Lighting round faces — baldness — blemishes — Photography podcast #36

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #36 focuses on think­ing about how dif­fer­ent types of light suit dif­fer­ent types of faces. We talk about how both short light­ing and side light­ing are good for rounder faces. We also talk about blem­ishes and baldness.

Many thanks to Mark McCall for allow­ing me to use this image (and expla­na­tion below the image) clearly show­ing the the slim­ming effect of short light­ing and the broad­en­ing effect of broad light­ing on a model’s face.

Broad Light­ing vs. Short Light­ing
Broad light­ing refers to light­ing up the face from the “broad” side, (widest part of the face from nose to ear from the cam­era angle).
Short light­ing refers to light­ing up the face from the “short” side, (side of the face turned away from the camera)

Short light­ing makes the face appear thin­ner in the image, and is the best choice for most sub­jects. Broad light­ing works best for thin faces.

Thanks as always for the com­ments by Yves Janse and Mikael. We LOVE com­ments and sug­ges­tions so please send more.


  1. Andre says:

    Hi, Marko!

    Great tips! Can’t wait for the next one of this series!!

    BTW, this episode comes at a very oppor­tune moment episode since I’m get­ting into por­trait­ing and I’m very inter­ested in all those tech­niques and advices. Funny thing is that I was not a per­son inter­ested in por­traits till I came up to your pod­casts. Now I just can’t stop tak­ing peo­ple shots, I’m lov­ing it!

    I’ve always been try­ing to get the most from your episodes using my com­pact cam­era, but now I’ve just bought a dSLR and hope entirely to take advan­tage of your experience.

    Really would like to thank you for your work and ded­i­ca­tion to pho­tog­ra­phy podcasting.

    Kind regards,


  2. admin says:

    Thanks Al and Tim for those com­ments.
    Tim — I think you are bang on with the shadow to light dif­fer­ence. 1/2 stop to one stop seems right based on the posi­tion of the light rel­a­tive to the subject.

    For group shots like this have the peo­ple turn to their sides. So let’s say it’s a group of 10 in a straight line, have the five on the left turn a bit to the right and have the 5 on the right turn a bit to their left. That will reduce every individual’s ‘vol­ume’ in rela­tion to the cam­era and make them all look slim­mer. A body fac­ing the cam­era looks larger than a body in pro­file to the cam­era. Hope that helps! Marko

  3. Tim says:

    I’m a bit behind, but I just lis­tened to this issue. Great stuff! Your pod­cast man­ages to be acces­si­ble to non-pros like me while still cov­er­ing top­ics like this that are beyond the usual dis­cus­sions about what expo­sure means.

    I had two ques­tions while lis­ten­ing to this; maybe these will be top­ics for an upcom­ing pod­cast. First of all, related to the dis­cus­sion of broad/short light­ing, I was won­der­ing how great would the dif­fer­ence be from shadow to light? 1/2 stop, 1 stop? From the pic­tures above it looks like a bit under 1 stop to me.

    Sec­ondly, I often take pic­tures of groups of peo­ple, maybe 5–10, that might *all* want to look a lit­tle slim­mer. It seems like short light­ing would be a bit extra chal­leng­ing in this sit­u­a­tion, maybe requir­ing mul­ti­ple strobes, or the light­ing across the group would be uneven. Do you have any tips in this area?

  4. Al says:

    Awe­some! Faces have always been a major issue for me, to the point where my girl­friend refuses to let me take pho­tos of her face. Hope­fuly now I can con­vince her to let me try out these tips on her.

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