woman's split light photo with Kate Like Oil Painting Background Abstract Texture Backdrops For Photography

A Beginner’s Guide to Split Light Photography: Advantages | Lighting Gear | Ideas | Tips

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The ability to create digital memories is made possible by taking photos, and photography plays a significant role. You can record moments like weddings, birthdays, Halloween, and more. There are various forms of photography, and each serves a unique purpose. Split light photography is one of these techniques, which we'll discuss in this article.

What is Split Light?

Split lighting encompasses proportionally dividing the face into two halves; one side has a light and the other in a shadow. Even novices can perform it because it only requires one light source and is simple and affordable.

Advantages of Split Light Photography

  1. It can give male participants a moody and heroic appearance; think about adding a modifier to the light source, such as a beauty dish or softbox, for a softer shadow.
  2. It is ideal for subtle, moody photographs. The outcome is theatrical, especially in dimly lit environments with dark backdrops; the lighting pattern can convey a sense of mystery.
  3. Split lighting photography primarily produces more pronounced shadows on the model's face.
  4. The side light is coming in at a 90-degrees to your face front plane, which means any skin blemishes are more noticeable, which is excellent for highlighting facial hair and skin texture.

a young man's split light photo

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Lighting Gear for Split Light Photography

1. Artificial lighting

Controlling the light's position and strength is one of the top advantages of artificial lighting, although just about any strobe, constant light, and Speedlight like a video light can be used. Choose the modifier that best suits your work and financial plan from the many available options, such as a softbox, an umbrella, and a beauty dish.

2. Fill Light

On the dark side of the face, the fill light is used to soften the extreme shadows. It would be best if you placed it facing your camera to get great split photos. This lighting apparatus is constructed of a thin, light aluminum (aircraft-grade) that is resistant to extreme weather and damage. Additionally, it has no fans so that you can shoot quietly.

3. Cameras and lenses

Split lighting portraits can be created with any lens or camera. Any DSLR or mirrorless camera from a manufacturer like Canon, Sony, Nikon, or another will function. Discover your camera's configurations and how to use your photographic equipment to take better pictures. Go for lenses that have a focal length of 50mm and above.

preganncy split light photo with Kate Cold Black Around Gray Texture Abstract Backdrop Portrait

Kate Cold Black Around Gray Texture Abstract Backdrop Portrait

4. V-flat

V-flat is a fantastic tool to shape light, particularly window lighting in a studio. The V-flat is perfect for a split light photography setup with white and black sides. Place the white part on the side away from the window if you want to softly and smoothly reflect the window light. Position the extra V-flat at an angular position that results in balanced light solely on a single side of the face and shadows on the opposite when trying to create a split light pattern. Light is absorbed by the color black. When you want to add contrast to your split lighting portrait, use the black portion of your V-flat.

5. Reflector

A reflector is a very accessible tool for helping to shape light that can significantly enhance and add to the split light photo. You will notice that the shadow portion of the face is dark once you have the flash set up to create split lighting. Try adding a reflector to the client's face if you want to capture a few details on that side. Observe how the shadows soften considerably as the reflector approaches the target.

How to create Split Light for Your Portrait?

1. Pick a light gear

One light source will do as it will give you more flexibility, and you can use your lighting gear with either artificial or natural lighting. Put your subject close to a window to get natural sunlight, and for artificial lighting, you can use flash and other gears.

a young man's split light photo

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

2. Identify the shadow portion of your subject.

You must pick the side of your model’s face that will be lit up and the darker side first. Photographers frequently make this choice based on the model's facial characteristics.

3. Your model should maintain an angle of 90 ˚

Position your subject 90 degrees away from the lighting source. You can reposition your subject to get the line running down the middle of the face.

4. To get a harsher impact, move your lighting away.

You'll discover that the contrast is greater the farther away the lighting is from the subject. Keep your subject closer to the light if you prefer a smoother split light photography.

5. Modify the transition by using a modifier

You can soften and gradually transition from shadow to brightness by including an umbrella, diffuser, or softbox in your split lighting photography setup.

girl's split light photo with Kate Abstract Dark Green/Black Collapsible Backdrop Photography 5X6.5ft

Kate Abstract Dark Green/Black Collapsible Backdrop Photography 5X6.5ft

6. Lighten shadows by incorporating a reflector.

When placed properly, having the reflector opposite the light source will direct light onto the subject's face's dark side, maintaining the appearance of split light while minimizing shadow.

7. Utilize a backlight to create a halo effect

Adding a backlight will add depth to your model and produce a halo of light; it makes the split lighting portrait better.

Pro-Tips for Split Lighting Portrait

1. Take a Lively Portrait by snapping Catchlights

It's a minor element that gives the photo an essential and vibrant appearance so that the subject's eyes do not appear lifeless. The catchlight's portrayal, size, and position in the eye change based on the light source, properties, and closeness. Before taking a shot, ensure the catchlight is near the light source; you can adjust the lighting till you get the ideal position.

2. Change the intensity of light for various moods.

girl's split light photo

Photo by Quinten de Graaf on Unsplash

The light source will be more intense if placed near the model to highlight textures in the split photo. The shadowed area will be significantly darker than the area lit, meaning more contrast. Reduce the amount of light if you want a softer impact and move the light far from the subject to diffuse light.

3. Change the portrait to black and white for a dramatic effect.

Make all the fundamental adjustments you require, which might involve switching the tone, shape, clarity, contrast, or exposure. After doing so, select Black and White from the basic panel on your develop module. Select the B&W alternative in the Color, B&W, or HSL panel; any initial colors in your image can be darkened or lightened.

4. Be creative by combining colors.

To achieve a neutral effect, make use of the white light. Yellow/orange light can also warm the split lighting photography portrait or add vibrant effects such as magenta /red. To obscure your lighting source, buy several filters or utilize a translucent colored piece of paper.

5. For complete control, use a source of artificial light.

woman's split light photo

Photo by Olayinka Babalola on Unsplash

You can purchase lighting equipment to have more flexibility and prevent distortions. Red light stands are a great option since they run on batteries, are reasonably priced, and are small. Therefore they are easier to move than other lighting equipment which needs plugging.


Split lighting photography setups are pretty easy to put together; they only need a single light source. They can help you bring your creative aspects by bringing different moods and patterns to your photos using the lighting gear and tips above. Ensure you understand what lighting works best and play around with different colors to achieve great shots. I hope the guidelines on split light photography provided will come in handy for you.

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