In the history of visual art, few figures loom as large as Rembrandt. His influence on photography is so great that “Rembrandt lighting” has become a staple method for portraiture. But Rembrandt Lighting is often a poor choice for photographing women, especially when working with corporate clients.
For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, Rembrandt lighting refers to a style used extensively in portrait work and cinematography. It incorporates a shadowed side of the face that features a triangle patch of light under the subject's eye, often referred to as the "Rembrandt triangle." It is extremely versatile and is arguably the most important lighting method for portrait photographers.
You may be wondering why I am suggesting avoiding this classic and time-tested method. Here are four reasons.
1. Rembrandt Lighting Accentuates Facial Features
The angle at which the light hits the subject's face in Rembrandt lighting creates a three-dimensional look. And this was the point, after all, to make a two-dimensional subject look 3D. But the problem with this is that it also accentuates facial features, including the nose, brow line, cheekbones, and jaw. Put more plainly, it can make noses look bigger, brows more pronounced, and jaws more defined. When working with women, this can be a major pitfall to Rembrandt lighting because it hardens and emphasizes the individual features instead of softening them.
2. Rembrandt Lighting Brings Out Every Line, Bump, and Crevice on the Shadow Side of the Face
Another issue with Rembrandt lighting is that the angle of the light combined with the shadow side of the face emphasizes fine lines, bumps, and imperfections. In essence, it draws attention to — instead of away from — every detail, showing every bump and flaw in 3D. If you are working with clients who have fine lines, laugh lines around the mouth and eyes, or blemishes, using Rembrandt lighting will make these more prominent.
3. Rembrandt Lighting Restricts Posing Options
A third issue with using Rembrandt light is that it limits the photographer's options when posing and insists that the nose be either straight on or pointed toward the key light. This problem is exacerbated if the photographer does not shoot the subject from their "good side." Many inexperienced headshot and portrait photographers do not even consider their subject's good side when shooting and instead use a cookie-cutter method for light placement and posing. This does a huge disservice to the subject, since their most flattering angle is not even considered by the photographer before the shoot begins. Additionally, if the nose is pointed the wrong way (away from the key light), it makes for less than flattering results and highlights the broad side of the face.
4. Rembrandt Light Is a Bad Option for Corporate Headshots
When I am shooting corporate headshots for women, I never, ever use Rembrandt lighting. If you think I am wrong about this, here is a little test you can do. The next time you have a female corporate client in your studio, tell her that you are going to intentionally add shadows to her face, and let me know how she reacts! I also feel that Rembrandt lighting and quasi-Rembrandt lighting styles have become a crutch for portrait photographers, fostering a one-size-fits-all mentality that creates work that is stale and misses the uniqueness of the face being photographed.
If Not Rembrandt, Then What?
Now that I've made my case against Rembrandt lighting, you must be wondering if there is a better option. In my experience, there certainly is! I have found that the best light to use when photographing women, especially corporate clients, is an even, flattering light. This can be achieved by using either two lights in a parallel configuration (one on each side of the subject) or by using three lights in a triangle or C shape.
The advantage of these setups is that they resolve the issues caused by Rembrandt lighting since even light will fill in fine lines and shadows, help to eliminate bags under the eyes, reduce the prominence of the brow, and in general, de-emphasize the features. Instead of being drawn to the nose or other prominent facial features, the viewer's attention moves towards the subject's expression.
Another advantage of using an even light is that it allows you to move the subject around and point their nose in either direction without having to worry about them moving out of the sweet spot of the light. This is a huge advantage for photographers who are unable to tell which side of the face is the good side since you can easily capture both sides of the face while maintaining beautiful light. If you are shooting tethered, it becomes even easier to figure out what angles work best for the individual face you are photographing.
Yes, There Are Exceptions to Every Rule
Now, before I'm branded a hater or just plain wrong about all of this, let me say that I use Rembrandt lighting all the time, and sometimes with female clients. For instance, take a photo of Regina. She is an actress and came to me specifically for dramatic photos that could be used to help her book more gritty roles. So, for her shoot, I made sure she was shadowed up in a Rembrandt style, and the results were exactly what she wanted and needed. In the portrait of Kelly, an opera singer, we wanted to convey drama and also give the image a classic vibe, so Rembrandt lighting was the ideal choice.
But even with female acting and artist clients, I still make it a point to start every session with a flattering, even light. I do this because I know from experience that my clients will love the results. Once they are feeling good about the session and results being captured, it becomes much easier to experiment with more dramatic options like Rembrandt lighting, instead of relying on it as your main option.
Mastering Rembrandt lighting is a necessity for every headshot and portrait photographer. The versatility and flexibility of this lighting method are hard to beat. But, like every other tool in the photographer's bag, there are best practices associated with its use. It's up to the photographer to know when to use it and when to choose a better option.
Great article. Thanks Pete!
You got it, Sam! Appreciate the feedback.
I think examples of Rembrandt lighting here actually are called loop lighting.
Rembrandt lightings is with a triangle.
Loop lighting is much better for general use.
Actually loop and butterfly lighting but with a large light modifier is great for a lot of work.
What you want is the light to kind of wash the skin.
To me the setup with two or three lights makes little sense and I don’t like the result.
BTW I really like the image of the opera singer. I think it’s both classy and classic and I really don’t think there is much drama to it.
Thanks for the thoughtful response, Bjarne. Good point regarding loop lighting - my Rembrandt examples still have a pretty subtle shadow density which is what I prefer in most cases. I think we agree in general though that for women a softer, more even light is best. I'm not a fan of large diffusers for headshots in particular because I feel like the light is too flat. This is why I use the three light triangle setup. It gives me an even light but still with has a nice punch, which I prefer. Thanks for reading, and I am glad you like the opera singer photo!
Good article for a new day. Well done, Pete!
Thanks Khuat! Appreciate it!
“ Rembrandt Lighting Accentuates Facial Features”
Because god forbid we admit women have facial features.
My thoughts exactly.
Hi Noah, thanks for this. I am certainly not suggesting that we can't celebrate each unique face or that women's (or men's) features should be arbitrarily minimized to fit some preconceived beauty standard.
But my job as a headshot photographer -- with male and female clients alike -- is to make them look their best and give them images that empower them. If you have a client with a prominent nose, would you purposely shoot them in such a way as to make their nose look bigger? Would you use a wide angle lens and jam in real close? If you have a client with bad acne scars, would you purposely put deep shadows on their face?
Knowing that your clients' needs trump your own ideas about lighting is a must, and I always try to be humble and empathetic enough to approach my sessions in this way. I've had so many clients come to my studio feeling apprehensive, and even afraid to be photographed, because of a lifetime of negative reinforcement by friends, family, etc., about their facial features. And when I have a client tell me "this is the first photo of myself I actually love," there's no better feeling in the world.
Could you please explain what this means? How are three lights set up in a C shape?
"using either two lights in a parallel configuration (one on each side of the subject) or by using three lights in a triangle or C shape".
If you are giving lighting advice it might help to show a set up of the lights.
Is your "modified triangle" similar to Hurley's three strip lights?
Hey Mike, I use 3 lights, all around the same power. One horizontal across the bottom, one camera left in a vertical position, and one above the client's head angled slightly down, which creates a sort of C shape. Some people create an actual triangle with the three lights and put the subject right in the middle of the light to get a soft, even look. And, yes! This is the Peter Hurley 3 light setup. I use a Westcott Flex Kit with 1x3 and 1x2 panels for my headshot and portrait work.
This is painting with an overly wide brush, Pete. Women are not a monolith. We don't all want or need high key or light and airy photos. Lots of women want and NEED the gravitas of Rembrandt, loop and split lighting as part of their branding to be taken more seriously. Seems this is more an issue of sales, education, communication, and expectation rather tthan lighting decisions if your reasoning is that women falter when you say shadow. I've experienced that too, and a woman even had me change the lighting after I said the word shadows (despite the fact that everything she loved in my portfolio had shadows). But at the end of the day, the photo she chose to use as her main photo was the first lighting setup with three stops of shadow. The whole point of the shoot was about making her look like a boss, not a stock photography model, after all.
Hey Melina! This is such a great point, thank you! I was speaking in general terms, as you suggested, and mainly referring to corporate clients. But in my experience, most women (and even many men) do not like heavy shadows on their faces. When I start my sessions, I always start with an even, pleasing light, because I know the client will love it and feel empowered by the photos they see popping up on my monitor. After we have captured a bunch of photos that they love, I'll sometimes go to a shadowed style, and I agree that it can be an awesome look for a female client in some cases. I also definitely don't want it to seem like I think all female clients need to look like stock models, that's the last thought in my mind. I want them to look amazing, feel empowered, and leave my studio ready to take on the world. In fact, I work with at TON of female executives, entrepreneurs, etc., and I know from them many of the challenges they face and why their headshot is so important. Thanks again, I appreciate the feedback so much!
I only shoot corporate headshots, actually, since that is the world where I come from, as well, initially, so that is exactly what I was referring to. Your article is quite flawed. It should express that sometimes women have a lot of pressure on how they look and that many will feel more comfortable with a more commercial style, but that it should be discussed beforehand. A rule about how to shoot women is just so diminishing. Maybe this article would've best been written by a female branding photographer, instead? Or at the very minimum you could've interviewed one?
Good points. And based on this comment, I think you agree with me, but perhaps not with the way I stated it. You are right, women have a lot of pressure on how they look and, in my experience, are much more comfortable with a commercial style. This was the whole point of my article.
The assumption is what is problematic.
Perhaps you could have just written about soft vs hard lighting regardless of configuration or… gender. So many things to unpack here but I’m too busy researching the history of both lighting and feminism…
Hey Steven, this is a valid critique, for sure. Thanks for reading.
This article is very troubling for a multitude of reasons, but I want you to think deeply about why your "reasons" are applicable to women in particular. (Hint: it's rooted in subconscious sexism)
Is it sexist of me to acknowledge that women are held to a completely different set of body image standards in our society than men and use my skills as a photographer to empower them?
Is it sexist of me to empathize with my clients, both male and female, and want more than anything for them to feel good about their own faces, maybe for the first time in their adult lives?
Wouldn't it be sexist to disregard the years of societal pressure put on women (and to a lesser degree men) to look a certain way, and not make it a major priority to use every tool at my disposal to help my clients see themselves as beautiful?
Have you worked with many female corporate clients? Not models or actors -- women in corporate America and of a variety of ages and face shapes? Well, I have. And almost every one of them comes to their session feeling nervous, not wanting to see their own face, and many of them tell me horrible stories of being told they are ugly, or have a "resting b- face," or being belittled in the workplace, or worse yet, being mocked by their own family members. And when they leave feeling empowered and actually feeling good about themselves, there is no better feeling in the world for me.
The point of my article is to help us as photographers understand that the lighting we use can either increase or decrease a client's feeling of self worth -- whether male or female. If this didn't come across in my article, that's on me.
But I will add one other thing. It's very easy to call someone you never met, of whom you know nothing about, a sexist. If you took the time to learn more about me, or got to know me, or spoke to any of my clients (of all genders), you would know that this is the furthest thing from the truth and perhaps be more careful before throwing around accusations.
This response is equally as troubling...your article is titled "Why You Should Avoid Using Rembrandt Lighting on Women" and you list reasons as to why photographers should not use lighting that accentuates their features or makes them look less nice/approachable. I'm not sure how you can argue that your point is education on lighting as applicable to men and women when it quite literally isn't that.
I did not call you sexist. This article, at it's base, perpetuates a sexist culture that says women should be unassuming, nice-looking, and blend in. Telling photographers that women in particular get upset about shadows on their face (so you shouldn't photograph them like that) is ridiculous and offensive. Obviously, if you tell ANYONE that you're going to take a photo with shadows on their face, they're going to be upset about it. To someone unfamiliar with portrait photography, it sounds extremely undesirable.
You say it would be sexist of you to "disregard years of societal pressure put on women to look a certain way", yet you aid in perpetuating it by assuming how women want to be seen. Why would it not be better to simply ask your clients how they would like to be perceived, rather than telling the photographers of Fstoppers not to shoot a certain way?
Very good response. Thank you for making the effort to shed light on this topic, Caitlyn!!! I do agree that many people benefit from a more thorough branding conversation or to "simply ask" ask you suggest. Many women do struggle with a lot of internalized misogyny, and a photographer can best ally with women by initiating the conversation (in consultation, or in a blog post) rather than automatically assuming what all women are like. But if men are not comfortable talking about this, it is understandable as the topic is a heavy one. Which is why your voice is so appreciated, Caitlyn.
A person's reasoning can be rooted in sexism without being sexist. The women I shoot who fear shadows in their headshots also have their reasons rooted in sexism as well. I think there are enough people here speaking up that you should consider that perhaps you are speaking about topics where you are missing a key piece of understanding.
Thanks, Melina, I understand what you are saying and it's a good point. I also appreciate your respectfulness in communicating with me. But there's a major difference in saying that some of these concepts are rooted in sexism - which I just acknowledged above in my response to Caitlyn - and calling me a sexist.
I know that we all have different perspectives and you might not be aware of the full story behind WHY women feel less satisfied when shot with shadows. And it may not seem important as a photographer to understand the WHY. But we are trying to explain that it is important and because of that, making the decision for your client might not be the best approach--certainly not a "rule".
There have already been comments here that show that it might not be as common across other regions, industries, or demographics. A woman CTO in a West Coast metro might approach branding very differently than a woman CMO in a Southern metro.
It's easy to feel the need to be defensive when something as serious as systemic sexism is brought up, so I agree we should all treat each other with care (which I believe everyone has) but also understand that there is something worth considering when critiqued. So thank you for being open to discussing this. Just know that no one has called you sexist just because we believe that the practice you advocate contributes to systemic sexism. In other words, it's not about you!
Caitlyn really has explained everything that needs to be said from my point of view. Practically speaking, this headline was destined to be problematic, and I think acknowledging that would help restore some trust in your readers. Perhaps even acknowledging that this is an area where you might have more to learn.
This makes me want to write an article entitled "Why You (Men) Should Avoid Responding To A Woman's Critique With Your Vast Experience Of Hearing About Sexism"
Hi Caitlyn, Melina and Lauren, I read this fascinating article and your interesting comments.
Lauren, don't you think attitudes and beliefs should be openly discussed between men and women? My experience is that any disagreement is best addressed when both sides shared with each other. Excluding people from a conversation does nothing to help address issues. It's far better that everyone talks about it openly, and does so respectfully. Trying to oppress people's voices is never a good thing.
I'm certainly learning more about some attitudes towards both women and men by some women and men after reading this discussion; we are always learning. It would also be intriguing to hear how trans men and women, and non-binary people prefer to be photographed too.
Caitlyn, please would you expand on the point you first made.
I believe that the most (not all) women, especially young women, don't want to be portrayed in a way that reveals their skin flaws, wrinkles, and blemishes. They prefer to have their skin flaws hidden, and that is what most women ask photographers to do. This is what Pete's article is about. He then adds balance by writing that there are exceptions. It comes across you are suggesting that he is wrong and that most (not all) women don't want to be photographed this way.
If photographers meet the needs of their women clients by shooting photos that portray how they, on the whole, want to be portrayed, is that sexism? If the photographer generously shares that knowledge, is that sexism?
I accept that the way we photograph both women and men is a societal norm. Much of the way societies have evolved is that there are fundamental differences in the ways different sexes and genders are portrayed. But do we photographers accept these differences?
Melina, are you arguing that the acknowledgement of any difference is an inequality that oppresses women? Is a woman's desire to be shot in a flattering light something you think should be discouraged because it has its roots in a society that is sexist. Or, if we evolved to be truly equal in our attitudes, with no prejudice, do you think that women would not ask to be shot in that way. If not, would they also not wear foundation and eye-shadow, or have their hair cut to a particular style.
These are not rhetorical questions, I am genuinely interested in discovering where you think we should be heading.
I absolutely agree that virtually every society wrongly evolved to be male dominated, and am glad that we are addressing this and other inequalities. That is a great thing. So I am interested to hear where you think equality should fall within photography in our approaches to photograph women and men. Should portrait photographers make exactly the same approach for shooting both sexes, no matter the subjects' wishes?
If there is not a difference, are you arguing that men and women should be androgynous? Should there be no divergence in the way we are depicted? Should women models not be asked to be photographed in the way Pete suggests? Or, should photos of men avoid Rembrandt lighting?
Maybe this is a trend that's happening. I think there are an increasing number of (especially young) men who want to be portrayed under the same flattering light that was traditionally mostly used for women. However, although it sometimes happens, I don't see a big move towards women asking to be photographed in less flattering light.
It's important to not make assumptions and hard rules based on sex. A better message is to understand the lay of the land and drive your discussion with that knowledge. Years ago when I worked in retail furniture sales it was a common practice to assume that certain races would have certain budgets and would require financing. This is rooted in another kind of bias--systemic racism. Was it based on experience? Yes. Did it mean that I was a racist person? From some perspectives, perhaps, if all they knew was this biased sales strategy. Was it wrong to treat customers based on assumptions rather than discussions from the individuals? Yes. You always have the ability to engage with your customers and learn about them as individuals. Does it help you to understand that certain families may be predisposed to less expensive furniture and financing options? Of course! But you should absolutely navigate those discussions with sensitivity and an open mind. And never assume.
Thanks, Melina. It's the hard rules that you mention that are important, and indeed Pete mentions that there are exceptions to what he has written. When we write articles, it's usually about one aspect of photography to be taken in the context of the entire collection of articles. It's absolutely impossible to include caveats for everything we write, and generalizations have to be made.
It's a fine line to tread, what we include and what we don't is a difficult balance. For example, I've just written an article about giving young people better quality cameras, and there are a string of facetious comments suggesting I meant toddlers.
From my perspective, most - though not all - women want to be photographed to make themselves appear attractive. This is a judgement they make when they see the photo of themselves. It's the job of the photographer to meet those expectations. If they don't, then they lose the custom or won't get to work with the model again. The article here is about how a photographer can do that, and avoid getting it wrong. I see that as a positive thing. After all, women wear makeup, have their hair cut and apply IG filters for the same reasons.
This is, of course, a generalization, and I am talking about a majority. Similarly, there are some men who like to be photographed with a similar approach, although this is a (growing) minority.
Does it hurt a woman to be photographed in this way? Mostly not, unless they state otherwise.
Your discussion point about race is an interesting one. In the nearest big town to where I live, there are different areas where you will find more people of different races, ethnic groups, and religions. In those areas are shops that stock specialist food that meets the demand of those groups. Mostly, they are run by people from the corresponding ethnicity (etc.) but not always. It would be outrageous to suggest, for example, that a butcher of Polish descent shouldn't sell Halal meat, or an Indian grocer mustn't stock Melomakarona. I don't see that as racism, just a celebration of our wonderful differences.
There is a darker side to the assumptions about especially race and other groups, of course, when it comes to the criminal justice system. Prejudice does exist, and it's horrible. But, perhaps we need a word to describe acceptance and enjoyment of what makes us different, whether it be race, sex, gender, religion, age, physical abilities, and so on, without any negative connotation.
A profound answer. Why is it discounted by one of those who accuse sexism in the first part? Is it not valid? Or is a differentiated opinion not desired?
To get to the truth, Ludwig Feuerbach, a philosopher, suggested inverting a statement (i.e. but not twisting it into the opposite):
Women like to be photographed in favourable light" thus becomes "Beautiful pictures of themselves please women". Right?
And then there is the method of generalisation, of extending the argument: "People like to be photographed favourably". Right?
So the statement also applies in reverse to men. And this proves that the first statement is not sexist. It would be if it said: "Women only ever like to be photographed in a favourable light", because the only thing they care is beauty.
That said: It is sexist (or racist) to reduce a group of people to a few ascribed characteristics. But that is definitely not what happened here. The point here is to emphasise the positive sides or aspects.
I have used Rembrandt lighting on women often and it’s beautiful. This is such odd title for an article… Why would you “avoid” using this lighting on anyone? It is a classic beautiful lighting pattern. Very misleading “headline”
I think Pete's title was here to make you stop and think (and probably had a bit of "click-bait intent too!)
Pete specifically mentioned the problem of corporate photographs where your subjects have to live with seeing your image of them for years staring out of the organisation's website and lined up in the lobby. Furthermore, you often have to work to time in a place where you may have a line of people rushing through your area to get their staff photo before running off to another meeting.
It is too easy to set up the "trusted" character "personality" lighting that subjects often want for thier "individual" portrait for home and family and forget that your clients might want to choose a simpler, softer, neutral less "dramatic style" for work. Rembrant lighting is often great - but small changes in position can have a great impact on the final picture shadow pattern.
Now that light systems are getting more affordable and more portable, a corporate photo session can now be lit far more completely, and with more complexity, than in days of yore (fast 200mm on a monopod, "next,.. stand here,... look there, ..click, next!"!).
There are so many potential lighting arrangements - that a "dry run" with an assistant and some "new ideas for lighting" can be a useful warm up for what can be a cost-effective day for a photographer. In these days of remote working, paying for better staff photos can be a good business investment, so give your clients what they want and value for money and you will be invted back!
Great article Pete - thank you! It has made me realise that I get a bit "lazy" with my portrait lighting sometimes and that one size definitely does not fit all.
Thanks for the explanation of your C shape lighting as well. Like you, I'm a big fan of Peter Hurley's techniques, but not too sure I like the multiple catch lights his panels give. Lots to experiment with!
The photo trend of using more lights and less shadow is tricky. Shadows are good, but it's all up to the individual photog and subject, a person with a round or wide face may not benefit from the Hurley light...JMO
IMO Some of the lotta lights from all directions approach DMV or dermatologists reference pics. It's easy but I am not sure that it's flattering...for men or women.
This is short light not Rembrandt. Rembrandt light is a mix of short and split lighting creating a triangle in the shadow area by the highest of the light source.
Someone will need to study a little more of Don Blair, Monte Zucker and many other Old Masters.
No it’s loop lighting. The strobe a little to the side a little above head to have some shadow down the nose and chin. If you move light more to the side and more up you must likely will have the triangle and Rembrandt lighting. Short and broad lighting is decided according to if the lid side of the face is broad or short. You can have Rembrandt lighting with nose pointing strait into camera to:)
Amyway all these definitions is about using shadow to shape the face, and are not that different. Hard or soft light makes a big difference to. I think the writer is kind of saying he thinks flat lighting is better with little or no shadow. I don’t like the style he promote. I have seen the work of some great headshot photographers using butterfly lighting, and I think that works great.
While we're on the subject, the opera signer should have been posed with her shoulders more at an angle to the camera. In your example, she looks a little heavy, which women also don't like much (hey, you brought it up :/ )
Good observation! But she is a opera singer and I think a little punch goes with her territory:)
There will almost certainly be a woman who accuses you of sexism, no matter what your intentions. Even if you make every effort, an underlying sexism will be detected.
And then we talk about sexism and not the original topic.
What amazes me, though: There seem to be many women who know what sexism is and it seems as if the woman accusing the man of sexism here takes the right to speak for or about and about all women, but that right does not belong to the man. Just because he is a man?
To accuse someone of sexism in this way, as here, is malicious. It assumes that subliminal sexism is so deeply ingrained in every man that he can't help it. And that's exactly what these bad preconceptions are, which one imposes on the other without knowing him. THAT is sexism.
I found the article interesting and there was no reason to think that Pete was sexist in any way. However, I don't quite agree with the reasoning "rembrandt light" and also not with the fact that wrinkles disfigure a face, not even that of a woman.
I enjoyed reading Pete's text but I am repulsed by these disgusting discussions, this profiling of oneself at the expense of another. It is easy to point the finger at others without having to prove what you are doing against racism and sexism. If you do it the way we do it here in the forum, then it's not much more than cheap mobbying.
Edit, added: Have a look at how many postings these few have who accuse of sexism. Seems they have registered just to drop these comments.
My gentle but firm opinion about this is simple: Light is light - it's not a gender identity or identification. You use what you have to use for the project or job & briefing at hand and by your own choice or the teams meeting. Don't overcomplicate things in that matter or make it some religious rule.
It's just light and modifiers and an intention to create and there is no right or wrong - just flattering or unflattering and any good photographer can differentiate the personal bias & aesthetic preferences versus actual objective light and shadow that enhances a or the subject.
I agree, photography is about light, and ultimately about photo it creates. Each subject male or female is unique and we should cater to that subject rather then make generalization of entire gender.
To be honest, I cannot see a lot of Rembrandt going on there! If you speak Rembrandt, then there must be contrast. In your pictures there is not much and therefore I feel like saying this is clickbait, again.
Rembrandt is an expressive lighting style synonym for character, afaik.
If you wanna call a portrait with some subtle shadows Rembrandt, ok your take, but then falling into a strange cliché, stereotype like you do, is just as faded and washed-out as your title: shaky but not shady :-)
I have to say I more disagree then agree with this article. While some women are more inclined to standards of beauty that screams "FLAWLESS SKIN, NO BLEMISHES", some are not and those welcome or at least are open to having their portrait taken with shadows thus creating drama and making photo and also themself more interesting and unique. My entire body of work is based on premise of shadows on my female models and creating their story. Not all of it is Rembrandt style, but in most cases its pronounced and visible contrast of light and shadow. While I can not speak for corporate portraits in US, in my daily work i have done so many portraits with shadows and accents on facial feature to portray position of power and determination in subject, while never removing their feminine traits. Included photo as an example.
Ladies, please in past 3 weeks I have witnessed 4 male-female "difference" of opinion where females always in this way or the other used as argument that males should refrain or (preferably) have no opinion or say so in all maters female. Just a reminder, females are adored by males, and we do have opinions and feelings and as photographers styles. As long as we as photographers are respectful and try to portray our female subjects to the best of our abilities and vision I see no reason to get so heavy handed argument about rights of women. I'm sure most photographers take photos of their subjects in respectful way and environment where model can feel relaxed enough to be able to be themselves and create amazing photos, regardless if its male or female. Also don't pretend harsh light that is mostly used for male photos look flattering on most women.
Also if any thing I said here offends You, You are more then likely to look for a way to make it about sexism and Your agenda then talk about lights and photography.
Uh oh. Nobody tell Annie she's been wrong all this time...