Good vs Great | Free 1 Hour Training by Pye [Watch Free]

03 Jul 2022

Soft Light

Description: Soft light is a type of light with few hard shadows, and the transition between the dark to bright areas is more gradual. When subjects are in soft lighting there will be little or no shadow on their face; if they have one it's not as harsh compared to when you're using hard lights for photography. In general, the larger and the closer the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the light source will be. Direct sun is an example of hard light, which is the opposite of soft light. Window light is a good example of soft light, depending on the size of the window.


On the other side, a soft light has a gentle transition from light to shadow. In the picture below, the change from light to dark is much more gradual and can be seen on the face and neck. A cloudy overcast day will also create a soft light all around the environment. So what specifically causes a light quality to be hard or soft?


The larger the light source, the softer the light; the smaller the light source, the harder the light. Also, keep in mind that distance also plays a big role in the size of your light. If you were to fire a flash into a huge reflector just a few feet away from your subject, your subject will have a soft and wrapping light. The reflector is a huge light source in comparison with the subject. Now take that same setup and move it 40 feet away from your subject. The light source now becomes small in relation to our subject and we have hard light. This is how the Sun, which is much bigger than us, can create such hard light. It is because it is so far away and so small in the sky. The distance from light to subject will affect the size and therefore quality of your light.


A light that has its reflective qualities removed is called diffused light. When this light hits a subject, the reflective light does not bounce back into the camera. Showcasing a soft and diffused light quality, the image below was created using a diffused (matte) reflector. Because this type of light is not as reflective, it has less contrast. Out of the two, diffused light is a more flattering light for portraits as it does not direct attention to any one part of the subject. Typically, fashion photography use diffused light for it’s flattering and soft qualities.


Other Related Terms:
Soft Light
Hard Light
Diffused Light
Specular Light

Related Articles to Soft Light Definition

Photo Editing

Software: Lightroom Preset Jumper

Have you ever wanted to cycle through your lightroom presets (possibly the SLR Lounge Lightroom Presets?)? I know I sure have, but for some reason that functionality is not possible in lightroom out of the box. Luckily I just discovered a neat macro program that you can download to fix that problem, its called Lightroom Preset Jumper.

Camera Reviews and News

Comparing Speedlight Umbrella Softboxes

If you are like me and do not have the luxury of a dedicated studio space then you likely use speedlights for your artificial lighting needs. One of the best modifiers for any sort of artificial light are softboxes. The problem with standard softboxes is that they can be a pain to setup and not very speedlight friendly. A great alternative to your standard softboxes are these Umbrella Softboxes, another plus is that they are designed to be used with speedlights.

Photo Editing

How to Create a Standard Black and White Preset to Create a “Soft Portrait” Look in Lightroom 4

In a previous tutorial, we created a Standard Color Preset to create a “soft portrait” look for our portraits. This preset made the portrait more flattering overall because it softened up the highlights in our portraits and also reduced the appearances of blemishes on the skin. We highly recommend that you go through the Standard Color Preset tutorial before going on to this tutorial because we will be applying almost the same exact settings from the Standard Color Preset to the Standard Black and White Preset. In this tutorial, we will demonstrate how to create and save the Standard Black and White Preset in Lightroom 4.This preset will give our portraits that “soft portrait” look again, but our portraits will be in black and white instead of color.

Photo Editing

Create a Soft Portrait Lightroom Preset

In this tutorial, we are going to create a Standard Color Preset for portrait images, which is referred to as a “soft portrait” look. This Standard Color Preset will soften up the highlights, reduce the appearances of blemishes and imperfections of the skin and overall, make a portrait more flattering. In portraits, our subjects are the primary focus of the image. However, even if the subjects’ faces are not zoomed in on, the image can still be considered a portrait. In this tutorial, we will also use the Standard Import Preset that we created in a previous tutorial. It is a good idea to read about the Standard Import Preset before creating the Standard Color Preset because you will have a better understanding of this tutorial. These settings are the specific settings we apply to portraits at Lin & Jirsa Photography, so if you do not like a certain setting, feel free to tweak it to fit your personal style. However, hopefully some of these tips will help you create your own unique style for your portraits.