Beers With: Rembrandt

EDITOR'S NOTE: With apologies to every single art history class ever taught, this post marks the first in an occasional series of bar conversations with some of the Old Masters. These guys were the first ones to seriously light their work, and always merit a second look from those of us who slept through our humanities classes in college.

Netherlands-based Rembrandt is a tough guy to track down. He never returns phone calls, doesn't do email and refuses to carry a cell phone. We were lucky enough to catch up with him on a recent trip to Europe, where he took a few minutes out of his schedule to talk about light.

Keep reading for the Q&A.


Rembrandt Q&A

STROBIST (in itals): First of all, thanks for taking the time for the interview. Photographers have been studying your light and composition for many years, and actually getting some Q&A with you is fantastic.

REMBRANDT (in bold): No need to brown nose -- I have seen the Flickr threads. Clearly, Dave Hill would have been your first choice.

Already talked to him, here. But you're doing some cool stuff, too. Besides, after Vermeer sees this post, maybe he'll return my calls.

Doubt it. But you can try.

Let's start with your self portrait. One of many, in fact, this one having been done in 1659. Can you talk a little about it?

I always tried to keep a current self-portrait. You'd be surprised how many people do not have a decent head shot of themselves, for instance. Cobbler's kids have no shoes, as they say.

Speaking of numbers, you have done a ton of work. Some years, it is a new piece every month. What's up with that?

It's either that or hanging out on the message boards. I'd just rather be making pictures. Seriously, how much of your life can you spend complaining about the state of the industry? It's depressing.

I hear ya. Okay, so on the head shot -- one light source, up high and slightly camera right. Beauty dish?

No, straight, 7" reflector on an AlienBees AB800. If you look at the shadow under my nose, you can see it is harder than a beauty dish.

Oh, yeah. What about the fill?

Very little -- just a large, white foamcore at camera left. Almost not even there.

Nice and simple. How'd you get the warmth?

Quarter CTO. I like warmth on the key, but not too much. A lot of what you see in my work is color shifts due to time. The inkjet guy said archival. Bullshit. I started getting shifts after just 175 years. Boy, I miss Kodachrome.

Don't we all. What about the background?

You're gonna laugh. Wallpaper. I order it up special for each project right off of the web. Forty bucks. I cut three or four 2-foot-wide strips and match the pattern. Then I roll it right up into a tube to take to the location. We stick it on the wall with Fun-Tack, and Photoshop out any obvious seams. Keep it in a tube, use it over and over.

No kidding? I never would have known. Light, portable, cheap -- I love it.

You aren't the only one with ghetto DIY tips.

Fair enough. Let's move on to another one -- "Doctor Nicolaes Tulp's Demonstration of the Anatomy of the Arm." That's a mouthful. You couldn't pare that title down any?

Think metadata. It's done great stock sales for the last 378 years. But I have a sneaking suspicion my agency has shorted me, too.

Who is your agency?

I was originally with a great little European boutique agency -- mom and pop job. Great contract. But then they got bought and everything went straight to hell.

Who bought them?

Who buys everybody?

Oh, yeah. Right. So let's talk about the light. What can you tell us about it?

You tell me. What do you see?

Hmm... small-but-softish source. Beauty dish? Lotta watt-seconds to give you a good enough aperture to carry focus all the way through. Very high camera left, far enough away to reach across the frame pretty evenly.

Right so far, go on...

Fill... lessee... small strobe behind the guy second from right?

No, there would be secondary shadows. Those are hard to explain, visually. Try again.

Reflected fill off the collars? Really?

Yep. You get a lot of fill reflection when a white surface is in that close. Filled the patient's forehead nicely. Keep going.

Background lit by the main light?

Okay, now you're just not thinking. The key light is up high -- the top edge of the alcove would be lit, too.

Oh, yeah. Another light source, something soft down low. Softbox on the floor?

Yep. On an AB400 - just a smidge. Key was an AB1600 in a dish. Just two lights total, with a sheet on the ground infront out of the frame for minimal fill. Much more than that and you start to get unexplainable shadows too easily. Motivated light, motivated light.

What about that grody arm -- Photoshop?

Oh, no -- dead guy. It's done all of the time. You ever seen Joel Peter Witkin's stuff?

Please, I just had dinner.

Sorry. That dude is whack.

You're telling me. Can we talk about The Night Watch?

Sure. Everyone always goes for my production group stuff. Tell you one thing -- I get pissed every time I see one of those three-panel Annie Leibovitz Hollywood photos in Vanity Fair. Homage, my ass. And Neal Slavin? Don't even get me started.

You're an Old Master. People are going to go back to your themes over and over. They have a classic familiarity that stands the test of time. Why do you think we even go to art school? Because we want to learn to rip off the very best class of artist.

Yeah, well. Royalties would be nice. Maybe a little credit once in a while?

Alright, alright. So, who are your influences?

For this kind of stuff? I'm digging Drew Gardner lately. Have you seen his death of Admiral Nelson? Kickass.

Totally. He told me he wouldn't even drop the POV to lose the buildings in the background in the final shot. Retoucher's nightmare. Dude can stage a scene. He had a special "Nelson light" he sneaked in there, too.

That's what I'm sayin'. You have to tell a story with it, guide the eye with composition and light.

Okay, let's talk about that light. Your top light is eluding me. More than one?

Not so fast. Start with the fill, build from there. We hung a king-sized sheet behind camera and stuck two AB800's behind that for a huge, soft frontal light that would not call attention to itself.

Right. So how far did you drop the exposure on the fill?

Almost three stops. It was Night Watch, after all.

Okay then, how about the top light, which I still can't figure out. Where is it coming from? Way up high camera left?

Yep. But we cut it with a cookie -- think of a gobo with holes in it. Lets the light come through, but in a splotchy way. You get direction and hot spots.

So, you get a certain level overall. And since the holes in the cookie are "out of focus," if you will, you get a couple of brighter areas. Brings your eye exactly where I want it to go. Just one big AB1600 clamped into the rafters. That was our key.

So, the guy on the front right -- why can I see under his hat so well?

The fill light is stronger when you are closer to the camera. It's a great little cheat.

Of course! You decide how far the fill reaches in by how close you put it to the scene. All about the lighting distance, even for fill light. The closer you move it in, the faster it falls off as you work your way back into the scene.

Now you're thinking.

Very cool. Thanks for hanging -- the beers are on us.

Yes, they are. Catch you later. And if you happen to see Annie, give her my best.


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Anonymous Jeroen Krol said...


(or: "hilarisch" as Rembrandt would say himself :-))

December 15, 2008 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Aspen d'Grey said...

*grins* Great little article, very enjoyable. Just finished up a studio portraiture class in college (sophomore photo major) and one of the things we REALLY focused on was lighting patterns... the other was deducing how something was lit based on the positions.

December 15, 2008 12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soooo good

December 15, 2008 12:29 AM  
Blogger Alex DiFiori said...

Wow, great breakdown of some hard-to-mimic lighting!


December 15, 2008 12:31 AM  
Blogger Cameron Magee said...


December 15, 2008 12:42 AM  
Blogger Hipporage said...

That was just the right amount of funny, educational and "insidery". Great job!

December 15, 2008 12:48 AM  
Blogger Andy M said...

best strobist post eveh?
I just wet myself.

December 15, 2008 12:49 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

"I started getting shifts after just 175 years. Boy, I miss Kodachrome."

Hahaha, brilliant.

December 15, 2008 1:09 AM  
Blogger Robert said...


OK, it's possible. He's a bit of a recluse, but DH is a man-about-town. He's got contacts, connections, juice. Not to mention beer. He might have pulled off a short interview with ol' van Rijn, so I start reading.

After a while, I start to get a little suspicious. Apparently, Rembrandt lights everything the way DH would. OK, it's possible. DH is a classic lighting kind of guy, so I guess it makes sense that they would have a similar style, but I am pretty sure he used a beauty dish with the center reflector removed for his self portrait. Then, the smoking gun...

You get a lot of fill reflection when a white surface is in that close. Filled the patient's forehead nicely.

AHA! As all of us that were at Tulp's anatomy class that day know, that was a cadaver, not a patient. (Though the operation was a success.) Remmy would never have made a verbal slip-up like that. Mind like a steel trap.


It shakes my trust in DH to the core. Perhaps he made everything up. I am starting to doubt if it is even technically possible to use a flash off-camera.

December 15, 2008 1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see dead people....

Cool way of analyzing light in history, there is nothing like learning from the masters! thanks.!!!


December 15, 2008 1:29 AM  
Blogger wayne mah said...

This is hilarious David! I think you should get Vermeer too... ;)

December 15, 2008 1:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the best reads of the year. Is it really first in a series? Hope so.

December 15, 2008 1:41 AM  
Blogger N. said...

David! You might think of requalifying and changing your job. Great interview! It was so lucky for you to meet the guy, I heard he's pretty much unavailable, busy all the time.... yeah, right - giving interviews! that's how you got him! ;-)

I love the way you detailed the light in his paintings, really, really insightful and educational.
Thank you for that and keeping up the site! Keep rocking, G!

December 15, 2008 1:49 AM  
Anonymous Melson said...

Very, VERY cool. At first I was a little disappointed that such an old school artist used all this modern equipment, but it's probably better this way.

I hope you can get a date with Vermeer!

December 15, 2008 1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gotta laugh, too much time on the message boards...cough cough

but hey, the principles are the same aren't they and that's the whole idea of your schpeele.

can't always complain about the condition of the industry, that was cute too


December 15, 2008 1:53 AM  
Blogger John R. Swanson said...

Oh my!

I'm gonna have to save up for a new keyboard. This one has my evening tea sprayed all over it.

I do hope more interviews will be forthcoming.....

Wit,wackiness and wisdom, all in the same interview. It's what we've come to expect, but yet you still surprise us.

December 15, 2008 2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rembrandt is a master in lighting. So great you got to talk to him. Lovely.


December 15, 2008 2:14 AM  
Blogger Paps said...

LOL @ "sure miss kodachrome".

I've been looking forward to these kinds of posts looking at the lighting by the old masters. Thank you very much!

December 15, 2008 2:17 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

This is a superb idea and very well written as well. I've been looking at things like compositional rules and stuff, and this all goes back centuries. The rule of thirds going back to the 1600's of all things.

December 15, 2008 2:36 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Absolutely Brillant Idea!

That's why I keep coming back over and over.


December 15, 2008 2:45 AM  
Anonymous Long said...

Great piece. Had me laughing. I'm not sure Mr Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was telling the truth though. I think I see some airbrushing done in some of the scenes.

December 15, 2008 3:07 AM  
Anonymous Rob. said...

Comedy genius.

December 15, 2008 3:14 AM  
Anonymous Dinos Papachautas said...

Oh, come on! Please don't tell me strobists around the world will start copying lighting off of 17th century dead guys. This is so kindergarden.
Why don't you try a lighting scheme ala Mattisse or Rivera? Then we'll be talking.

December 15, 2008 3:15 AM  
Blogger Ilkka said...

Nice... but looking at the second painting and the shadow cast by the head of the fourth guy from the left, isn't the light coming from camera left? The cadaver's forehead then must be shadowed by the second guy from the right.

December 15, 2008 3:27 AM  
Anonymous Jackson said...

Creative. David, would you be able to create a how-to concerning dissecting light? I flip through magazines often, but in my mind I think "softbox. softbox. softbox." no matter what the light looks like. I hope that you can put together something that will show us what to look for in the light concerning shadows. I never would have seen the small difference between a reflector and a beauty dish under a nose, for example. I just think that 100% crops on certain areas with examples of setup could make many people like me able see what light was used in a photo.

Love the blog by the way.

December 15, 2008 3:46 AM  
Anonymous Paul Hodgson said...

I see dead people.

David, interesting post, but I do think you need to get out more and socialise with the living!

December 15, 2008 3:53 AM  
Blogger That Mash Guy said...

fantastic post!

December 15, 2008 3:59 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

How many beers did David Hobby have :) ?

You might want to check out "Drunk History" for some inspirational laughs:

December 15, 2008 4:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utterly fabulous. I am firmly in the beginner category and have no art background at all, this article is nothing short of wonderful for the likes of me. Thank you so much.

A couple of small questions, keeping in the spirit of treating it like a photograph...

"Hmm... small-but-softish source. Beauty dish? Lotta watt-seconds to give you a good enough aperture to carry focus all the way through. Very high camera right, far enough away to reach across the frame pretty evenly."

Did you really mean camera right here? If so I'm confused, there are shadows on the right side of all the watcher's faces, so wouldn't that imply that the light is camera left?

Also, the centre of the picture looks more strongly lit than the outer edges, kind of a vignette with light - doesn't that mean there would have to be a snooted (or zoomed) light in the mix somewhere, and given how circular it is in shape, that it would be pretty much on-axis?

December 15, 2008 4:13 AM  
Blogger Georgios said...

Ingenious! Very educational too. Keep it up David!

December 15, 2008 4:23 AM  
Anonymous MG said...

Very good! Funny and informative, as ever.

Would love to read your interview with Joseph Wright, where he talked about where he placed the speedlites.

December 15, 2008 4:40 AM  
Blogger Oli said...

Thanks Rembrandt, and thanks David - an informative and entertaining insight into the old master's tips and tricks.

Oli, St Andrews

December 15, 2008 4:43 AM  
Blogger Angelo Pampalone said...

You are crazy!!!
In a geniousd way

December 15, 2008 5:05 AM  
Anonymous Bec Vandyk said...

I love this style of information-spreading! Very, very clever. Thanks - I wish I had this info at the last portrait shoot I did. oh well, at least it's in my brain now, and as soon as I try it out (especially the gems about reflected light, which I always discount) will be able to get closer to my goal...little or no work in post to remedy my lack of lighting skill.
thanks again for all the work you put in - hope you still love it as much as you seem. When you get a minute, check the Australian strobist flickr pool - there's quite a strobist following - some 850members and counting!

December 15, 2008 5:10 AM  
Blogger Sergei Rodionov said...

David, this is brilliant idea. Thank you very much for taking time to even thinking about writing that up, and then for actually doing it.

December 15, 2008 5:11 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...


This is a seriously great piece. The tone is funny, but still informative and well-thought out.

One thing that's been bothering me, and maybe its just a rough spot between still photography and film/tv/theater, but a gobo usually refers to a certain type of cookie, that is used with a focused-beam source to project an image, like that fellow a while back with his optical strobe text gun. The object you usually seem to refer to as a gobo would usually be called a flag, or since it is actually on the light, a barndoor (though if you're using cardboard like I am, it doesn't really count as a barndoor since it can't really hinge).

Maybe this is just the film-geek in me getting out, but I thought I'd bring it up.

Keep up the stellar work!

December 15, 2008 5:12 AM  
Blogger BM said...

Man, awesome post! Fun and educational! :)
Really enjoyed reading!

December 15, 2008 5:16 AM  
Blogger Chester Tan said...

This is totally cool. This should earn an award for best fictitious photographic article of the year.

December 15, 2008 5:21 AM  
Blogger marco said...

This is my favourite post, ever. Enlightning... and fun. :) Thanks.

December 15, 2008 5:34 AM  
Blogger Mario said...

Haha very amusing!
I'm from the Netherlands by the way, and enjoying this site for a couple of months now... Totally hooked to off-camera lighting now :D

December 15, 2008 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Chalilopez: Recientemente he estado en el museo del prado Madrid donde hasta enero hay una exposición sobre Rembrand.... Sencillamente espectacular. Para los que nos gusta la iluminación STROBIST es sencillamente genial como el maestro ilimina sus escenas... Recomiendo a todo el que pueda ir visitar la exposicion.

December 15, 2008 5:46 AM  
Anonymous nicolas said...

that one was fun!! and very thoughfull! gotta try that cokie with holes thing sometime!!
nice job!

December 15, 2008 6:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin Pistone said...

really interesting interview, thanks :)
are the beers the medium to talk with the dead people?

December 15, 2008 6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG Dave, that was hysterical (not to mention educational)! Dude, you were made to do this..

December 15, 2008 6:18 AM  
Blogger GeoDesigner said...

OK Dave, when I thought Strobist couldn't just get better after all this time I'm reading it. you just upped the ante. This was a GREAT read. I study Design at college, and at Art History classes I just can't stop reverse-engineering the painter's light, it's nightmarish!
I believe I posted this here a lot of times, mut it never gets old: Thanks for doing what you're doing.

December 15, 2008 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, who'd have thought when you started this blog that you'd end up here? Don't think I've ever scrolled up and down a webpage so vigorously.

Now, when are you coming to Melbourne, Australia for a seminar? We have beer here, too. And no, none of us drink that Foster's stuff that we foist upon you lovely Americans.

December 15, 2008 6:40 AM  
Blogger Fabio said...

That's brilliant and entertaining!
Please, keep doin' this with other painters!
I don't know, Caravaggio?

December 15, 2008 7:00 AM  
Anonymous aperture-priority said...

Rembrandt uses AB's, how does he get support and spares in the EU.

Nice article on portrait lighting David, thanks.


December 15, 2008 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Gloda said...

Gee I've learned quite a bit from this post. Thanks for opening a new way of approaching paintings. I'll have more fun looking at the Old Masters' from now on.

December 15, 2008 7:16 AM  
Blogger said...

Great Stuff! I'd certainly love some more :D

December 15, 2008 7:26 AM  
Blogger binabik said...


thanks for this cool article. all my office mates are giving me funny looks because i keep laughing. :)

looking forward to the next installment.


December 15, 2008 7:27 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Nice interview. I'm reminded of the guy who uses Photoshop's "Match Color" feature to apply color palettes from old master paintings to his photos:

December 15, 2008 7:43 AM  
Anonymous Sean McCormack said...

Too funny David, but highly educational!

December 15, 2008 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Jim Perry said...

Great interview. I actually have spent the last few months studying these paintings at the MFA in Boston and the Met in NYC. I say, stop looking at photos for inspiration and look at the guys that really know light - Rembrandt, Degas, Renoir, El Greco, etc. It's more about composing with light and emphasizing the main parts of the composition and de-emphasizing the other areas. But don't tell anyone - make them all think it's about the F stop and home-made pocket wizards in Tupperware.

December 15, 2008 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Jim Perry said...

Great interview. I actually have spent the last few months studying these paintings at the MFA in Boston and the Met in NYC. I say, stop looking at photos for inspiration and look at the guys that really know light - Rembrandt, Degas, Renoir, El Greco, etc. It's more about composing with light and emphasizing the main parts of the composition and de-emphasizing the other areas. But don't tell anyone - make them all think it's about the F stop and home-made pocket wizards in Tupperware.

December 15, 2008 7:55 AM  
Blogger David said...

@Ilkka; Anonymous-

You are right -- thought left and wrote right. Brain fart. Happens more and more frequently these days...

(Fixed, thanks.)

December 15, 2008 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last bit:
"The fill light is stronger when you are closer to the camera. It's a great little cheat."

Don't you mean when the subject is closer to the fill light source? Here the light source is behind the camera, so it works either way, but it could be confusing to some.

December 15, 2008 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was great. You could do a whole book along these lines - and I think you should!

December 15, 2008 9:56 AM  
Anonymous george said...

Great post - but I shudder to think what would happen if you and Scott Kelby ever started trading writing tips............

December 15, 2008 9:57 AM  
Anonymous luke said...

Great stuff, David! You have impressive connections… Old Remy knows how to use those lil flashguns.

Edward Hopper might be your next guest…

December 15, 2008 10:31 AM  
Blogger Wink of an eye Digital said...

Interesting read Dave....Now I know your alternate personality drinks beer to! LOL

I like the use of light with the bright hot spots in it to draw the eye. I have been doing food shots (still life) and have found it useful to draw the viewer in.

December 15, 2008 10:35 AM  
Blogger budrowilson said...

Great article, David. I've never enjoyed "art class" so much! You really put a creative and enjoyable spin on studying the lighting techniques of the old masters.

December 15, 2008 11:34 AM  
Blogger s.e. miller said...

Classic (no pun intended) stuff David, loved it! Keep it up on series like this, makes for great reading!

December 15, 2008 11:47 AM  
Blogger Kevin Creighton said...

"Boy, I miss Kodachrome."

Don't well all, Rembrandt, don't we all...

And I'm looking forward to "Gin and Tonics with J.M.W. Turner".

December 15, 2008 11:55 AM  
Blogger jimmyd said...

If you look at the shadow under my nose, you can see it is harder than a beauty dish.

That's because he's using the wrong beauty dish (e.g., AB, Hensel, DIY from a salad or dogfood bowl, more) and he placed too far from himself. Had he used one of the larger, deeper dishes from Mola, and set it closer, there wouldn't be a hard shadow.

December 15, 2008 12:26 PM  
Blogger JVL said...

Awesome - just another great way for me to "rethink" light.

Now about those Alien Bee's...

December 15, 2008 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Chris Parker said...

David, you should be on stage...there's one leaving in ten minutes! ba du bum!

December 15, 2008 1:10 PM  
Blogger Caio H. Nunes said...

Great Post, Very inspiring!

Now I discovered the magic of the Paints

December 15, 2008 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Nionyn said...

Loved it - thank you!

Looking forward to the rest of the series, especially when you get to the 20th Century and interview the likes of Miro and Kandinsky... ;-)

Actually, some modern masters would also be interesting: the wildness of many of Dali's paintings, or the contrasty yet subtle realism of Edward Hopper.
Yeah, that would also be cool. :-)

December 15, 2008 2:04 PM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

Brilliant! Just the other day a curator had to ask me to step back from a painting I was getting a little too close to at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was admiring the story telling and trying to reverse engineer the lighting. Please, please, please make this a series.

December 15, 2008 4:26 PM  
Blogger Beverly Kaye Gallery said...

Totally loved your interview! And I agree, Joel Peter Witkin is wack!

December 15, 2008 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Jim Greif said...


What a hilarious post. And educational, too.

But some of that lighting looks suspiciously as though a snooted source was used.



December 15, 2008 5:25 PM  
Blogger carlos benjamin - said...

Does this Rembrandt guy have his own web site? I see all kinds of hits for other peoples' sites talking about him, but nothing for himself. Somebody give the guy a clue on SEO willya?

December 15, 2008 5:55 PM  
Anonymous moritz said...

Lovely post again! You make me want to drop my straw-grid-sticking project and go to the museum. Luckily we know who actually brought the kowledge into the family! Since it is only days to go, also a Happy Christmas to you and your family. I really enjoy your style, please keep writing the way you do. Although the time of the year might ask for more spiritual wishes i'd like to say I sincerely hope you also make sure you get more out of all this than just a good feeling in the tummy and a few pw's and lumiquest III - you should be bloody rich ;)

December 15, 2008 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Steve. said...

Joel Peter Witkin ain't that wack!

And Rembrandt died penniless! Figures.

Great post David, thanks :)

December 15, 2008 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Matt Haines said...

Yeah yeah, lighting. Forget the lighting, tell me about this WALLPAPER background idea! Seriously, that sounds pretty cool. When you say 'match the pattern', are you actually affixing it to anything, matched? Or are you just trimming the ends appropriately, and then actually matching it when sticking it to a wall somewhere? In other words, does the wallpaper have a backing that rolls up too?

December 15, 2008 6:39 PM  
Blogger Michael Warth said...

I have been waiting for this post!!! I recently posted a question of the sort on a photo forum I belong to; thanks, David.

Rembrandt was the master of light even for his time. The chiroscuro light method has been used for many years but I don't think it was ever pulled off as well as Rembrandt has done.

One add though..."Night Watch" is very dirty and the varnish has darkened with age. The name "Night Watch" is not the correct title. Just like the anatomy class title the actual title for "Night Watch" is too long. The real name is "The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch" - the painting only took one trip out of the Netherlands. During World War II it was taken to a cave for safe keeping and to get it there the painting was in Belgium for a short trip.

Hope to see more of these mock interviews; I even had a Guinness while reading!


December 15, 2008 6:49 PM  
Blogger Ron H said...

David... I'm calling your bluff. I think this is all bullsh*t. You had me until the AB bit. Rembrant is not an Alien Bees guy. Everybody knows he makes his living with SB-800s and the Rembrant photoshop actions. Jeesh.

December 15, 2008 8:08 PM  
Blogger the soft & poofy one said...

Brilliant post that provided a great start to my morning. Loved the analysis of lighting techniques in classical art pieces, as well the way you did it... Thanks for sharing! :)

December 15, 2008 8:36 PM  
Anonymous Nathanael Gassett said...

HA! I caught myself doing this in Art History today with Anselm Feuerbach's "Medea" (1870). It's great fun. Thanks for the enlightening post, and the laughs. Great way to teach.


December 15, 2008 9:03 PM  
Blogger J said...

I tried to show this article to a buddy and he said there was too much text. So I sat down and made a quick (and ugly) you tube thingama

It was fun to do. I've already sent the link to him so that he can understand what's going on without much effort.


December 15, 2008 9:44 PM  
Blogger Jann Lipka said...

Rembrandt is a good ,

Check for more about painting and
using advanced ( kind of ) light on zero budget here:

December 15, 2008 11:04 PM  
Blogger Tina M. Harris said...

Dang, why didn't I think of that wallpaper backdrop thing?? So, what kind of beer DOES Remy drink anyhow?

December 15, 2008 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Derek Horton said...

Awesome, entertaining and helpful too! a few more of these now and then would bo soo good!

December 15, 2008 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Axel said...

Great pics, David. Only thing: they look a bit like paintings...


December 16, 2008 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, nice Video J.
Rembrandt sounds a little like a pretty tough guy ^^

I liked it, thanks.


December 16, 2008 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Richard Cave said...

He is no oil painting is he?

Look up matte painting as lots of techniques from the old masters are used there.

Terms such as ariel perspective, saturation, use of highlights, colour balancing are all relevant to photography. I have been training in mattepainting for the last three years. It has improved my photography. All done in photoshop and a wacom tablet.


Love to see more like this, I like banksy as he uses the simplest forms very graphic to tell a story.

December 16, 2008 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Lesther said...

Anonymous Dinos Papachautas said...

Oh, come on! Please don't tell me strobists around the world will start copying lighting off of 17th century dead guys. This is so kindergarden.
Why don't you try a lighting scheme ala Mattisse or Rivera? Then we'll be talking.

Probably because Mattisse and Rivera had relatively flat paintings. At least in comparison to the 17th century dead guys. But I suppose it would still be interesting to see what is made of them.

December 16, 2008 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Els said...

Great post. Filled with interesting information combined with humor. You've outdone yourself once again!

Greats from Belgium,

December 16, 2008 12:11 PM  
Blogger focusfinder said...

Leonardo Da Vinci beat him to it, what with his advice on soft lighting from muslin stretched across doorways and so on.

December 16, 2008 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Arpad said...


Entertaining and educational: after so many posts and you still have refreshingly new ideas!
Your post reminded me of the curious lighting on the Renaissance painting by Piero della Francesca The Flagellation - according to some art critiques, even though it is a daytime scene, light is coming from two different direction.


December 16, 2008 3:48 PM  
Blogger milton said...

It's the best Strobist post and I am begging for more.

December 17, 2008 2:12 AM  
Blogger P.P. de Meijer said...

H-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s! Loved it!

December 17, 2008 4:56 AM  
Blogger 43user said...


Also thanks to Rembrant about heads up on pigment inks :D.

December 17, 2008 11:18 AM  
Blogger Ander said...

A lot of Rembrandt's etchings show fairly dark lighting I've noticed. It is quite amazing how he was an amazing painter AND etcher.

Thanks for this post.

I also just started my own Rembrandt blog at

December 17, 2008 6:27 PM  
Blogger Maksim said...

The whole country is learning...No...the whole planet is learning now! Learning from such old dudes as Rembrandt. Yeah, now...question:
In this world economy, is anybody actually shots for money? Don't get me wrong. I'd personally just have learned a good chunk of info by reading Rembrandt's super-killer tricks. Now would like to get paid for the knowledge. Anyone hires out there?
What's the picture on that? Anybody?

Happy Holidays to ALL!

December 17, 2008 10:06 PM  
Anonymous cory mcburnett said...

wow.. nice article.. it ties into a project i started earlier this year to challenge myself using the masters works...

basically taking old paintings and recreating them, and all my lighting is using strobist methods and photoshop..

feel free to take a look..
classic painting challenge on flickr

December 19, 2008 2:35 PM  
Anonymous howard linton said...

Talk about wack, I just watched "Wackness" with Ben Kingsley last night admiring the scenes in the doctor's office with the split light, etc. and couldn't help but think of Rembrandt all the while. And now this . . . too funny.

BTW - there's a scene in "Sideways" with a similar style of lighting on Paul Giamatti that I particularly like as well.

December 28, 2008 4:27 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...


January 02, 2009 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Matt Haines said...

David. Since you weren't forthcoming about your wallpaper background technique, I was forced to try it myself on a recent shoot. You can see the results on my blog - worked well! But I must warn you, there are models jumping on trampolines as well… ;)


January 09, 2009 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Matt Haines said...

Hey David. I just had to try your wallpaper-background idea for myself, since you wouldn't elaborate. It came out pretty well, although not without some pitfalls. Examples are on my blog from a model shoot I did a week ago, along with some wallpaper tips. And of course models bouncing on trampolines.

January 12, 2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger Kenibatz said...

Coming from the Beers With Vermeer, post, this is a goldmine within a goldmine. Positively fascinating stuff that will burn my midnight oil. Cheers!

November 12, 2009 1:54 AM  
Blogger djaef said...

I've been visiting your site for years now, and still come across these amazing unexpected gems. Thanks David, that was a lot of fun and very instructive.

November 12, 2009 5:08 AM  

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