The Size of the Light Source
About the Difference Between Hard- and Soft Light
Photographer Urs Recher has been involved in photography for a good 17 years. He is responsible for all the advertisement photography for Broncolor, Visatec, and for Kobold which are daylight, halogen and tungsten lamps.
A specialized shoot for women's portraits is what Recher shares with the FotoTV viewers today: beauty shots, and the affects of using different sizes of light sources as well as define the difference between “hard” and “soft” lights so afterward the light can be implemented precisely. Most importantly, the difference pertains to the size of the light source.
Recher begins by shooting with a soft box that is relatively far away from the subject that will produce a very “hard” light, actually a two-dimensional light consisting of just light and shadows, without gradation. Then, he changes the size, as well as the distance of my light source. This results in a softer light. It significantly affects the skin and it’s appearance. The skin appears more matte, less reflective, and less shiny. Therefore, a more three-dimensional photo is achieved and the skin will have more gradation in its tones, a three-dimensional illumination, not just light and shadows.
Recher rarely uses a light meter when working anymore. He relies on viewing the Polaroid or looking at the preview image, in this case the display monitor. In the beginning of the film we saw the enormous influence the distance of the light source had on the model and on the harshness of the light. That meant the further the light was away from the model, the harder and more two-dimensional it was. The gradation between light and shadows were more abrupt. The farther away the light was placed the brighter it would have to be to light up our entire set-up. The light being so bright will have a harsh or domineering effect on such features and aspects such as the direct reflection on the eyes, lips and the tip of the nose, on shiny skin, or with people who wear glasses. When the light source is brought extremely close to the model or subject, reducing the distance, the light can be dimmed and the light source output power is much lower. Still resulting in wonderfully exposed skin tones, but no longer with the disturbing reflections on the lips, in the eyes, and areas on the face without adequate make-up.
Recher gives FotoTV further important information on fill lights and selecting the right values with the RGB mode in Photoshop to collectively achieve a striking, beautiful woman's portrait.