Split Lighting Portrait Photography

Jun 30, 2021


We've been in the studio working on a Portrait Photography course for our members lately, filming some different lighting setups for demonstration's sake. One of the setups we filmed last week involved doing a split light setup with our model Silja.

We started with a high-contrast ratio between the brighter and darker sides of Silja's face, then added some fill light (behind the camera) to bring out a bit more detail in the shadows. 

It had been a very long time since I'd tried a profile light, which involves turning the subject straight into the light. Before packing it all up, I asked Silja to turn straight toward my micro soft box. Then I made one small adjustment to the light's position (moving it about 50cm closer to the background and presto – dramatic profile light.

You may think that all of this requires a lot of expensive gear, but the effect was achieved using a simple flash, positioned off-camera on a cheap lighting stand. The soft box I used cost about $25 and is becoming one of my favourite light modifiers. 

Practicing your light arrangements is a lot of fun and it builds confidence as you revisit the fundamentals and familiarise yourself with your equipment and the core concepts of portrait lighting. It's astounding how many different lighting effects can be achieved, simply by adjusting the position of the light.

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