Effective Size: Hard vs Soft Light


Anatomy of a Photoshoot


Lesson Info

Effective Size: Hard vs Soft Light

And this video is going to help us understand a few things so we want to stand the qualities of light we know there's a lot of terms that photographers use like hard light and soft light and speculate highlights like kind of stuff we don't understand that there's another thing that's very hard to illustrate in a studio situation and that is something called effective size and so to illustrate this clearly I made a little video where I set a model on fire and were to show you uh this now so here's a video on the qualities of light there are lots of words that photographers used to describe light let's start by talking about two of the most common terms and studio lighting hard light and soft light the best way to tell if light is hard or soft is by looking at the shadows it casts hard light casts a very clearly defined shadow its edges who are hard soft light casts a shadow that's hard to tell where it starts and stops its edges are soft on a day where the sky is clear the sun will thro...

w a concentrated beam of light that will produce deep sharp shadows on the subject this is hard light but if the clouds come out then the light becomes diffused instead of the light traveling in the same direction it is cast in different directions and the source of the light becomes much larger a larger light source will throw a wider beam of light with shadows that are more open because light is bouncing around and spilling into the shadows. This is soft light, an important term is effective size. The effective size of a light is based both on the physical size of the light and its position in relation to the subject. In other words, the closer a light is to the subject. The larger it's, effective size and the softer the light will be the farther away. Light is from the subject, the smaller the effective size and the harder the light will be to illustrate this point let's look with son. Although the sun is one hundred times the width of the earth, it looks like a tiny speck in the sky that's because it's ninety three million miles from the earth, this makes the sun's effective size very small, and therefore it gives off very hard light. Now, if we were able to move the sun very close to the earth, it's effective size would be much larger and the light it casts would be much softer. We can change the quality of light by changing the effect of size of our light source. Since moving the sun closer to the earth would be impossible and a really bad idea, there is another way to modify our light source we can use modifiers now let's, bring back the clouds in this scenario, the sun would be the light source and the clouds would be alight modifier the sun lights up the clouds and the clouds become a huge light over the earth. Now our illumination is the entire sky, not just the tiny dot of the sun. The effective size of the light is much larger and the light is much softer. Sometimes soft light is called diffused light, and hard light is called harsh light. Contrast is the difference between the darkest and lightest areas in an image. The greater the difference, the higher the contrast, in much the same way you can change how hard or soft delight is by moving a light closer or farther from the subject. You can also change the contrast of your image by changing the position of the light. When you position the light in front of your subject, you get a low contrast lighting. If you move your light to the side of the subject, you get a much higher contrast lighting sweet I loved making that video that was just she loves light her on fire. Okay, so, uh, let's talk a little bit about effective size, so we have a light source so here's, our light source and it's just this little dot right here um, and I'm gonna turn on them this so you can see exactly here's, our source of light here looks good. Lamb kills us. That is going to give us extremely hard, like, look at the shadow right here, right behind carly, we have hard, hard like, and, uh, that hard light is defined by the shadow and shadows have three parts. And so when I do, I'm going to take this. This is a standard zoom reflector for pro photo it's about I think it's seven inches. Something like that. And as soon as I put this on here, I've basically taken my size of my light, and I've made it just a little bit larger. Okay, so the light it's actually going to be a little bit softer if you look really closely, you can see now we have this little transition area right here. Now this is a transition area is something that we really care about. So I'm gonna do is I'm going to actually take it out and put this on here. But maybe the medium soft box there, john will help you see that you have light sources like this. That could be gigantic. Uh, this is a six foot six by four foot soft box. On bits right now it's got a grid on there that we're going to talk about a little bit later about how to control the light but you have all kinds of things from a very small source of light to a very large source of light and we have that because we want to control if life is hard or soft l mean grab this from you john there's something else that will happen here there's a couple of things if we have this light okay, this soft locks it's nice and it's a medium soft box if we have this nice and close to carly here so I'm gonna do this so hold that right there if I have this close to carly gonna get soft light but if I take this light we come all the way back here and walking into the internet right now uh they put it back here we're way far away from carly what's gonna happen is the effective size of this light is going to become smaller and the light is going to become harder. So what happens if you wantto have nice soft light wait but you're using packed this was a really powerful or for some reason you've got to get that light source away from your model well, as you back up, your life is going to become harder and harder and so what you need to do is you need to use larger and larger light modifiers to keep that same quality of light. So that's what? We have all these crazy, uh, sizes here, the shape of the lights also matters. We're going to get to that, I think after lunch. So size is an important thing for doing this good stuff. I want to show you something else. I want to really clearly define how these shadows work, so if you could hang on to that but it quickly throw on this soft box here. I got it. All right, so let's, turn on the modeling right? There we go. All right. So not to back this up a little bit. So you know what? This is not showing it let's, let's. Just use the standard reflector if you consider that on there for me, right? So john's gonna throw stand a reflector on there so shadows have, um, three different parts to them there's the highlight or the part of the shadow that you can't really see there's the transition area that's what we really care about is that transition area and then we have the shadow, which is the actual shadow. Awesome. Perfect, good. Okay, so let's, do this let's have this gary here we're back just a little bit for you. All right, so if you look really closely, we could see here's the shadow right here on carly. Then we have this transition area right here and then we have this highlight right here. We want to control this transition area. We want to be able to have it either be really stopped for hard light or we want to have this a nice smooth transition area for soft light and you can see on carly's face right now we have this hard light not so flattering, right? We want to have nine a soft light for that kind of stuff. Now, carl, if you pop over there, I'm gonna actually show a demo it's a sort of crazy too. So we know that the effective size of the light matters, so moving light far closer watch what happens when I have my hand right here. So let me see this now that shadow is nice and soft. I'm pretty close to the light nice soft shadow hello now as I move farther away from the light farther away from the light farther away from the light so that challenges radically changed soft, hard. Now what's happening is when I'm close to that light and we can think I think we turn on the ambient light, now I'm close to the light that light. So carly, come out here, I'll show you sort of what's happening. I'm not gonna hug you, he's gonna demo right here that light when it's close it's going all around, right? So the shadows, they can't, uh, can't live there. They're this big, huge light source is not just hitting her and creating a start. Shadow is going around her to create phil on the shadows that would be behind, but is that light source goes farther and farther away. What's happening is more and more of this light is being blocked, and so that light sources is becoming harder, so we don't have that big wrap around feeling.

Class Description

Join Mark Wallace as he dissects a commercial photoshoot to reveal each step at its most basic level. From technical aspects of lighting and color, to real-world experiences working with art directors, make-up artists, models, and other professionals, you’ll have a firsthand look as he puts each piece together to complete several complete concepts from start to finish. This unique course explores the fundamentals of commercial photography, from the smallest jobs to the biggest productions. Bring your questions from your own shoots, or use this experience as a roadmap when planning your first jobs. Mark will be chatting with the live worldwide audience throughout the weekend!

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CS 5.1



Mark really knows his stuff. He was very well prepared and Mark did a great job teaching this course. Mark went through all the steps from beginning to end in great detail. He also answered questions from the audience an online viewers which helped fill in any blanks. Great course.