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Shoot: Broad and Short Lighting

Broad and short lighting describes two styles of lighting that can be very useful when shooting headshots. Essentially, the difference is which side of the face is lit by the key (main) light.

Think About The Direction Of The Nose

When a subject is not facing the lens directly, the nose points to one side of the frame or the other. The direction of the nose—relative to the position of the key light—is what determines whether a shot is broad lit or short lit. In Figure 19.14, Max’s nose is on the same side of the lens as the key light (a Speedlite in a Westcott Apollo Medium softbox). From the camera’s viewpoint, the short side of Max’s face (or the narrow side of his face) is lit—hence the term “short lighting.”

In the inset shot (Figure 19.15), Max rotated so that his nose is on the opposite side of the lens from the key light. Now the broad side of his face is lit by the key light.

Rotate The Subject Or Move The Light

The difference between Figures 19.14 and 19.15 is that Max started the shoot with his body facing the light (Figure 19.14) and then rotated away from the light (Figure 19.15). In both shots, the key light stayed in the same position, specifically to the right of the lens.

If you need to keep your subject in the same position (for instance), facing to the right as in Figure 19.14, and you want to switch lighting styles (say from short to broad lighting), then you just need to move the key light to the other side of the subject’s nose.

Lighting Details

Environment: Indoor studio

Time of Day: Not a factor

Ambient: None

Speedlite: One 580EX II

Mode: Manual

Zoom: Zoomed to 20mm

Modifier: Westcott Apollo Medium

Distance to Subject: Just out of frame

Height: Center at 6′ and angled down

Trigger: Extra-long E-TTL cord

Camera Details

Camera: 5D

Lens: 70-200mm f/2.8L IS at 70mm

Distance to Subject: 6′

Exposure Mode: Manual

Exposure: 1by60.jpg″, f/11, ISO 100

White Balance: Daylight

Figure 19.13

Figure 19.13 Lighting diagram

Figure 19.14

Figure 19.14 Short lighting is created when the position of the key light illuminates the narrow side of the face- as seen by the camera.


Figure 19.15 Broad lighting is created when the position of the key light illuminates the wide side of the face. For this shot, Max rotated so that he was facing away from the softbox and then turned his nose towards the lens.

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