Last week, we talked about Mixed Lighting and How to Fix It. However, it’s important to know when mixed light can drastically improve an image. When done right, mixed light can add a lot of depth and interest to the scene. In this video/article, I’ll be walking through various examples and I’ll discuss how to properly incorporate mixed light into each scene.

Before we dive in, be sure to visit AdoramaTV for more tutorials that cover all things photography-related. Don’t forget to subscribe and check out our playlist for the entire “Master Your Craft” series.

Video: How to Add Depth to Your Photos Using Mixed Light

Mixed Light Situations You Should Avoid

Last week, we talked about the not-so-ideal mixed light situations. In this example, the warm light clashes with the cool ambient light. The messy lighting is what we want to avoid altogether.

We turned our model to the window light. Notice how this cleaned up the lighting.

In this example, the window light was cooler than the ambient light in the room. To fix this, we turned out the lights. Then, we turned the model toward the dominant light source which was the window. The window light created an edge light while the warm fill provided the even warm tone in the image.

Example #1: Separate the Lights

I often find myself working in more plain rooms such as this. When I follow the same solution as above and turn off the lights, the colors appear a bit sterilized and uninteresting.

Instead, leave on some of your background lights. Leave the subject still lit by the neutral window light. The resulting images will have much more depth and color.

mixed light background lights

The key is to avoid mixed light over the face. Here are two tips to get a beautiful and balanced image.

  1. Turn off any other light that crosses over to your subject. This keeps the subject separated from the background.
  2. Keep background lights subtle. A lamp that’s too bright can pull the attention away.

Example #2: Leave On Background Lighting

I took a sample image with only the lights in the room. Everything was fully tungsten and the windows were fully drawn. What I got is a flat image that lacks depth, even after correction.

To remedy this, I opened the curtains to light the subject. Then, I turned off some of the ambient lights. I only left the lamp in the background.

mixed light adding light separation

See the comparison. The second image is more polished and visually dynamic. The key was light separation. Following the tips from the first example, we ended up with this great result.

Example #3: Turn Mixed Light into Rim Light

mixed light initial shot

This image can work, but notice the tungsten on the male model’s face. While split lighting can work, the tungsten light works better as a rim light like on the female model.

mixed light adjusting angle

To fix this, I shifted the angle. Here, the warm light becomes a rim light for both models and a highlight behind them. Edited with Visual Flow’s Pastel Presets, we get these bright and beautiful highlights on the skin.

mixed light background light

Check out some other examples. I kept the models turned away so that the light creates a rim light that isn’t overwhelming. You can still see separation between the lights.


I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Mixed light, when used right, can add visual interest and depth to your photos. Knowing when and how to incorporate mixed light to your photos is crucial for any event and wedding photographer. For a full course on photographing weddings, check out the Complete Wedding Course from SLR Lounge Premium. In addition, be sure to check out Visual Flow‘s lighting based presets to get similar looks as the examples above.

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!