Creativity Exercise: Split Light

We could probably talk about window light for an entire year and never tire of things to chat about, but this month we're going to focus on a few specific thoughts. 

First up is split light. 

Split light is exactly as it sounds - you're going to split the image (or in this case, the face) in half with light on one side and shadow on the other. 

Split light can be done with natural light or with artificial light, but for this exercise we're going to work on creating a split light portrait using only window light. 


The easiest way to see clear split light is to use a face, so it's time to ask someone to pose for you, or set up the camera for another self portrait. If that's not possible then you're more than welcome to use a doll or a teddy bear. 


You can do this lighting quite dramatic, or keep it more simple, but whichever way you go, you want one half of the face to be light and the other half (use the nose as your line) to be in shadow. The depth of the shadow will depend on how close you are to the window and how dark the rest of the room is. 

Keep in mind the inverse square law, which says that the closer you are to your light source, the faster the fall-off is going to be. The further you move from your window, the more soft the fall-off is going to be and therefore the shallower your shadows are going to be. 

The easiest way to shoot an image like this is to have your subject stand against a plain wall, close to a window, but not right against it. If you can, close all of the other doors in the room so that you have a single light source. 

Keep in mind:

• hard light coming in your window will make this tricky. You want, nice, soft, even light. 

• if you're shooting a subject with long hair, it can cast weird shadows on the lit side of the face, so you may have to move the hair or adjust the angle the person is standing/sitting at to achieve the split. 

• converting the image to black and white will generally make the split more noticeable

• you still want to work on getting catch lights in the eyes


Have fun! We'd love to see what you come up with over on Instagram. Tag us using #unscriptedmentoring

- Kelly