Split lighting is exactly as it sounds. It’s light that splits the subject into equal halves with one side being in the light and the other in shadow. It tends to be a more masculine pattern of light and is often used to create dramatic images because of the high contrast and falloff in light. When looking at an image it’s quite easy to see when split lighting is used. Most of the time you will see half of the subjects face in light but as the light hits the bridge of the nose it begins to fall off into shadow.
As a photographer who shoots a lot of dudes, split lighting has become one of my favorite lighting styles. It’s super easy to achieve – one light and a modifier – and tends to impress because of its ability to add drama to an image and make a guy feel tough and cool. And if you know me you probably know my philosophy on how guys want to feel in photos. 🙂
To create split lighting simply set your receiver and flash on a stand, choose your favorite modifier, and place the light directly to the side of your subject. If you want a dramatic falloff in light place the light closer to your subject. For a more gradual falloff in light move the light further away from your subject. Pretty easy, right? Here’s a quick diagram to show you light placement in relation to your subject.
Below are some example of images I’ve taken using this split lighting technique.
In this first image the flash was placed roughly 3 feet to the left side of my subject, set to 1/16th power and modified with a Westcott Rapidbox.
For this next shot my flash was placed about 6 ft to the right of my subject, set to 1/4 power and modified with a MagMod grid.
In this last example my flash was about 4 ft to the left of my subject and placed slightly behind him and directed ever so slightly towards camera to ensure there is little to no light wrap around his nose. The flash was set to 1/16th power and was modified with a Bowens 24×36″ softbox.
So there you have it! A simple and effective way to shoot dudes that will leave them excited about having had their photo taken. Wait…guys being excited about having their photo taken? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, if you don’t believe me get out there and try it yourself and prepare to be amazed at the response.