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Recreating a Rembrandt
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Recreating a Rembrandt

Rick Sammon shares his lighting techniques for recreating a classic Rembrandt painting.

Rick Sammon shares his lighting techniques for recreating a classic Rembrandt painting.

Originally posted on, re-posted in the Adorama Learning Center with permission.


What fun I had yesterday trying to recreate one of Rembrandt's paintings, "Old Man in a Military Costume." This new portrait was a follow-up to my "Girl with a Pearl Earring" portrait, which I took a few years ago.

Here's how I made the new image - and how you can do it.

Both portraits were taken in my office, which I converted to a studio for the photo sessions. The girl in "Girl with a Pearl Earring" photograph is my friend's daughter, Maggie. The man in my "Old Man in a Military Costume" photograph is my friend Jay.

For my "Girl with a Pearl Earring" photograph I used one Canon Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo Softbox. For my latest recreation of a master's paining I used Westcott TD5 Spiderlites, which have been updated with the TD6 Spiderlites. These lights produce constant, beautiful, soft, daylight-balanced light.


That's Croton-on-Hudson painter/my friend Eddi Fleming helping with the props. Those props, including the gorget in the final image, were major elements in creating the mood of photograph. Check out Eddi's web site to see her wonderful paintings.

My main light was a Spiderlite in a Westcott 12 x 36-inch Stripbank, which was placed fairly close to the subject – because the closer the light, the softer the light. The Stripbank has a recessed front panel, which helps shape and direct the light, as opposed to some softboxes that don't have recessed panels. I used a bare-bulb Spiderlite to light the background, which was a Westcott Masterpiece Muslin Sheet Background.

To check the lighting, especially the shadows, I printed copies of the painting I found on the Web and put them around my office.

I shot with my Canon 5D Mark III and one of my favorite portrait lenses, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8. I shot tethered to my Mac computer so we could all see a large image. I set up my camera on my Induro tripod.

Behind Jay (mostly out of sight) is a Westcott 6-in-1 Reflector Kit. I had planned to use the silver side of the reflector to fill in some of the shadows on Jay's face, but Eddi pointed out that Rembrandt often used deep shadows in his paintings, so I decided not to use that accessory.

We can learn so much, especially about light, from studying the work of master painters, including: If you want an interesting portrait, don't light the entire subject.

Try recreating a masterpiece in your home. It's a challenge and good fun.  

Explore the light,



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