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
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    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

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