Assignment 2 - Soft Light, Hard Light! part 1 Assignment 1 was more about learning to understand some of the extreme basics of artifical light, how it works with ambient, and how to control each. Assignment 2 is going to be about seeing the difference between hard light and soft light and how to use each to your advantage. This is going to be a little easier and less technical than the first so that if anyone has questions still, we won't be getting too far ahead. Why does hard light suck? Because it seems it's one of those preconceived notions that people get based on early experiences with improper equipment. What do you get when you take a photo with a DSLR using something like the on board pop up flash? Usually a particular mess of on axis lighting with hard shadows. Well crap, that hard lighting looks just terrible! Now I'll ask the question of how many of you remember this same exact sentiment when you first started and were taking pictures where you were using your pop up flash or any other on axis direct light? If you're one of those people, I'm sure it's left a sour taste in your mouth and it's an experience you're more than happy to share with others about the downfalls of hard lighting. It's almost like wide angle portraiture. Many people complain about the distortions and how nothing is flattering, but if you're one of those people who learn to control it and shape it so that your photos turn out looking the complete opposite of those that cry fould, then you've found the secret that maybe those people haven't learned enough about what you're doing correctly to do so themselves. /run-on sentence Now that was of course opinion, but with this lesson you're going to take hard lighting and use it to get a pleasing shot. You know, that hard lighting that popular opinion that hard lighting is a bad thing? Now onto the assignment. Part 1 and this bi weekly assignment is going to focus entirely on hard light. What makes a light hard? The size of the light source. I'll give two examples. Ex1. The sun. On a cloudless sunny day, the sun creates really hard lighting. Hard lighting is characterized by the hard sharp edges it can create and the hard shadows. The sun, while although having a diameter of about 865,000 miles, is 8.317 minutes away at the speed of light. This is important because of the vast distance the lightsource is from us. When you look at the sun (please don't...eye damage and all), it appears small. This small light source has rays striking us at a parallel angle, causing the shadows to be crisp and defined. If it were a cloudy day outside, the light from the sun would hit the clouds and the clouds would "catch" the rays and diffuse them, creating large soft shadows. Ex2. A speedlight. Using a bare speed light, you're light source is the size of the head, which fires off the rays of light in at a parallel angle to each other, striking their target directly on and causing hard shadows. The opposite would be to stick something like an shoot through umbrella infront of the light which would cause the light to wrap around your subject creating a large light source and soft shadows. So it's all about the size of the light source. Another way to influence the size is distance. You can move a light source away from your subject to make it appear smaller and to create harsher light with the same source. So for this assignment, post up a photo or two of you using nothing but hard light. Now one more question, a theme, and a little "trick" to get you started. Where have you seen to use of hard light? Like a lot of it? Ever hear of a genre of movie called film noir? Generally, the old B&W movies with the abundant use of hard lighting to create a certain mood. That's a bit of a theme you guys can work with that's always fun. The trick? The smaller the light source the harder the light. The smaller the light source the harder the light. The smaller... Well a speed light head is pretty damn small (and for you monolight guys, this can work too). How are you going to make it smaller? One trick it to cover the head even more to reduce the size of the light source. Find something like peices of cardboard that the light can't fire through and attach it to the strobe head or monolight reflector. You can use gaffers tape, bubbel gum, velcro, whatever. The desired outcome is to have a slit of about 1/4"-1/2" visible on the head through which light can escape. That will give you an even smaller light source with an even harder light. So get to it and have fun. As always, ask any questions you have and we'll do our best to answer them.