What is the Most Flattering Lighting?

This article is all about what the most flattering lighting is. It can be challenging to find the right light that would highlight your beauty and not your flaws, so we did some research to find out what we can do to have the best lighting possible for makeup and portraits.

What is the most flattering lighting? The most flattering lighting is the indirect illumination you get from natural light. Clear, diffuse, and show your true colors. You can also get this kind of lighting from an artificial light source with a warm color temperature and a high color rendering index of at least 90.

What makes natural light flattering in the first place? We’ll go into the nitty-gritty of lighting to explain why this is so. We’ll talk about natural light’s qualities and see which kinds of artificial light sources can also give you the most flattering lighting.

We’ll also discuss how particular light sources’ properties affect how you look in photos and videos. Finally, we’ll give you a few tips to help you get the best lighting. Ready? Here we go!

The Most Flattering Lighting

According to makeup artists, photographers, and lighting experts, the best lighting to flatter your face is indirect, diffused light, preferably natural light or the light that comes from the sun. This kind of lighting is soft and doesn’t create harsh shadows or overly bright spots on your face. Artificial light sources similar to natural light in terms of brightness, color temperature, and color rendering can also provide flattering lighting.

Why Natural Light is Flattering

You’ve probably faced a window with taking a self-portrait because that’s where you look your best, based on your experience of taking countless selfies. But do you know why? That’s because natural light contains a natural balance of the color spectrum or all the rainbow colors.

Natural light is particularly rich in red or “warm” light. This detail makes a lot of difference in how we see ourselves. It has to do with our skin tones, which contain a lot of red–basically, because we’ve got blood coursing through our veins.

And because what we see in terms of colors is due to the light that bounces off or reflects off an object, we look our best in warm light. Warm light, in short, is the light that best reflects you.

Natural light–the light that illuminates your face when you stand in front of a window–is also clear and diffused, which means it is soft and evenly distributed. It is not direct lighting but instead comes from all directions, wraps around objects, and leaves few to no shadows.

Warm Lighting from Artificial Sources

We don’t always have access to natural light, but fortunately, there are artificial light sources that give off a warm light similar to natural light. Of course, you can also get natural light from candles, but unless you want to run the risk of a fire from a hundred burning candles at the same time, it’s better to stick to artificial sources.

The top two sources of warm light are LEDs and incandescent bulbs.

LED Lights

LED stands for light-emitting diode. There are LED lights that offer a full-color spectrum, allowing you to change the lights’ color temperature from cool, bright daylight to warm white light.

Warm white LED lighting is often considered the best alternative to natural light in an indoor or nighttime setting. Warm white LEDs are also used in ring lights and makeup mirrors, as these emit light that is closest to natural light. You can also check out this article that discusses if illuminated mirrors are any good. Read the article for more tips and information.

Incandescent Lights

Incandescent bulbs also produce a soft, flattering warm light. This is why incandescent lights were traditionally used for Hollywood mirrors or those vanity mirrors with light bulbs protruding along their edges.

However, incandescents emit more heat than other light sources and use up a lot of energy. They also have a short lamp life compared to the more energy-efficient LEDs. Incandescent bulbs are slowly being phased out in favor of LEDs.

How Lighting Affects the Way You Look

Artificial light sources have five attributes that play into how you look in photos and videos. These are direction, quality, brightness, color temperature, and color rendering index. Let’s discuss these briefly.


Direction refers to where the light is coming from. If your lighting comes directly above you, your eyes, upper lip, and chin will be in shadow. If the light is coming from your right, then it will be the left side of your face that’s in shadow. If you want the most flattering lighting, this is probably not the effect you’re going for, unless you want to add a sense of drama to your photos.

To get the most flattering lighting, make sure your face is lit from the front and that the light is balanced or evenly distributed across your face.


The quality of a light source can either be hard or soft. Hard light creates sharp transitions between brightly lit or highlighted areas and shadows. Soft light is diffuse, with gradual transitions between lit and shadowed areas. For flattering lighting, go for diffused, soft light.


The amount of light produced by a light source, or brightness, is measured in lumens. The higher a light source’s lumen rating is, the brighter the light appears. The brightness of a light can also refer to its intensity. A high-intensity light is bright and sharp, while a low-intensity light is soft and not as glaring. 

Color Temperature

A light source’s color temperature is measured on the Kelvin (K) scale, and it ranges from warm to cold. The higher the Kelvin, the cooler, or the more white/blue the light. Warm color temperatures are red-yellow. For the most flattering lighting, you’ll want your light to have a color temperature of 2700K to 3000K, described as “warm white.” You can also check out this article about what color light is best for a bathroom. We have shared tips and ideas that you can refer to.

Color Rendering Index

The color rendering index, or CRI, rates a light source’s ability to render colors accurately. The perfect score is 100. The higher or, the closer to 100 a light’s CRI is, the better it is at showing an object’s true colors. If you want to look your best, use light that has a CRI of at least 90.

Lighting Tips for Flattering Makeup and Images

Based on the attributes of artificial light we’ve discussed above, what should you do to achieve the most flattering lighting for photos? It would be best to use lighting that is as close to natural light as possible. It would be best if you had all bases covered in terms of the lighting direction, the quality, the intensity or brightness, the color temperature, and the ability to show your true coloring. We have also written this article about what lights makeup artists use. You can check out the article for more information about the topic.

  • Stand in front of a source of diffuse natural light.
  • Ensure the light is hitting you on your face evenly from the top, sides, and bottom to eliminate unflattering shadows.
  • Diffuse any harsh lighting to make it softer and more flattering.
  • Avoid light that is too bright, such as fluorescent lighting, which can create harsh shadows and make your face look washed out.
  • Choose a color temperature that is warm white.
  • Use a light source that has a color rendering index between 90 and 100.
  • Consider using an LED ring light or an LED mirror to help you get the most flattering lighting when natural light isn’t available.

✅ Video – Diffusion: How and Why You Should Use Soft Light

This informative video from DSLR Video Shooter explains why you should use diffuse lighting for better photos and videos. Diffuse lighting provides a very flattering light with softer shadows that makes you look better. The video also shows how to soften light sources to come up with the most flattering lighting.

Related Questions

What is the Most Flattering Lighting for a Bathroom?

Bathroom users will find themselves looking their best under lighting with a color rendering index of 90-100. This index refers to the light source’s accuracy in showing the true colors of objects. A warm white color temperature between 2700K and 3000K also provides the most flattering lighting for bathrooms.

What Color Temperature is Best for Makeup?

It’s best for makeup applications to have a light with a color temperature between 4800K and 5000K, as this range is not too warm and not too cool. It is similar to natural light or daylight, which makeup artists prefer.

Does Lighting Make You Look Better?

Yes, lighting affects what you look like in photos. If you want to look your best in photos, it’s ideal to use diffused natural light. This kind of light doesn’t create any harsh bright areas and dark spots. It also erases imperfections visually and makes you look healthier, younger, and better overall. You can also check out this article that talks about if LED mirrors are bad for the eyes. We have shared information that you can use in choosing the best lighting.


Natural light is the most flattering lighting because it is soft and even and doesn’t create any hard shadows on your face. It also reflects the true colors of your skin tone, hair, makeup, and outfit.

Of course, we don’t always have natural light, so for flattering artificial lighting, we turn to the traditional incandescent bulbs and the more contemporary LED bulbs. Because of their ability to mimic natural light, LED lights have become a must-have for those looking for the best lighting for makeup, photos, and videos.

If you want to get the most flattering lighting, remember to consider the attributes of light that affect how you look. Follow the tips we’ve listed, and you’ll surely have the lighting that suits you best.

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