Quality of Photography Lighting: Soft vs Hard

Many of us, especially beginners, don’t think of light as much more than something that illuminates the subject. In fact light has other greater roles to play. Its intensity, color, direction, and quality, all have distinct effects on images. In this video, professional portrait and event photographer Omar Gonzalez talks about what quality of light is, and how it affects our images:

“Quality of light describes how soft or how hard the light is.”

When you use a light source that is large in comparison to the subject, or a light source that is diffused, you get soft light. You can even get soft light with a flash by bouncing the light off the ceiling or walls. Soft light typically wraps around the subject beautifully and produces soft shadows. This is ideal for photographing people.

Hard light on the other hand is produced by smaller light sources, or by those light sources that are not diffused. If you’re not careful, you run the risk of introducing hotspots on the subject when using a hard light source. And unlike soft light, hard light produces harsh shadows. While this may look unflattering, you can create a bold look if that’s what you’re aiming for.

The question of which light is best is very much subjective and depends on what you’re shooting. It’s up to you to decide what kind of look you’re going for. For instance, while soft light is great for fashion portraits, hard light can produce some dramatic and moody street photos.

What kind of light do you prefer for your photography purpose? Do let us know in the comments.

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