Welcome to our Minute Photography series, where we explain photography and lighting tips & tricks, myths, and techniques. For more education and details on concepts related to this article, be sure to check out our Lighting 201 Workshop.

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In 60 seconds, we’re going to show you a simple lighting trick to make your subjects look thinner. Even if they are already thin, most subjects are still self-conscious of how they appear in portraits, and lighting will affect how they look. This tip will work for all subjects, and the best part is that you can use this trick to achieve great results with any type of light or any type of camera.

[REWIND: 5 Common Key Light Patterns]


Short lighting is the name photographers use to describe a particular direction of light in relation to the subject. With short lighting, a subject is lit on the short side of the face, or the side of the face that we see less of from the camera’s angle. Short lighting leaves the majority of the face in shadows.

With broad lighting, on the other hand, the broad side or majority of the face is lit, leaving the short side of the face in the shadows.

When it comes to making subjects look thinner, shadows are our friend. Short lighting is generally going to be the more flattering type of light for most subjects.

STEP #1: find a light source

Try to find a window, door, constant light (as seen above), or even a flash to use as a main light for your subject. Just realize that different light sources and the size of each light source will affect the light quality, whether it be specular or diffused, hard or soft.

STEP #2: pose the subject

Have the subject face the camera and shoot perpendicular to the light source. Once your subject is placed, you can refine the pose to taste. You can find more tips for posing your subjects in the Complete Posing Workshop, which is available to stream for Premium Members.

STEP #3: angle the subject’s chin slightly towards the light

Angling your subject’s chin slightly towards the light will short light your subject’s face and make her appear thinner than if she were lit with broad or flat lighting. See our final image below.

For both images: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 50mm f/1.2 at f/1.2, 1/500, ISO 100

[REWIND: 5 Essential Portrait Lighting Tips]

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Stay tuned for more simple & effective photography tips & tricks in our Minute Photography series, and don’t forget that you can find more of the best education in photography, from mastering manual mode to lighting and posing your subjects, at SLR Lounge Premium.