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Portrait Relighting: Your In-Camera Lighting Crew

When shooting portraits, how do you light your subject? With the revolutionary new Portrait Relighting feature that debuted on the EOS R5, your most convenient options are no longer limited to either using a flash and a reflector or brightening the entire image in-camera afterwards. All you need to do is shoot in DPRAW mode, and you will be able to adjust the intensity and direction of light that falls on your subject in your portraits, even after you have shot them. Read on to find out more. (Reported by: Kazuo Nakahara, Digital Camera Magazine; Model: Honoka Kuwata (Oscar Promotion))


How does it work?

Portrait Relighting combines image recognition technology with information captured by the dual pixels in the image sensor to identify and select the human subject. This ensures that the relighting effect is applied in a natural manner, as though you shot with a reflector!

No reflector? No problem.

The benefits for photographers working without the luxury of an assistant is obvious. With no need to handle a reflector, you can move around more easily. The scenes where using a reflector is inconvenient, such as shots with action or full body shots with a distant background also become easier to light. 
It’s a function that increases possibilities in portrait photography tremendously.


How to use Portrait Relighting

Step 1: Enable DPRAW recording

In DPRAW mode, extra information from the dual pixels in the image sensor, such as depth information, is captured in the RAW file. Make sure you enable it before you record: Portrait Relighting needs this information to work. Once enabled, it will work for both RAW and CRAW recording.

Canon Dual Pixel RAW menu

Step 2: Apply Portrait Relighting in-camera when you are done

After your shoot, apply the images in-camera with the DPRAW processing function. Portrait Relighting is not available in the Digital Photo Professional software.

EOS R5 DPRAW processing menu

The DPRAW processing screen

EOS R5 Portrait Relighting screen

(1) Light source position: Change the lighting direction by using the dial or Multicontroller to move the white dot in this circle.
(2) Position of the selected face: Represented by the crosshair.
(3) Rate face: If there are multiple human faces in the image, you can use this button to select which one to apply the relighting effect to. Alternatively, tap the face.
(4) Light intensity (Low/Standard/High): Changes the intensity of the lighting effect.
(5) Light coverage (Spot/Medium/Wide): Sets the size of the illuminated area.


How is Portrait Relighting different from “Adjust face lighting” in ALO?

On the EOS R5, the Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) function is equipped with a new feature, “Adjust face lighting”.  The differences are shown in the table below.

  Portrait Relighting Adjust face lighting
Applicable area Face, body Face
Effect application Manual Automatic
Supported format DPRAW RAW, CRAW
Post-processing In-camera DPRAW processing In-camera RAW processing, Digital Photo Professional

Adjust face lighting: Less room for customisation

Adjust face lighting off/on examples

The brightness level that you get when you apply “Adjust face lighting” is linked to the Auto Lighting Optimizer effect level. Hence, the effects are more subtle and applied only to the face. There is also less flexibility to customise. 

You can turn on “Adj face lighting” when you post-process RAW images in-camera. Simply select the Auto Lighting Optimizer icon onscreen. Note that the function won’t be available if Auto Lighting Optimizer was disabled when you shot.


The effects of Portrait Relighting

All images:
EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.2L USM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.2, 1/125 sec)/ ISO 125/ WB: Auto

Full body

Portrait Relighting (full body)

As the gif image above shows, the Portrait Relighting effect changes the brightness of model’s upper body but not her skirt. It also “lights up” part of her surroundings, but the results look natural. When the subject is small in the frame, depending on the scene and the subject’s outfit, the effects may be applied on part of their surroundings too.

Half body

Portrait Relighting (half body)

When the subject takes up more of the frame, the Portrait Relighting effect is applied to just the subject alone, with obvious results. Take a closer look at the gif image above: it’s amazing how well the shadows on her collarbone and palm are controlled. The outcome is just like what you would get if you used a reflector.


Portrait Relighting (headshot)

In these headshot examples, the results are still natural. The relighting effect was applied without losing the shadow details in the nose and cheeks. When the relighting light source was on the right, it not only made the shadowed areas brighter but also brightened the whites of the model’s eyes and enhanced her catchlights. When the image was relit from the left, the contrast was enhanced, which also gives good results.

Changing the lighting intensity

Portrait Relighting - lighting intensity

Increasing the intensity mainly increases the shadows and mid-tones. Observe how the highlights remain under control, ensuring balance. Transitions in the outlines also look gradual and natural.

Changing the coverage

Portrait Relighting - Coverage

The differences are a little subtle, but notice how increasing the coverage increases the scope of the area around the face that is lit. The face itself isn’t affected much, but in the “Standard” setting, the shadows on the neck have been lifted, and in “Wide”, her chest is also brighter.


Need more portrait photography and lighting tips? Check out the following articles:
2 Instant Techniques to Liven Up Your Outdoor Portraits
Handling Natural Light: A High Key Portrait with Patterned Shadows
[Flash Technique] Creating a Pop Art-inspired Night Portrait


Portrait Relighting is a convenient feature to have, but learning to shape light with different gear and techniques is an essential skill every aspiring portrait photographer should know. Go back to the basics of lighting with:
Cosplay Photography Techniques (2): Fundamentals of Lighting
Cosplay Photography Techniques (3): Examples of Different Lighting Setups
5 Simple Bounce Flash Photography Tips
5 Fundamental Lighting Patterns for Portrait Photography

While you're at it, why not find out more about what Canon's first ever L-series Speedlite, the Speedlite EL-1, has to offer?:
Canon’s New Red-Line Speedlite EL-1: Better Control, Greater Expression


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Kazuo Nakahara

Kazuo Nakahara

Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.