort zone. However it didn’t take long to set up and to start generating images. If I’d not started the challenge then I’d probably have never even tried these shots. If you fancy trying something different why not set up a flashgun and try some rim light portraits?