Learn the Difference Between Hard Light and Diffused Light


If you’re new to photography, one of the most important lessons you have to learn is the difference of light quality from a hard light source as compared to a diffused light source. Knowing this will be useful for a lot of studio applications, from product shots, to fashion editorials, to creative portraits. If any of that is what you intend to do, here’s a LearnMyShot tutorial that should be of help to you.

Before you jump into experimenting with various lighting equipment in the studio, make sure you watch the quick video tutorial below by Robert Grant. Here, he demonstrates the great difference between the light quality created by a hard light source vs. a diffused light source.

As we can see in his two results, you can achieve two completely different looks in your photos by just putting a diffusing element over the same light source. Hard light produces a lot of shadows and a more pronounced contrast, creating a dramatic mood and even intense atmosphere on your photo. The diffused light, which Robert created by simply covering the original light source with vellum, produces a soft light over the subject. This minimizes shadows, makes the edges less apparent, and a softer contrast. While the photo looks less dramatic overall, the subject looks more pleasant and natural under this kind of lighting.

In the accompanying text for this tutorial, we learn the different applications for these light sources. If you want to create a vivid and dramatic shot of your subject with lots of shadows and contrast, go for a hard lighting. If you want a more subtle light that creates a smooth, soft, and less contrasty image, opt for a diffused light.

If you plan to do studio portraits, move on to this tutorial by Daniel Norton, where he demonstrates in detail how to apply hard and diffused lighting when illuminating your subjects.

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Screenshot image taken from the video by LearnMyShot