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Harsh And Soft Lighting

Here's a quick guide to harsh and soft lighting and how each can add to certain photos.

| General Photography

Harsh And Soft Lighting: Harsh lighting

Image by David Pritchard

As every photographer will know, lighting is a key part in any good photograph. But, the type of light is also important and here, we'll take a look at both harsh and soft light as well as explaining when that type of light can be useful in images. 

Harsh Light

Harsh light can be defined by its brightness and ability to cause dark shadows on your subject. Harsh lighting could be direct sunlight or lighting from a lamp that has no covering. 

Because harsh light creates shadows it's great for creating depth and definition in subjects that might otherwise look flat and unappealing. It's great for architecture shots in this respect.

Harsh light can also help to create mood in a shot, using shadows to create stark contrast between different parts of your image. 

However when harsh light isn't wanted in can create unsightly shadows, especially in portraits and close up macro images causing images to be unflattering. It can also lead to a difficulty exposing correctly for a scene where light levels vary a lot throughout the image. 

Harsh And Soft Lighting: soft light

Image by David Pritchard

Soft Light

Sofer, or more diffused light, is ideal when as in the above situation, harsh shadows will ruin the image. Soft light could be cloudy daylight or a source of artificial light where a thin fabric is used to diffuse light and eliminate shadows from the image. 

Using a pale coloured muslin between the subject and the light source will allow you to create images with a calmer, more serene light feel. This type of lighting makes it easier to expose for an image and is a lot more flattering for portrait images. 

The main downfall with soft light is that it can flatten certain subjects and when depth is needed in an image it can mean that images look uninteresting and lacklustre. 

For more tips and tricks regarding lighting, check out 33 Top Ways To Use Light

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