5 Tips for Creating Soft Light When Working With Strobes

Soft lighting is often more flattering, but if you are new to working with strobes, it can be a bit tricky to create it in a natural way. This excellent video tutorial will show you a one-light setup that will help you create soft light that is flattering and suitable for a range of portraits. 

Coming to you from Sandra Coan with B&H Photo Video, this helpful video will show you five tips for getting softer light when working with strobes, particularly indoors. More than anything, it is important to remember the fundamental rule that larger sources produce softer, more flattering light, and smaller sources produce harder, more defining light. When you are working in a cramped indoor space, this can sometimes make things difficult, but the key is that the source is large relative to the subject, meaning if you cannot fit a giant modifier in the room, you can simply move whatever you are using closer to the subject. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Coan.

If you would like to learn more about lighting, be sure to take a look at "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

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6 Comments

Bjarne Solvik's picture

I don’t know about putting the power down to avoid harsh flash light but correct exposure for sure I’d required in photography. But the last point, to light faces correct way, is a huge point. Newborn are also people and we are created to be lid from above:) Many natural light photographers, especially newborn photographers, are messing with direction of light. Even with window light you need to place the baby accordingly.

Jan Holler's picture

Turning down the power of a flash has nothing to do with the harshness of the light (#3). A wide aperture has nothing to do with a window's light effect (#4). First she claims to power the flash down, but then she tells us to use a light meter to get the correct exposure (#5). That does not make much sense. (#5 is correct). The direction of light is important, but the example she is giving is a bad one and not really referring to what she claims (#6).
I am missing #7: Use two sources of light if you really want to get soft shadows. I wouldn't recommend this video.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Well as I say, correct exposure is important. Still if you do as she say you are good to go. About two light sources that is not the case, in my experience. If you use a hard modifier like a silver lined soft box, or have black walls and light is direct and focused, then maybe so. I myself use a 150cm translucent umbrella, used indirect. Light goes all over the place. There is no need to use reflector or second light. Sometimes I use black reflectors to increase contrast and shadows. For the group she is addressing I think a huge umbrella will do the trick good:) I actually was inspired a lot about here style, in particular newborn, it think this is good stuff, but a little bit further studies will not harm.

Jan Holler's picture

Agreed with all you say. I like her style also.The video is not up to it. About two light sources: If it is all about softness, a second light source will soften the shadows even more. It could be a reflective screen, a white wall or a second flash with modifier with -1 to -2 EV compared to the main flash (or farther away).
Babies or younger kids are not that difficult to photograph regarding the light. Their faces are soft, no wrinkles (no shadows), round round noses and chins.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Well either walls and roof in a small studio or some reflector are good. Never use two lights, don’t like the reflection of two lights in the eyes:)

Daniel Medley's picture

No mention of feathering the light. Thats an important one in this context.