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Hard light

Type of lighting that creates brilliant highlights and sharp shadows.

Hard and soft light are different types of lighting that are commonly used in photography and filmmaking. Soft light refers to light that tends to "wrap" around objects, casting diffuse shadows with soft edges. Soft light is when a light source is large relative to the subject; hard light is when the light source is small relative to the subject.

The hardness or softness of light depends mostly on the following two factors:

  • Distance. The closer the light source, the softer it becomes.
  • Size of light source. The larger the source, the softer it becomes.

The softness of a light source can also be determined by the angle between the illuminated object and the 'length' of the light source (the longest dimension that is perpendicular to the object being lit). The larger this angle is, the softer the light source.

Hard light sources cast shadows whose appearance of the shadow depends on the lighting instrument. For example, fresnel lights can be focused such that their shadows can be "cut" with crisp shadows. That is, the shadows produced will have 'harder' edges with less transition between illumination and shadow. The focused light will produce harder-edged shadows. Focusing a fresnel makes the rays of emitted light more parallel. The parallelism of these rays determines the quality of the shadows. For shadows with no transitional edge/gradient, a point light source is required. Hard light casts strong, well defined shadows.

When hitting a textured surface at an angle, hard light will accentuate the textures and details in an object.

Key Terms

angle
definition
hard light
light source
object
shadow
shadows
soft light
subject
usage

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Synonymns

Hard light
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Last modified on September 14 2019
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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