The use of shadow is important for conveying lots of different things... mood of a person, setting or simply for dramatic effect. I am wondering specifically, in a close up shot of a face in the classic 3/4 position, what is the difference if the face is in shadow in the foreground versus on the background side?

For this assume the only difference in the drawing is the placement of shadow, the position expression and amount or surface covered in shadow are the same. The only difference is shadow on the side facing the viewer versus the side away from the viewer.

Here is my poorly drawn example of what i am thinking in my head. I tried to draw a neutral expression but they both kinda look upset... so try not to base the answer on the facial expression, just shadow placement:

enter image description here

What are the thematic/mood differences when the Audience views the picture?

  • \$\begingroup\$ You should post some examples. I don't understand the question. Is not the diferent light, the diferent shadow, the expression that it produces all the diference in the world? "The only diference?" just some degrees can be "all the diference". \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    May 30, 2015 at 14:37
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe see: What are the 5 basic lighting setups used in studio portrait photography? \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    May 30, 2015 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The difference in what? Are you asking for the lighting setup for each? \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Jun 1, 2015 at 0:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ added a more susinct question at the end. Also i'm not sure if the "portrait" tag is correct as i'm not specifically looking for when people sit for a portrait photo like for a year book or family record, but Gallery Art Photographs of faces. So if there is a tag that better fits the "art" aspect and not the commercial pleas let me know \$\endgroup\$
    – MC_Hambone
    Jun 1, 2015 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not 100% sure that I catch your meaning, but assuming that I do, "Gallery Art Photographs of faces" fits the portrait tag at least as well as and hopefully much more than "photo like for a year book" does. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 1, 2015 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


What you are describing is called broad light and short light.

Take a look at In portrait photography, what is 'broad' lighting? What is 'short' lighting? for answers.


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