You might know by now the difference between hard and soft light. But the concept may still be a little fuzzy. Either way, this small refresher video should be able to answer any niggling doubts that you may still have:
Photographer Robert Grant uses two different light sources to demonstrate the effect of hard and soft light on a subject. As a matter of fact, he uses the same light source and just tweaks it a bit to create two different light types.
A clear incandescent bulb—the type you would commonly find in any household.
The background used is perfectly white.
The source of light is another clear light bulb held in position on a stand. No reflectors or beauty dish or any other modifiers were used. What you get in this setup is a hard light source.
Equipment and Settings
Grant uses a 70-200mm zoom lens set to about 138mm. The exposure settings are 4 seconds at f/18. The idea is to have everything in the frame tack sharp, including the shadow and the edges of the light bulb.
A hard light predictably creates a strong shadow, as is depicted in the image above. Notice the small, dot-shaped highlight on the bulb. Also notice the strong shadow on the white foreground.
Grant now puts a sheet of vellum paper in front of the light source. In an instant, the nature of the light changes and becomes soft. The vellum is a translucent material which diffuses the light, making it soft. Notice that the exposure was increased to 8 seconds to compensate for the loss of light. Also notice that now the shadow is almost non-existent.
These examples should clear up the difference between hard and soft light for you!
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