Photographers love soft light and the “wrap around” quality that large modifiers can deliver. We contemplate the large parabolic softbox we need to purchase or the huge umbrella that will help us make window light anywhere. For impactful portraits that are just as compelling maybe it’s time you took a look at hard lighting.
So often big and beautiful lighting is the name of the game in portrait photography, but I believe you’re missing out on some of the most dramatic and intense portraits if you don’t use hard lighting in your work. Coming to you from Daniel Norton is a very quick and easy run down of a small softbox delivering soft and hard lighting in the studio. As Norton gives us his walk through you’ll notice how controlling the lighting with a simple small softbox can allow for a very contrasty image. The five to one lighting ratio leaves some mystery to garner more interest with a sliver of lighting going across the backdrop.
In follow up to the initial lighting set up we can see the reason to control even a hard light source from impacting the rest of the scene. Using modifiers, Gobos, and feathering the angle of your lighting can allow you to create dramatic and interesting portraiture with even the most simple and smallest modifiers. Norton states this as much when describing the use of the Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL light and the Profoto RFi 1x1.3' Softbox together and explaining that using a soft box can keep your lighting more directional especially when trying to keep the light from spilling on the background.
Have you been working with hard light in your portrait work or do you prefer to go to a large modifier? If you haven't been, are you going to give hard lighting another go after watching Norton’s video breakdown?