What is Soft Light & Hard Light?

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photography Tips, Studio Lighting

What is Soft Light and Hard Light? | Backdrop Express Blog The word “photography” originates from ancient Greek, meaning “to draw with light”. Photography is an art where we capture moments in time by drawing with the light onto our canvas, the camera. Because light is such an important factor in photography it is important to understand the different types of lighting used and how to properly handle it.

There are two main types of lighting: hard and soft. Both are used for different types of photography. Let us take a look at the difference between the two types of lighting.

Hard Light

The terms hard and soft light refer to the effect light has on the edges of shadows cast. Distinct differences between light and dark areas are created by hard lighting, which is created from a single light source.

What is Soft Light and Hard Light? | Backdrop Express Blog One way to create a hard light look is to shoot a photo in a studio with dark walls and a single, unshaded light source. Direct the light to shine directly onto the subject. This will create a harsh shadow from the nose, eyes will look deeper and blemishes will be accentuated. Though this is the most extreme way of creating hard light, it is not very flattering when used on people. However, this technique it can be highly effective when shooting objects with a lot of textures or landscapes.

Soft Light

Soft light creates a gradual transition between the light and dark areas of a photograph.  It is created when light is generated from multiple sources, is diffused or bounced.

Soft light is the light preference when shooting portraits and can be used to flatter a person’s appearance. When shooting with soft light the light is bounced around the room before it falls onto the subject. This technique does not create harsh and unflattering shadows. The best way to shoot with soft lighting is on a white or light colored backdrop. You can bounce the light off the walls, ceiling or other reflectors.

What is Soft Light and Hard Light? | Backdrop Express Blog

Soft light does not have to come from multiple sources. When using a single light, placing a diffuser over the light will help spread it out. If necessary, you can also bounce the single light source off of a reflector located just to the side of the subject. When shooting outdoors, redirect the sunlight by placing a soft reflector underneath the subject’s face to bounce it up. This virtually eliminates all shadows on the face.

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about lighting techniques and equipment? Read How to Use Umbrellas!

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