Laws of Light: Creating separation using background and key lights plus color as a separator


posted Friday, April 21, 2017 at 2:00 PM EDT


In Jay P. Morgan’s continuing video series, “Laws of Light,” his latest video focuses on creating separation between your subject and the background. Having control over light is critical for capturing portraits with dimension and depth, as we saw in a previous “Laws of Light” video focused on dimension and texture.

A simple way to create separation is to use a single light on your subject and the background. When the light is angled from the side, the lit side of the subject’s face is bright against a dark background, whereas the shadow side of the face is contrasting against a brighter background. To use your key light as your background light, you need a background that is close to your subject. For a stronger separation or in situations with a more distant background, you can add a second light that is pointed toward the background. Morgan likes to have a distant background so that he can light and control the look of the subject and background separately without worrying about light spilling over from subject to background or vice versa.

A common way to create separation between the subject and background is by using a rim light. A rim light from behind the subject can add a highlight around the edge of your subject. By combining the rim light with a background light, it can create a natural look, like the rim light is coming from the background rather than a separate light. In addition to straight light, adding a gel to a light and using color to create separation can work very well.

Of course, there are ways to create separation in addition to shaping light. You can use different depths of field and change the relative distances of your subject to the background. To learn more from Jay P. Morgan, visit his YouTube channel.

(Via ISO 1200)