How to Create Soft Light: Move it close! REALLY close!

CatherineHall Editorial-101


Tune in at 1:30 Pacific time today on TWiT TV for a live demo of this particular tip and guest of the show, Photographer Agent Frank Meo.

Here’s the deal. The softer a light source is, the more attractive it appears when lighting a subject’s face and skin. Soft does not mean flat. You can still achieve plenty of drama by changing the ratio between your fill light and your soft key light. Softness is a factor of various elements. One if these elements is size … (now here is the important part) … with respect to the subject. This means you can have a small softbox and if it is literally on top of your subject, it will achieve a softer light than large octabank that is 10 feet away.

Why does this happen? The inverse square law is why. Because of how measurements in three dimensional space work, light sources become four times smaller and less bright when they are moved twice as far away (and 9 times smaller and less bright when they are moved 3 times further away, etc.) So if you have an 8 foot diameter octabank (Big, right?) that is 10 feet from your subject and a 2ft by 3ft softbox that is 2 feet away, the small softbox will appear much bigger to your subject and therefore will be much softer.

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