How to Enhance Your Photos with a Separation Light

When photographing subjects against a minimalistic backdrop, the use of a separation light can make a significant difference in the overall look of an image. However, many beginners struggle to understand the purpose and proper usage of secondary lighting. This tutorial provides a basic overview of the ways in which separation lights can be helpful:

As the name implies, a separation light is used to emphasize the subject as an entity separate from the background in an image. Primarily, a separation light outlines a subject’s shape and prevents edge details from being lost in highlights or shadows.

As David Bergman explains, there is no one way of properly utilizing a separation light. One of the most commonly used separation light strategies is the hair light, which consists of an overhead source shining down on the area behind the subject. This often creates a highlight in the hair of a model and adds additional definition to a composition. Separation lights can also be aimed directly at the background or toward the back of a subject to create a dramatic backlit effect.

separation rim light

Just as there’s no one correct way to make a photograph, there are endless possibilities when it comes to lighting styles and ratios. Consider the mood you’d like to evoke through your photograph; it’s likely that a separation light can make a worthwhile impact in getting your end result to match the vision in your mind.

“Whether you’re shooting a standard head and shoulders portrait or a wild and crazy rock band, use a separation light to define your subject and make them pop off the background in all of your images.”

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