What Is Split Color Lighting? (Everything You Should Know)

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what split lighting is

The world of photography is undoubtedly an impressive one, and a lot of times, people do not really know so many terms that go into it.

However, that is by no means an indication that you should not be paying attention to what is what. If you have been spending some time figuring out what is split color lighting, then you are at the right place.

In this article, we aim to break down all the complexities that can come in the way and confuse even the most veteran photographers. However, it is not as complicated as one might think, and we’re going to look at everything you need to know.

What Does Split Lighting Mean?

Now, the first question that most people are going to ask us is what exactly does split lighting means. After all, it has been around for a long time, and photographers and videographers actively use this, as well.

So, what exactly is split lighting?

Well, as the name suggests, split lighting is a technique that manages to light up half of the subject and leave the other half in the shadow, whether you are doing it with a person or an object. This effect is achieved by placing a light source perpendicular to the subject illuminating straight from a specific side.

What does split lighting mean
Image Credits: Christopher Campbell

Not to forget, such a style of lighting ends up creating one of the most dramatic styles of photography or videography, and even after years of being around, it is still something that is being used actively and all over the world. It might be a bit hard to master, but once you are done learning, it becomes an important tool.

What Effect Does Split Lighting Create?

Going for split lighting is not at all difficult, to be honest. However, you will need to experiment a bit just to get it right because most of the time, people tend to overlook it or completely forget about it, for that matter.

For anyone wondering the type of effect this lighting creates, it is rather simple to understand. Split lighting manages to create a sharp contrast that results in a much more dramatic and assertive-looking photo.

This is the type of effect you need if you are aiming for something that looks excellent all around and is not something that is going to be hard to do, either.

However, you are going to need some equipment that I am going to talk about next, just so you have a better understanding of what needs to be done.

What Equipment Is Needed For Split Lighting?

Moving on, a lot of people have been asking us about the type of equipment that they are going to need for split lighting, and honestly, the answer is not at all difficult. Quite the contrary, as in most of the cases, you are not really going to need a lot of devices to get the effect done.

For starters, you are going to need a key light, a camera, a reflection, or a v-flat. That is more or less enough, and while I do understand that this might not be easy for a lot of people to understand, you would be more than understanding of how things are going to work because well.

Again, I would like to mention that if this is your first time getting into split lighting photography, you might have to go through a bit of a learning curve, which is understandable since most people are not aware of that.

How Can I Create Split Lighting?

Now that I have explained almost everything related to split lighting, the next thing that I am going to teach you is just how you can go ahead and create split lighting in the first place.

This is not going to be an issue because, in most of the cases, you are going to be able to do it with ease. Still, the steps are below.

  • Start by placing the subject close to the light source.
  • Now, place the subject and yourself at a 90-degree angle.
  • You should look for a line that is running down the middle of your subject.
  • Take the picture.

For a more dramatic and moody effect, you can actually go ahead and turn the picture into black and white, and that will result in a moodier picture.

How Can You Determine When To Use Split Color Lighting?

Moving further, if you have been thinking about using split lighting or when you should use split lighting, then this is not something that should be confusing to anyone who has been taking pictures for some time. The use of split lighting is something that is entirely dependent on the person who is taking pictures.

split colored image

If your photography style or the type of pictures you are trying to take relies on split lighting, then I would suggest that you go ahead and use it.

However, at the same time, I would suggest that you are fully aware of how to properly use split color lighting to begin with. Once you have perfected the art, you can just go ahead and experiment with it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1- Which lighting arrangement is an example of split lighting?

Answer: Almost every photography in which two colors are used in a split way is an example of split lighting. The most common example being black and white on the same subject.

Q2- What mood does split lighting create?

Answer: Split lighting ends up creating a very dramatic mood in the pictures, and that is why it is often used for portrait photography.

Q3- What can be used to split white light?

Answer: You can go ahead and use a prism or some other device that will allow you to go ahead and split white light. It is not at all complicated and is done in a few minutes.


I do understand that split color lighting can be a tricky thing to deal with, but in most of the cases, you are looking at a great way of taking some good looking pictures, and one should never really overlook that in the first place.

If you are looking for ways to make your pictures more dramatic and stand out more, this is a great way of doing it and will help you get the best results at the same time.


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  • Celebrating childhood in photographs and emotions through photos. My aim is to transfer all my photography experience by sharing useful camera-related guides and individual reviews so you can get an idea about everything before buying.

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