This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Soft lighting in film: Everything to know

Lighting used in filmmaking to create the scene plays a big role in the emotions, mood, and visual connections among subjects on the location. Soft lighting in film may create smooth shadows that reduce dimension and depth. In this article, we will focus on this film lighting technique and go through the following topics.

  • What is it?
  • Why is it used in filmmaking?
  • When to use it?
  • How to create soft lighting for filming?

What is soft lighting in film?

Soft light is light that is diffused and does not cast sharp shadows on the subject. Light travels in waves, and the manner in which these waves are disseminated alters and affects the quality of light. This is why you can see the shadows to determine if the light is gentle or harsh.

In filmmaking, soft film lighting is more flattering. It will wrap itself around whatever you're shooting and create soothing shadows over it/them. The shift from darkness to light will be gentle; there will be no hard lines here.

Pros & cons

Using soft light for filming brings the following benefits and drawbacks.


  • The division between light and shade is more smooth and gradual.
  • Facial characteristics and blemishes are less visible. 
  • Often employed to give the subject a gentler or romantic appearance.


  • Less dramatic
  • When utilized directionally, soft light images might seem dull and flat.
  • Textures are less visible.

What are its differences from hard lighting in filming?

Unlike soft illumination, hard light used in filmmaking can cast deep and dark shadows. In comparison to soft-lit settings, the transition between shadows and light will be considerably more distinct. In addition, when you aim hard light onto your subjects, they will look more focused and harsher.

The differences between hard and soft lighting in film are as follows:

  • Hard lighting throws shadows and has a high contrast. Soft lighting reduces this contrast by bathing the face in a warm glow.
  • Filmmakers employ hard lighting to generate suspense, dread, drama, and other complicated emotions and themes. Soft lighting is employed in less serious situations and when the performer should appear cheerful and pleasant.
  • Hard lighting is based on focused lighting, angles, and planning. Soft lighting necessitates closer placement,larger light sources, and the usage of diffusers.

Why is soft lighting used in film?

Filmmakers use soft lighting in movies for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it can create a more natural and realistic look, as it mimics the way sunlight falls in real life. It can also create a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, which can help to convey a certain mood or emotion in a scene. Additionally, it can be used to highlight certain features of the actors or actresses, such as their facial features or expressions.

When to use it?

As aforementioned, soft light is generally more flattering than harsh light. Using soft lighting in film offers a more natural-looking appearance and enables more attractive portrait results. Because it is more forgiving and diminishes skin flaws and wrinkles, it takes less post-processing and retouching effort.

If you are looking for the above benefits, it will be a good choice to use to illuminate the subject and the scene in your filmmaking. It is also good to use it in photography like portraits, family photos, interior photography, etc.

How to soften LED lights for shooting film?

Scrims, diffusion paper, softbox, and paper lanterns are all equipment that you can use to create LED soft light for filming.

Scrims: When filming outdoors, special pieces of cloth known as scrims can be used to soften the film lighting. A bigger overhead scrim might act as a barrier between the sun and your subjects. Smaller models can bounce light, softening harsh shadows. A scrim is often made of natural or artificial white silk that is put on a specific frame.

Diffusion paper: This is used for filming inside a studio. A quick and inexpensive way to soften an LED constant light is to attach a sheet of specialty paper to the barn doors of it. Additionally, because the paper will only provide a minor dispersion, it is perfect if you want to produce a more subdued appearance.

Softbox: The softbox is another tool for getting soft lighting in film. These can give greater control over your bounce light than a reflective umbrella because of its rectangular form, which mimics the gentle light from an open window. Softboxes exist in a variety of sizes, ranging from 18 to 24 inches to 48 inches or more. They make excellent key, fill, and backlights, adding a mellow glow to the setting. Every filmmaker should have at least one of these in their kit!

Paper lantern: Paper lanterns are another fantastic way to create soft lighting in film. The soft glow they provide may add a mystical touch to any scene. Furthermore, they are an extremely low-cost choice for low-budget filmmakers!
Don't be scared to experiment with different tools and strategies until you discover the right soft lighting. Sometimes you don't know what to do until you see it on video!


Soft lighting gains its own place in filmmaking. It offers a natural look for the scene and makes the subjects appear good without noticeable facial flaws. You can get soft illumination on overcast days or use filmmaking tools to soften the light sources. Just experiment with different ways to get the look you want.