4 Photography Lighting Terms You Need to Know

The essence of photography is built upon the workings of light and shadow. And when it comes to portrait lighting, the use of light and shadow has very different effects on the final image. In order to create some common ground between photographers, Lindsay Adler has identified a few key photography terms that you should get to know:

Broad Light

With a broad light setup, the highlights of the face are turned toward the camera, while the shadows face away from the camera. This setup makes the subject’s face appear wider, as more of the face is illuminated—it’s broadly lit.

photography lighting broad light

Broad Lighting

Short Light

Short light is the complete opposite of broad light. In a short light setup the shadow side of the face is toward the camera. The effect makes the subject’s face look more slender. This lighting style is used to create edgy, dramatic photography.

photography short lighting

Short Lighting

Flat Light

Flat light is simply lighting with minimal shape or shadows. It generally lacks contrast and is not sculpting, but is in no way “flat” in terms of the impact it can make on an image. Usually the light source is centered and lower in front of the subject. It provides stunning results for beauty photography.

photo terminology flat lighting

Flat Lighting

Dimensional Light

Dimensional lighting does exactly what you’d think— it creates dimension. This style utilizes highlights and shadows to sculpt the subject in order to create layers and depth.

sculpting with light photography

Dimensional Lighting

Light play is crucial in photography, and in creating certain moods in your portrait photography.

“Shadows are what give you drama. If you want more drama, create more shadows. And if you want your picture to have more depth, to seem more three dimensional, you sculpt with shadows.”

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One Comment

  1. Bill Camarota says:

    It’s a nice article if you are looking for the definitions of these terms but where it truly falls short is that there are no examples of light placement in order to achieve the terms discussed. Found this read/video to be very minimally useful…

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