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Broad Lighting: A Simple and Effective Technique for Portrait Photography

4/09/2023 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments


 If you are looking for a way to create natural, flattering, and inviting portraits, you might want to try broad lighting. Broad lighting is a technique in which the main light source illuminates the side of the subject’s face that is turned toward the camera. This creates a bright and open look that can enhance the features of your subject and make them stand out from the background.

In this video,Daniel Norton will show you how to set up broad lighting using a simple softbox and a reflector. He will also explain when and why you should use broad lighting for your portraits.

What is Broad Lighting?

Broad lighting is one of the basic types of lighting in photography, along with short lighting, Rembrandt lighting, split lighting, loop lighting, and others. Each type of lighting has its own effect on the mood, shape, and contrast of the subject.

Broad lighting is defined by lighting the broad side of the subject’s face, which is the side that is facing the camera. The opposite of broad lighting is short lighting, which lights the short side of the subject’s face, which is the side that is away from the camera.

Broad lighting tends to widen the face and make it appear more round. This can be beneficial for subjects who have a narrow or long face and want to add some fullness to their features. Broad lighting also gives a more natural and friendly look to the subject, as it mimics how we normally see people in daylight.

How to Set Up Broad Lighting

To create broad lighting, you will need a main light source (such as a softbox or an umbrella) and a reflector (such as a white board or a silver disc). You will also need a camera and a tripod.

Here are the steps to set up broad lighting:

  1. Place your main light source slightly above your subject’s head and at a 45-degree angle from their face. This will create a soft and even light on their face, with some shadows on the opposite side.
  2. Place your reflector on the opposite side of your main light source, at about the same height and distance from your subject’s face. This will bounce some light back into the shadows and fill in some details.
  3. Position your camera in front of your subject, slightly below their eye level. This will give you a flattering perspective and avoid distortion.
  4. Ask your subject to turn their head slightly away from the main light source and look off-camera. This will create broad lighting on their face, as the side that is facing the camera will be well-lit, while the side that is away from the camera will be in shadow.
  5. Adjust your exposure settings according to your desired effect. You can use a light meter or your camera’s histogram to check your exposure. You can also adjust your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to control your depth of field, motion blur, and noise.
  6. Take some test shots and review them on your camera’s LCD screen or on your computer. Check for focus, exposure, composition, and expression. Make any necessary adjustments until you are happy with your results.

Why Use Broad Lighting?

Broad lighting is a simple and effective technique for portrait photography because it can create a natural, flattering, and inviting look for your subject. Here are some reasons why you might want to use broad lighting for your portraits:

  • You want to widen or round out your subject’s face
  • You want to create a bright and open look for your subject
  • You want to mimic natural daylight or window light
  • You want to avoid harsh shadows or contrast on your subject’s face
  • You want to emphasize your subject’s eyes or smile


You may also like:  Light Placement for Portraits by Daniel Norton

About Daniel Norton:

I am a NYC based Photographer, educator, lighting consultant and filmmaker. This channel will be the home to my short films, BTS video of photo shoots and instructional videos on Lighting, Photography and Cinematography.

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Image and video via Daniel Norton Photographer