Lighting Series: Short and Broad Lighting

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Studio Equipment, Studio Lighting

female model on gray background

In portrait photography, short and broad lighting techniques are two unique ways to place lighting on a subject’s face. With short lighting, shadows cover a majority of the subject’s face, while in broad lighting the face is more illuminated. Each technique can be achieved through light placement and the subject’s position on the photo backdrop and in the frame.

Short Lighting

As mentioned above, short lighting, also known as narrow lighting, leaves more of the subject’s face and photography background in the shadows. Because the face is less lit, this technique can make the subject look thinner in the photograph. To use the short lighting technique place the key light at a 45 degree angle in front of the subject. Then have her turn her face just a little bit toward the light. Do not have the subject turn too much toward the light or the light will fall flat over her face.
short lighting

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hampton via Flickr

Broad Lighting

With a broad lighting technique a larger portion of the subject’s face is illuminated and there are very few, if any, shadows cast over it. Because more of the face is illuminated, it can appear slightly larger and heavier, especially if you are shooting low key portraits. Have your subject turn her head away from the key light, positioning more of the lit area of the face to the camera.
broad lighting

Photo Credit: Rui Teixeira via Flickr

As a beginning photographer you will have to play around with light placement, lighting techniques and model positioning. Sometimes, you may find yourself switching lighting styles without even knowing it. This can happen when you are working with your model and repositioning lights. For example, if you are trying to shoot with short lighting and you reposition the model you may find that you accidentally shot using broad lighting. The more you practice, the more you will become aware of positioning and the less accidents like this will occur.

What is your favorite, or least favorite, lighting technique?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment

Prove you are human to submit your comment! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.