Visual Magic – hard & soft light

Lightly edited for clarity, here are some examples of hard & soft light. 

In this set, the first photo has a flashgun firing straight at the subject with no diffuser, while the second has the flashgun, set at the same strength, pointing backwards to bounce off a wall/window and make the light much softer. The natural light has not changed and these photos were taken moments apart. 

Although most brands and portraits favour soft, diffused light, there can be space for the odd hard light photo. In the examples below, midday sun, the position of the subject and the editing gives a crisp, autumnal day vibe to the photos. Notice the hard lines of the shadow in the mug – the crispness of shadows is a great indicator of the quality of the available light! They were taken in May on a very hot day, so also demonstrates how you can alter the mood of your photos with a bit of planning.