Many photographers can’t always tell the difference between hard light and soft light. By definition, the differences have to do with the quality of the shadows. Hard light delivers very, very dark shadows that seem to muddle details while in contrast soft light delivers very light shadows or even no shadows at all.
While traditional photographers will preach the benefits of soft light for portraits all day and night, modern editors and art buyers prefer the look of hard lighting.
The folks over at LearnMyShot have put together a video comparing the two using a situation involving a light bulb. In general, the larger the light source is in relation to the subject, the softer the light will be. But as you see, the host pulls down a diffusion panel to change the look of the lighting.
The video on the differences between hard light and soft light is after the jump.