Whether you're the all-in-one filmmaker or strictly work in cinematography, knowing the differences between different types of light is essential to shaping it.
In this helpful video, Sareesh Sudhakaran of wolfcrow gives us a quick lesson on 4 different types of light: hard, soft, diffused, and specular. He details the special qualities of each, as well as how to get each one using different techniques—and yeah, he also explains the distinction between soft and diffused light.
This video is a useful primer on the subject. It's easy to follow and there aren't too many complicated concepts for beginners to get tripped up on. But the important thing to take away isn't necessarily the knowledge that there are different types of light out there for you to use when you light a scene. Instead, it's about learning how to utilize those types of light to serve your story.
Take hard light for example—it basically became one of the most notable trademarks of film noir. Films like The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity took the hard shadows and fast falloff created by its famous chiaroscuro lighting and turned them into visual indicators of impending doom.
So, the next time you watch a film, take note of the shadows as well as how the light spreads over the subjects. Then ask yourself how these things affect the scene—do they create a sense of tranquility and happiness or anxiety and fear? Do they make the subjects look glamorous and beautiful or rugged and harsh? With enough study and practice you'll start to really be able to identify the different types of light Sudhakaran discusses in his video, as well as how they contribute to storytelling.