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Soft Light

A light which is diffused and creates very soft shadows.
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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.

Soft light use is popular in cinematography and film for a number of different reasons:

  • Cast shadow-less light.
  • Fill lighting. Soft light can reduce shadows without creating additional shadows.
  • Make a subject appear more beautiful or youthful through making wrinkles less visible.
  • Supplement the lighting from practicals. This technique is used to perform "motivated" lighting, where all light in the scene appears to come from practical light sources in the scene. Soft light does not cast shadows that would be a giveaway of a supplementary light source.

Key Terms

angle
definition
different types lighting
filmmaking
hard
light source
photography
soft light
subject
usage

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Soft Light
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