Large and Short Lighting within Photography: A Simple Guide

Wide and Short Lighting in Photography: A Simple Guide

broad and short lighting a simple guide

What exactly is broad lighting in portrait photography ? And what is short light?

Understanding the distinctions between these two studio lighting patterns can be difficult, especially when you are just starting out. But they’re a great way to add variety to your portraiture, and as you’ll soon notice, they’re easy to produce!

Below, I’ll talk about everything you need to know for gorgeous broad and short illumination setups, including:

  • What broad plus short lighting actually is
  • How to use broad and short lighting for stunning portraits
  • Plenty of examples and lighting layouts so you know  exactly  what to do

So whether you are a beginner looking to expand your knowledge of portrait pictures, or you’re an advanced business photographer hoping to deepen your knowledge of a classic technique, you have come to the right place.

Let’s dive ideal in.

What is broad and short lighting?

Broad lighting and short lighting just refer to the side of the encounter that is lit by your strobe.

With  broad lighting , a person light the side of the encounter that is  closer  to the camera.

And with  short lighting , a person light the side of the encounter that is  farther  from the camera.

Check out the two images beneath. The image on the left functions short lighting, while the image on the right features broad lighting:

broad and short lighting

The names of the comprehensive and short lighting styles refer to which side from the subject’s face is lit.

This is why, broad lighting gives portraits a friendly, inviting look, whilst short lighting tends to be far more dramatic.

Note that short and broad illumination can be used in combination with many standard lighting patterns. For instance, you might combine broad or brief lighting with a Rembrandt design (where you light from your side to produce a triangle underneath the subject’s cheek). You can also mix broad or short lights with loop lighting plus split lighting.

Technically, whether you use wide or short lighting has more to do with the subject’s mind angle than the angle from the light on their face. As soon as you’ve positioned your subject and added the strobes, by photographing from one aspect of their face, you’ll obtain broad lighting – but ask them to turn their head/body to the other side, and you’ll get short lights, instead. Make sense?

How to capture beautiful wide lighting photography (step simply by step)

Broad lighting looks great, but how is it done? Within this section, I’ll give you a step by step plan for creating a broad lights setup, and I’ll furthermore explain when you might want to utilize this lighting pattern.

Setting up a broad lighting family portrait

Here’s a simple way to set up broad lighting (though remember: you can use broad lights with many lighting patterns).

First, place your key (main) lighting 45 degrees from your subject, as illustrated in the plan below:

45-45 lighting diagram broad lighting

Ask your subject to face the camera while you position it at attention level. Then ask them to convert about 45 degrees to the side so they face  away  from the light:

broad lighting subject looking into light

Setting up for broad lighting could not be easier. Just have your own subject turn away from the key light until you have the desired effect.

And…that’s this. You now have a tried-and-tested wide light setup. Go ahead and have some fun! Here’s the shot which i took using the setup showcased above:

boy with broad lighting

When should you use broad lighting?

Broad lighting will influence your portraits in several very clear ways. For instance, it will:

  • widen the face area
  • usually toss the short side of the encounter in shadow (depending upon light placement)
  • provide more contrast than certain frontlit lighting designs, such as butterfly and clamshell lighting

Because broad lighting has a tendency to broaden (! ) the face, use it when photographing content with a narrow face, yet avoid broad lighting setups on subjects with wider faces; this can exaggerate their particular face shape.

Also, if there’s a feature on one side of your subject’s face that you’d like to deemphasize, simply position the particular feature on the short aspect of the face and make use of broad lighting to enshroud it in shadow.

Moving ahead with broad lighting

Lighting patterns are a starting point, but as you gain a lot more experience, you’ll want to fine-tune your setup.

For instance, by adjusting the particular strobe distances, you can generate harder light (by shifting the light far away) or softer light (by moving the light up close).

And by adding lighting modifiers , you can create flattering, soft effects ( softboxes are great for this! ), as well as hard, intensive portraits (try an uncovered flash or a snoot ).

I’d also recommend you experiment with fill lights and fill reflectors . A bit of fill up will lift the shadows and reduce contrast for more excellent results, while removing fill will turn up the singing.

boy with added fill

Here’s my setup with some added fill.

Before you take a solitary photo, try to determine exactly what you want to produce. That way, you are able to create a broad lighting set up that looks exactly as a person imagine.

boy with reflector fill light

With a reflector because fill, you can reduce the general contrast in the image.

How to capture beautiful short lighting digital photography (step by step)

How can you get started with brief lighting photography?

In this section, I’ll demonstrate how to create a dramatic short lighting setup, with the objective of producing this kind of image:

boy with short lighting

Short lighting (depending on variables like your modifiers) tends to lend itself to darkish, shadow-heavy imagery. This helps it be the perfect lighting pattern when creating low-key images.

Setting up a short illumination portrait

Just like broad lighting, there is no solitary way to create a short light portrait, but here’s a great way to get started:

First, position your light source forty-five degrees from your subject.

Have your subject matter face forward, so they are looking straight down the zoom lens barrel – then ask them to turn their head towards the light.

short lighting dramatic portrait

For a more spectacular look, you can bring your own light back  behind  the subject slightly, seeing that illustrated in this diagram:

short lighting diagram

That is it; take some pictures While short lighting is trickier to get right, it’s still easy to accomplish. And once you have it figured out, it is going to become second nature.

When should you use short lighting?

Short lighting has various effects. It:

  • narrows the face
  • throws the wide side of the face inside shadow
  • provides heavy contrast

Because a short-lit portrait is mostly dark, it’s a great way to hide imperfections. Short light is also an easy way to produce spectacular, low-key images, and (thanks to the heavy, face-sculpting shadows) images that are full of level.

If your subject matter has a broader face, you can slim it down with a short lighting pattern. And of course, if you’re not sure what works perfect, you’re always free to try out both  broad lighting and brief lighting before proceeding!

Moving ahead with short lighting

short lighting with fill light

Because short lighting tends to be heavy in the shadows, you should use as much fill as you need. Use a dish for a gentle lift, or add a second light to bring the shadows close to the additional tones in your image.

Since short lighting is so shadow-centric, you are going to almost certainly want to fill in shadows to control the contrast. You can use a reflector, but if your dark areas are quite deep, opt for fill light, instead. Try revealing your fill light three stops less than your key light; that way, you’ll preserve shadows while ensuring that all the details are still present.

Here, I’ve utilized a reflector to reduce the particular contrast, while still keeping that dramatic short-lit appear:

boy with reflector to limit contrast short lighting

And don’t forget to test out different modifiers for harder or even softer lighting effects. I’ve utilized a softbox in the illustrations above, but I recommend trying out bare flashes, octaboxes, beauty dishes , and more!

Broad and short lighting: last words

Good, there you have it: two basic but powerful light patterns that you can use to create daring, dynamic pictures .

I actually encourage you to go out plus practice with each of these setups. Experiment liberally with the distances between your light and subject matter, test out different modifiers, plus try every fill light technique that you can come up with.

Now over to you:

Which portrait lighting pattern would you prefer, broad lighting versus short lighting? Which would you plan to use in your own portrait photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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John McIntire

John McIntire

is a portrait professional photographer currently living in the UK. He studied commercial photography and it is always looking to improve. Admittedly a lighting nerd by means of and through, John offers lighting workshops and one-to-one tuition to photographers of most skill levels in Yorkshire.

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