Watch: Understanding Diffusion and Hard vs. Soft Light When Photographing Portraits

July 26, 2017

By Greg Scoblete

Francisco Hernandez

The impact of diffusion. From left to right: an image with two diffusion panels applied, with one and then with none.

Like many decisions you’re faced with as a photographer, the question of whether to use hard or soft light to illuminate portrait subjects has no simple answer. The best way to think about the problem is to weigh the relative merits of each type of light against the look you’re trying to achieve.

Photographer Francisco Hernandez offers a nice breakdown on the kinds of looks you can expect when switching between a harder light and a softer one in the video below.

Broadly speaking, soft light can be more flattering on the skin and won’t produce shiny, blown-out hot spots on your subject. Hard light, on the other hand, will have more contrast and deeper shadows. The trick to achieving either look is the amount of diffusion you apply to your light source. The formula is simple: more diffusion = softer light. Conversely, less diffusion = harder light.

For this demo, Hernandez is using using a 38-inch Glow ParaPop Octobox (which ships with a pair of diffusion panels) with a Flashpoint eVOLV 200 flash. The subject is photographed with both diffusion panels in, with just one and then with none to give you a sense of how those diffusion panels impact your final image.

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Via: FStoppers