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Lighting Your Portraits: Broad Light vs. Short Light

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lighting-600x362 Lighting Your Portraits: Broad Light vs. Short Light Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

 

Lighting patterns can make or break the look of a portrait.  Lighting can make someone appear heavy or slimmer than they actually are and give a completely different look to an image.

In the image below, the only thing that changed is the light ratio to create the different light patterns.

Broad light:

Broad light is lighting the broadest or more open side of the face, the side toward the camera. See the image on the right. The main light is on the right side of her face creating a broad light.  This creates a shadow on the left side of her face (first photo).

Short Light:

Short light is lighting the side of the face that is turned away from the camera or the short side of the face, like in the left image.  The main light is on her left side creating a short light.  Creating shadows on the right side of the face (second photo).

As you’ll notice, the image on the right gives her face a fuller appearance.  The image on the left giver her face a slimmer appearance.

 

Light-patterns-001 Lighting Your Portraits: Broad Light vs. Short Light Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

Shadows:

In the below image you see the shadow is on the opposite side.  In the left image the shadow fall on the right side of her face.  This is a short light which gives the appearance of a slimmer face.

In the right image, the shadow in on the left side of her face (a little harder to notice). This is a broad light which gives the appearance of a fuller face.

Short-VS-Broad-Light-Pattern2 Lighting Your Portraits: Broad Light vs. Short Light Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

After the fact

Watch for lighting patterns when you look into the viewfinder, and adjust as needed.   If you realize later that the lighting did not quite work, you can sculpt your subject using dodge and burn techniques with Photoshop actions such as Light Painting and Light Blocking in MCP Inspire.

 

Conclusion

There are several light patterns you can use in your portrait work.  Broad and short lighting patterns are just a few.  Practice.  Move your lights to different position and intensity.  See how the movement of your lights and the intensity of your lights can completely change the appearance of your images. Keep in mind that natural light creates lighting patterns too.  Using a flash for fill and/or a reflector, as well as controlling the direction of the natural light, you will notice these patterns… if you look for them.

 This post was written for MCP Actions by: John J, Pacetti, Cr.Photog., CPP, AFP  2014 MARS Instructor Owner South Street Studios, Freehold NJ

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