March 2021 // The Senior Edition

Soft light is created through diffusion, subject to light distance, the size of the modifier in relation to the subject, or a combination of these variables. Let’s start with diffusion. Modifiers such as softboxes and octaboxes have opaque, white fabric panels through which the light travels before hitting the subject. Diffusion panels create a wider source of more scattered light, which softens the light and allows it to wrap around the subject, creating soft shadows.

Settings: f10 @ 1/160 iso 200

Hard light is created through more direct and intense light using a smaller modifier such as a silver can reflector or bare bulb, shortening the transition between highlights and shadows and resulting in fewer midtones between the two. When choosing your modifier’s size, you need to consider how large or small it is, as well as how close it will be to your subject. The larger and closer the light source is in relation to your subject, the softer that light will be. Conversely, the smaller and farther away it is, the harsher the light will become.

Settings: f7.1 @ 1/200 iso 100

Modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes, and beauty dishes give you the option of white or silver lining, which directly affects the quality of light it produces. White linings will create softer, more diffused light whereas silver linings amplify the light’s intensity to produce more specular highlights. Think of it in the same way you do when you use a reflector outside in natural light. When you use the white side of the reflector for fill, the light is far softer than when you use the silver side. I love using a silver-lined octabox to give my images a little bit of contrast and pop, a signature of my style. By understanding the effects that different modifiers have on your light source, you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which modifier will help you create the light you need to achieve your previsualized image.

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