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Soft vs Hard Light

Lesson 36 from: Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Scott Robert Lim

Soft vs Hard Light

Lesson 36 from: Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Scott Robert Lim

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Lesson Info

36. Soft vs Hard Light


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


5 Shots That WOW


Four Fundamentals of Photography


Create a Visual Impact with Composition


Importance of Foreground and Background


Create Depth in Landscape Images


Photos Don't Always Follow the Rules


Composition Practice Exercise


Composition Critique of Student Images


Keys to Posing


Shoot: Classic Elegance Female Pose


Shoot: Modern Female Pose


Shoot: Rollover Female Pose


Female Hands & Arms Poses Overview


Shoot: Hands and Arms Poses for Female


Seven Posing Guidelines


Headshots Poses with Male Model


Shoot: Headshot for Male Model


Shoot: Sitting Poses for Male Model


Shoot: Leaning Poses for Male Model


Shoot: Standing Poses for Male Model


Keys to Couples Posing


Shoot: Couples Posing


Couples Transitional Posing Overview


Shoot: Transitional Posing


Keys to Group Posing


Accordion Technique with Groups


Shoot: Accordion Technique


Shoot: Best Buds Pose


Shoot: Talk with Your Hands Pose


Shoot: Lock Arms and Hold Hands Pose


Run at the Camera and Dance in Your Seat Poses


Shoot: Pod Method Pose


Posing Critique of Student Images


Introduction to Lighting


Soft vs Hard Light


Difficult Lighting Situations


Bright Light Techniques


Overcast Light Techniques


Low Light Techniques


Lighting Techniques Q&A


Drama Queen Lighting


Laundry Basket Lighting


Make it Rain Lighting


Smart Phone Painting with Light


Mini LED Bokeh Lighting


Choose the Right Lighting System


Hybrid Flash System


Innovative Accessories


Gear Overview


Theatrical Post-Processing


Ten Keys to Post-Processing


Essential Skills to Post-Processing


Headshot Post-Processing


Bright Light Post-Processing


Flat Light Post-Processing


Low Light Post-Processing


Introduction to Fine Art Post-Processing


Light & Airy Fine Art Post-Processing


Dark & Moody Fine Art Post-Processing


Post-Processing Critique of Student Images


Lesson Info

Soft vs Hard Light

Soft versus hard light. Let's talk a little bit about that. We talked a little bit about shadows. Let's talk about all these different things. So we said light creates shadows. One thing about light is that your source, how big that source is, size does matter. Okay? And so when you're, everybody can imagine themselves outside in a bright day, right? And when you look on the ground, you're gonna see various sharp shadows. Is that correct? When you see sharp shadows, that means you are in a hard light situation. But what creates hard light? So if you're outside, you know that light is created by the what? Sun, right? And so if you look up into the sky and it's 2pm and you actually measured how big the sun was in your eye, it would probably be about that big, right? Really small. So therefore, hard light is created by a very small source. Okay? Even though the sun is huge, it's so far away that when you look at it, it's small and it creates hard light. So that's how you know you're in a ...

hard light situation. Now if you look around in this studio, do you see any hard shadows around here? No. We're in a soft light situation because it's lit by these big panels and it's creating very soft light. So you have to learn how to create soft light because soft light looks amazing for portraiture. Okay? And so when you create light with the flash, like this, and so if, can I bring somebody up? Who wants to come up here? I'm not gonna harm you or anything. Come up. All right, so I wanna demonstrate that size matters. Look at this guy. He's got some good size to him. All right so I want you to pretend, bring your fingers up to your face at about a few inches away. And I want you to measure how wide this is. Okay. So what do you think this is gonna produce? Hard light, just like when we saw the sun outside, it's tiny. Now can I make this light bigger? What are the ways that we can make it softer by using a larger source size, it makes the light softer. So one way is, what happens if I move the light source closer to my subject. Go ahead, put your fingers up there. All right and if I move it clo-- Oh look it, his fingers are getting bigger. Wow. I just made it ten times bigger. So it's counterintuitive. We think, oh wow if we put the flash too close, it's gonna be too harsh. No, it's gonna be softer. So that's why some people were kind of amazed at those wow shots. Wow, how'd you get that out of flash? Because I had the flash really close, maximizing the size of it creating softer light. So that's one way, is one is to move the light source as close as possible. And if I have to pick out one thing that a lot of newer students working with lighting is, they set the darn source too far away. And they could easily half it most of the time. You gotta get it, really close as possible. And so now that's one way is by distance. What's another way? Diffusion, right? Making it bigger. So look it, we have this nice, and I like using an umbrella because it's so fast. I don't know if you guys have soft boxes, but they're a pain in the you know what to set up. This is like, boom ready to go. You know? Okay, now measure how big that is right off the bat. Bam. But what happens if I put it, I mean this is too much for you to handle. It's huge. This is gonna make a diff-- Thank you very much. This is gonna make a difference. This is like bringing around a portable window light with you. Okay? So when you get all those other contraptions that kind of diffuse the light that you know, and if they're small, they're not really gonna make a difference. Those little things you put on your flash and whatever, they're okay. Now it may work because it's reflecting light off of a wall and then coming back at that subject and then it's huge. Because if the light goes at the wall, bam, hits the wall and then it comes back, it's gonna be huge and it looks nice. But if you're outdoors at the beach, do you have, a white wall that you can put up to use? Not really. So that's why it's good to have some sort of diffuser unit and not just strictly use those little things that you put on the flash because when you're outdoors it's not gonna make a darn difference. So see, I like this because it folds down into like something this big and you can stick in your bag. This has some decent size to it. So look how beautiful the light is. I don't know if you can see with these studio lights. Can you see it? Does it look good? How do I look? Right? This is gonna create some nice soft light. I can turn this up one more if you want to. Hold on a second. That's at the brightest, all right. Okay. Let me turn it up all the way, okay. So this has some decent size to it. So it's gonna give you some pretty, nose towards the light. How's that? (laughing) I just like doing that too much. Okay. No source of light, right? And so this will give me, I feel very soft light that I'll like, but it's quick and easy too. Because you just pop it over a flash, pop it over a torch light or something and you're good to go. Thank you. So that's one diffuser that you put on your flash that I feel like that would make a difference. Because if you did the size test, and you put it right next you. You go, oh wow, that's pretty big. Once you're getting into this size, then you go, okay you're getting some soft light. So that's how you can evaluate whether or not it's gonna be soft or not. Just kind of measure it with your eye and go, okay it's about that big. Once it starts getting here, we're getting somewhere. Whatever you use. I don't know if you can use a sheet. You can use a plastic garbage bag. Whatever, anything to make it softer and larger is better. Okay, all right good. So now the thing is, we talked about size. So whenever you diffuse that light, usually you're gonna lose you're only gonna get a quarter, you're gonna lose four times the strength of the flash or whatever you're using, or the video light. Because it's gonna be a two stop difference, which is one half and then one half. So you're getting one quarter of the, so if you had a flash on full and you diffused it, now instead of full, you're at one quarter power. That's a huge difference in lighting so that's why I am in love with light sources that are super strong, but small. I'm in love with that. Because when you diffuse it, you're gonna take away a lot of it and so you still have to have enough juice to light up whatever situation you're doing. Because diffusion takes a lot out of the way. All right? So now we talk about soft light, we talk about hard light, we talked about distance. The thing is is when to use it. Is there a time when you would use hard light? Since we don't like it so much. Everybody talks about how they just hate hard light and everybody's just all into soft light. But poor hard light, nobody likes to use hard light. I do, and here's how you can discern when to use hard light or soft light. This is huge. And it's called believability. So if I'm in this situation here, all you see is soft light. If I use hard light in a soft light situation, the person looking at the photo says, you know what, something's not right about that. It's because you mixed the lighting. You're creating, your surroundings are soft light. There's no hard shadows around, but the light on the subject is hard and so he goes, and that's why some people hate using flash because what are you doing? Most likely you're using it indoors when you don't have any light, right? And then you use and it's creating hard light, but then you're in a soft light situation and so that's why people, oh I hate flash. But if you go, okay now let's go outdoors, midday, 12 o'clock, two o'clock, bright sun. What do you see on the ground? Sharp shadows, go ahead and use hard light. Because why? It's believable. If you're in a hard light situation and you can use flash and it works. So a lot of times when I'm out there shooting in the bright light, I don't need any diffusion because hard light and hard light, you're good to go. It looks believable. So now we know, if you're in a soft light situation, try to create soft light. If you're in a hard light situation, try to create hard light or can use hard light. But soft light is king. If you use soft light in a hard light situation, that's professional. That's when you get the oo's and the ah's on your Facebook on Instagram, right? And so that's what you wanna try to do, if you can, is create soft light. Especially if you're doing a portrait, in a hard light situation. All right? So that's light quality. I'm gonna talk about inverse square law, but I'm just gonna talk about it for 10 seconds, okay? This is the inverse square law. Really, I'm using my iPhone with the same light source. There's a window right here and I'm using the same light source and I'm using my iPhone. Why is that picture different from this? But it's the same, I'm taking it in the same area. Right? This is really what you should now about the inverse square law. This photo here, I was like two feet from the window source. This photo here, I was probably like 10 feet away. And so what the inverse square law is, part of it is the source distance to the subject. So if, can I borrow you for a second? So let's say I am lighting her up. And I am three feet away. So what happens is if you're three feet away from your subject, it's gonna fall, you're gonna see that light three feet back here. Right? And it's gonna drop two stops after that and then fade away. Okay? So now let's say I have a source and I have my flash set up and I'm way over here. How many feet away am I? 10 feet? So now what's gonna happen is that that light is 10 feet away, it's gonna light my subject, it's also gonna travel 10 feet behind her and light that up also. Thank you very much. So that's what's happening here. When I'm close, it's traveling one foot, the lights going one foot behind me and dropping off. And so if you wanna make a dark background, get that light as close as possible to your subject. If you wanna see the background, then pull the light source away from it and then you can see the background because that light is gonna travel farther behind the person. So let's get, and you know, let's stop looking at me. Really, that's not good. So let's get on to some real pictures here. All right, okay. So the light source was close to her because she was right at that door, okay? Now I had her walk back there to take a picture so she's close and see how dark, much darker it is? So when I take the next picture, she's way far away from that window and it's lighting up the background too. Okay? So it just depends on the distance to the source and really that's all you gotta know about the inverse square law. There's some other things that I'll get into. But really that's the one thing that I use all the time, is that. So just get your light closer or farther away. I'm gonna do something with soft light, and do something with hard light. And so you can see the difference. And so let's get the video light. Can you put the umbrella back on there? And let's bring our lovely model out and we're gonna shoot her with some video light. Like we did yesterday and then we're gonna shoot it with flash and you can kind of see the difference of it. Yup, turn that up all the way. And um. We're gonna have her turn her head just slightly this way and look back at me. Right, perfect, right there. Okay so we're gonna do some soft light right here. And let me just dial my exposure in here. And we should be good. Okay, that's good right there. All right. One, two. Oh gosh, I got this on 20 frames per second. Sorry. Okay. Good. So did that come up? All right. I know it's a little bit darker there on the screen. Don't worry about that. Okay so now let's try doing that same thing, but with the flash. Okay? When you're using video light as your source and then using your flash, the equivalent flash power is about 164th or 128th power, around there. But because we're gonna try to put the flash source fairly close, I'm just gonna, who knows what's gonna happen, but I'm gonna put it down at 128th power just to see what we got. Holy cow. I'm shooting this at ISO 800, okay whatever. We'll just see. It might look terribly crazy. Yeah, okay. See this is a good example because this shows you how bright, that's at the lowest possible setting on a flash. That's at the lowest possible, all right. And see how much, see how much more powerful it is? So what I'm gonna do is lower my ISO. Let's bring that all the way down to 200. 100, what the heck. Okay so I'm just guessing right now. Okay, and still it's getting a little closer. I'm gonna raise my F stop a bit, okay right? And I'm almost there, that was pretty good guess. I'm gonna just control. So I can't even go any lower than what I'm doing right now. So what I'm gonna do is raise my F stop. I was shooting at 1.8. So I'm gonna shoot it at 2.8 and it's gonna lower that light by a stop. And that's kind of dialing it in right there. But you can see that the light, let me just try to match it and I'll go to F4 here. Just so I can kind of get the equivalent lighting. One, two. Okay, yeah. That's somewhat equivalent, right? Okay, thank you very much. So that, I don't know if you can do a side by side of that, but you can kind of see the difference between hard light and soft light. But you can see, if you're in a low light situation, did you see how easy video light is? That's why whenever I'm in low light, I go straight to video. I mean I can eventually lock it in and go to the flash and all, but I definitely like video light. All right, so that's a quick demonstration. Let's get going.

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Ratings and Reviews

Vitor Rademaker

This course is amazing! Scott is extremely straightforward. He goes directly to practical problems, tips and etc. He explains every thing very clearly, and he is also very funny and charismatic, making you laugh as you learn. He shows that you don't need a lot of expensive gear to make very nice pictures. So I have saved some money as well, cause I was about to buy some gear that I wouldn't need right now. It is for sure one of the best photography courses I have ever attended to! I highly recommend! Thanks a lot Scott! You are the best!


I have purchased a number of classes, this being one of them. The quality of the information was good and the level at which Scott spoke was appropriate for me. Having a course sylibus would add greatly to the value, which usually is not part of the programs I've purchased including this one, unless I've missed it. I believe the speaker should be required to provide one. After watching the videos, much of material can be recaptured by seeing it in writing. I would like to hear back from Creativelive their thoughts. In sum, good topic, good speaker, good technical audio and video quality by Creativelive


Another fantastic class with Scott Robert Lim! The combination of his knowledge, willingness to share, passion & entertaining personality makes him a top choice for photography education. Learning not only the "what", but the "why" & "how" can transform one's entire approach towards MAKING pictures. A constant inspiration to get better & better through practice.

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