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Soft Light

July 27, 2011

Soft light comes from a diffuse source. The classic example is an overcast day, where the light comes from everywhere and there are few, if any shadows. Other examples of soft light include studio softboxes, diffusers, and reflected light from a large surface (e.g., a ceiling). All of these need to be near the subject, otherwise they begin to act more like hard light…move an umbrella reflector away from the subject and the light becomes harder.

Shadows on an object lit with soft light have a less-defined edge, and they are not as dark. Because it does not highlight blemishes, scars, and wrinkles, soft light tends to be more flattering for people. For this reason, portraits normally use soft light, as do some glamor shots.

Here are some of my favorite soft-light shots illustrating this type of lighting.

The light on his face is bounced from the rock he is looking at, creating a light soruce that is effectively as large as the lit area of the rock.


The primary light source is a large diffuser to the right that the flash unit is lighting up.. Effectively, the size of the light source is about three by two feet . You can see that the shadows have plenty of detail in them.

This is the second in a series of blog entries about hard and soft lighting. The previous entry is Hard Light.

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