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In nature, there is soft light, hard, as well as everything in between. All this falls under the concept of “quality of light”, i.e. the differences between these two types of lighting are related to the quality of the shadows that you get when lighting an object. Hard and soft light can be reproduced using artificial lighting with a combination of flash, light modifiers and the distance at which all devices are located relative to the subject.

Soft light is determined by the gradual transition between shadows and highlights. Hard is its opposite. Transitions between shadows and highlights occur quickly. The result is crisp edges, deeper shadows, and sharper, sharper lighting. Hard lighting has many uses, from promotional images of a musical group, to sports, fashion, for shooting older people who need a “cool” look. In principle, for any images where you need a sharp and sharp object, it is best to use hard light.

Hard lighting is typical for very dark shadows. It makes us pay less attention to black areas and more to color and what is well lit. The same theory applies to sharpness and the idea of ​​deepening black levels in an image to give the impression that the image is sharper than it really is.

Hard lighting can also be associated with high contrast. To explain this, you need to refer to the difference between the brightest and darkest areas in the image. If there is a dark area in the scene that you cannot clearly identify and bright with few details, then this is a high-contrast image.

The creation of hard light using a flash is governed by three factors. Let’s look at each of them individually.

The first and most important part of the light quality puzzle is the size of the lighting modifier used. To obtain soft light, large modifiers are used. With hard lighting, of course, everything is exactly the opposite. The basic rule of thumb is that the smaller the light source, the harder it will be in quality. It follows that to obtain better results when creating hard lighting you need to use a small modifier.

It can be a beauty dish (portrait plate), a small reflector, softbox or oktoboks. Whatever modifier you choose, to achieve optimal results, the most important thing is to comply with the appropriate size. If desired, the degree of light stiffness can be easily controlled using one or more layers of diffuse tissue.

The inner surface of the modifier

In addition to size, the inner surface of the modifier is important. To get bright lighting, use a modifier with a silver surface, as it increases contrast, maximizes light output and creates the sharpest edges. If you want a softer light, then you can replace it with a modifier with a white surface.

Experiment and have fun creating different degrees of hard light with the help of modifiers and their additions – there are many options for the entire spectrum of hard lighting.

The shape and depth of the modifier also affect the quality of the light and the speed with which it falls. To get a dramatic effect, you should use deep softboxes.

Hard light is just


The distance from the key light source to the subject is another critical factor in creating light quality. The closer the light source is to the object, the softer it is. The distance will vary depending on the desired effect, the size of the modifier and the power of the flash used, but the basic rule still applies: the smaller the distance between the light source and the subject, the harder the lighting will be.

Distance and size are interconnected due to perception. For example, if you place a 10-inch reflector 6 meters from the object, it will have a larger perceived size relative to the object than the same modifier placed 3 meters from the object. The further the modifier is, the smaller its perceived size relative to the object, and vice versa. This means that if you only have a modifier of medium size, you can still create a hard light with it. Placing a medium-sized modifier closer to the subject will help to obtain more severe lighting than the same modifier located further from the subject.

Despite its name, hard light is easy. You have many options, no matter what modifiers are at hand. You can easily turn any softbox into a modifier with hard lighting by removing its internal partition and external diffusers and placing them in the immediate vicinity of the model.

There is no ideal distance – it all depends on the quality of the light you want to receive and the power of the monoblock you are using.

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