Photographer Joe McNally is one of the best instructors on photography lighting out there–and he recently completed a video with AdoramaTV talking about edgy vs smooth light and how he used both. What does he mean by smooth and edgy? Smooth light is very soft and specular to bring out details in a subject but also is very soft in its characteristics to make skin look beautiful. Edgy light is specular and brings out even more details partially due to its positioning.
Joe talks about using both types of lighting that involve the use of soft boxes but the latter includes the addition of a ring flash–which is a very edgy light modifier. Fashion photographers use them a lot to give a beautiful ring shape light in a subject’s eyes and can deliver a shadowless look.
The smooth light, as Joe talks about, is much better for beauty photos that don’t require edge and just want to emphasize beauty. It’s a very popular style amongst many portrait photographers. Joe uses the edgy light to make the other image look more gritty, which is also done by other photographers that do the more Terry Richardson style of work. Joe talks about using the ring light in a different way though–to instead open up extra details and provide a bit of fill.
His video is after the jump.