What are 'broad' and 'short' lighting when it comes to studio portraiture, and when should I use each?

  • 8
    LOL, you're asking a question based on the question that somebody asked you in another question about the terms you used. Its just funny. +1 for useful information getting out there.
    – rfusca
    Jan 6, 2011 at 5:34
  • 4
    Yeah, his question in a comment prompted me to create the question, 'cause it's a great one and I didn't see anything else addressing it on the site. :-) Jan 6, 2011 at 5:44
  • 2
    this has "self-learner" written all over it :-). photo.stackexchange.com/badges/14/self-learner
    – Tom
    Jan 6, 2011 at 6:16
  • @Tom "Freelance teacher" would be a better badge in this case, if there was one :-D Jan 8, 2011 at 10:09

1 Answer 1


Broad Lighting: Is when a subject is posed such that the main light is directed at the side of the face that is closest to the camera. Broad lighting can add weight to a thin face, but it does this by 'adding' roundness/thickness to the face, so it is not a good style of lighting to use with bigger subjects (or even 'normal' subjects with rounder faces.

Broad Lighting Example:

Broad Lighting Example

Short Lighting: Is when the subject is posed such that the main light is directed at the side of the face that is furthest away from the camera. Short lighting can help 'thin' a subject who is heavy, or who has a rounder face.

Short Lighting Example:

Short Lighting Example

  • 38
    +1 for including examples, especially on a neutral dummy. More answers should be like this. Jan 6, 2011 at 15:13
  • 29
    Nice examples, but would it be possible to update them so the bust is facing the same direction in both? I think that might better illustrate the lighting effect. In otherwards, move the main light for the effect, instead of reposing the bust?
    – Alan
    Jan 6, 2011 at 19:48
  • 1
    Agree with @Alan... but mirroring the pic in Photoshop doesn't count. ;-) Jan 10, 2011 at 21:20
  • 2
    Great answer, great examples, short and concise. Excellent!
    – Jahaziel
    Oct 6, 2011 at 15:52
  • 1
    I think you got them backwards? The bottom example looks larger to me.
    – user7299
    Nov 16, 2011 at 18:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.