Hard, Medium, or Soft Light?
By Robert Harrington
As photographers, the choice is up to us to determine what kind of light to use in our work. Light is the essence of photography; without it, we can’t get an exposure to register on our film or digital sensor. But we have choices when it comes to the kind of light we want to either suit our need, like in a family portrait, or for creative effect, like fashion, editorial, or something completely creative. Light is our muse, our mistress, our all-consuming friend and foe alike, for light—in all of its forms—must be handled with care so our end result reflects our creative vision.
Hard light is just that: hard and unforgiving.
We can use the harsh nature of light to get creative, and use it to our advantage. Why not go out and shoot at 2:00 in the afternoon? Why avoid the harsh shadows of broad daylight? Why wait until the golden hour (around sundown or sunup) for that perfect light? Does the sun wait for us? No. What we need to do as photographers is to learn how to use this light to our advantage, and add supplementary or fill light to get the shot.
In the studio, why not use a grid or snoot as a main light? Create, experiment with, and look for light that you don’t normally see—don’t just go for the softbox and that beautiful and flattering soft light. Go for a look you are not used to. Try something new!