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Soft light in photography: Four basics you must know

Whether you’re a painter, photographer, or filmmaker, light plays a crucial part in your principal work. Light in a photograph may be used to adorn, empower, magnify, or even conceal a subject. Normally, a master or sophisticated photographer can tell many vivid stories just via the lighting alone.Today we will talk about the soft light in photography and include the following topics:

  1. What is soft light in photography?
  2. When to use it?
  3. How to set it up?
  4. What’s the difference between hard and soft lighting in photography?

Soft light photography definition

Use soft light in photography COLBOR CL100Soft light, a typical kind of light with a little hard shadow, is bright and balanced as well. Some still or studio photography in soft lights may have a transition between the shadow and the light that seems more like a gradient and somewhat smoother. There will be few to no shadows on target subjects if they are shot or recorded under the soft light. And if there is a shadow, it isn’t nearly as dark as the shadows created by hard light.


  • Smoother, gradual division between light and shadow
  • Often employed to deliver a softer, brighter or romantic feel to the subject
  • The flaws and imperfections of facial features are less noticeable


  • Not a better choice if you want dramatic, strong or intensive scenarios
  • No strong contrast

What kind of photography is soft light used for?

Soft light is particularly flattering on subjects in portrait photography, because wrinkles and skin texture are less apparent since the transition from light to shadow is gradual and the shadow parts aren't as dark.

That’s also why soft light is so appealing for photographing women, especially the elderly.

Besides, soft light in photography also gives off a calmer, softer, kinder, and dreamier vibe. Therefore, a pet or cotton candy in led soft light in photography might work well if your subject is soft and lovely, like a newborn baby.

Landscape photography, dynamic or static, with less contrast, in soft light has a homely atmosphere or a softer feel. This is why landscape photographers prefer to work at the beginning and end of the day to escape the harsh shadows cast by the noon light.

As we can see, the quality of the light in all types of photography, whether soft or hard, is a significant aspect of the overall impression and must correspond to the subject and the message that the photographer expects to deliver. This is a component of photographic composition that brings everything together.

How to set up soft light for photography?

Hence soft light for video recording, studio, and film is beneficial. How are we going to do it on set? Here are some soft light photography tips.

First and foremost, use a diffuser. If you are shooting or recording a tiger with unfiltered light, there is a 99.99% probability that the light will be hard.

Therefore, to disperse the light source more equally and evenly, use soft light photography equipment like a softbox, or if you don’t have one, hang some diffusion materials in front of it.

If you are shooting or recording during the midday, you will have to consider the shining sunlight, which is normally a hard light (unless it's overcast, in which case you've got naturally diffused light). To counterbalance the scorching sun, please bring out a reflector or a bounce board, which can offer a suitable fill light that will eliminate the hard shadows.

Soft light can make access to everyone everywhere: even the smallest film with a limited budget can achieve the best soft light for photography by utilizing its advantageous setting and strategic position to set up its lights subtly. It'll make your performer appear great and your shot look professional.

Hard light vs soft light photography: Difference in use

Soft light and hard light in photography can produce various visual rhythms. Here’s some different hard light or soft light photography examples:

Hard light gives your subjects more dimension, depth, and intricacy. The high-contrast nature of hard light provides a strong feeling of drama and gives your images an edgy, gritty appearance. To make their subjects look tough and serious, photographers will employ a hard light source. It’s also applied to give the scenes a raw, hard-edged vibe in film noir, dramas, and action films.

Soft light is more flattering than hard light. It gives your subject a more natural appearance and makes them look comfortable, appealing and kind. Also, soft light, like COB LED light, is more forgiving than hard light, and it needs fewer retouching steps. It may be used to cover acne, smooth wrinkles, and bring out the shine and light in performers’ eyes. Portraits, fashion photography, vacation photography, and culinary photography all make use of soft light.


In a word, the following are the key points from this article:

What exactly is a gentle light? It's essentially a diffused light that completely surrounds the subject, creating a seamless transition from highlights to shadows. Generally, inviting, appealing and warm.

Almost everything can be photographed in soft light. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide a strong emotional response or a high contrast image.

A simple reflection of light can be produced on a(typically white) surface. Clouds may also act as a personal soft box.

The shadows are the most significant and major distinction between soft and harsh light. It changes the image's mood, causing it to emit various "vibes."