January 11, 2018

Soft Lighting 101: How to Light a Scene the 'Pretty' Way

Soft light: What is it and what is it used for?

There are many lighting techniques filmmakers use to bring out the natural beauty of a subject, but using soft light is one of, if not the, most popular and conventional way to do it. If you're unfamiliar with what exactly soft light is, how to achieve it, and how it can be used in your projects to make things look "pretty," Ted Sim of Aputure explains the basics in this helpful video. Check it out below:

What is soft light

Soft light is characterized by the way it wraps light evenly around subjects and its ability to diffuse shadows, resulting in soft edges. In other words, you won't see any harsh shadows, dark areas, bold textures, or much contrast on your subjects.

The "prettiest" kind of light

So, what is soft light used for? Well, traditionally it's considered to be the most elegant, flattering, or "pretty" type of lighting. So, you'll see it used a lot in scenes that want to communicate beauty, innocence, glamour, or happiness. It can also be used when filmmakers want to establish a more neutral tone since hard shadows tend to make a bolder statement about the emotions on screen.

Killing unwanted shadows

Soft light can also be used to fix unwanted shadows created by other light sources. For example, if you've got an unflattering contrast ratio between your key and fill that results in awkward shadows, you can use a soft fill to counteract that. Furthermore, if you're lighting a green screen you'll want to use soft lighting to kill any and all shadows that may be cast on your backdrop.

How to create soft lighting

Now that you know what soft light is and what you can use it for, you'll probably want to know how to create it. Light sources like china balls are great for creating this look, but light modifiers like bounce boards, silks, and other diffusion material are also effective. These items are especially helpful if you're shooting a scene in which your camera and your subject are moving.

Lighting is certainly a challenging art form, but hopefully, after watching the video, you feel more confident to try your hand at soft lighting. Now go out and make some pretty pictures!     

Your Comment

1 Comment

Soft lighting is not just about making things look "prettier", it's also about getting better rolloff between darker and lighter tones, especially if you dont have a camera with 15 stops of DR. It's also a good way to add ambient dimensionality without looking like diliberate lighting.

This can be seen in the world of 3D rendering. If you've ever seen the difference between regular light sources, and global or ambient occulsion you will understand exactly what I'm trying to articulate. Ambient occulsion produces bounced light and there for brings up shadows, which is very similar to soft lighting, and longer gradient-diffused shadows. I would post examples if I could.

In my view, lighting is everything in cinema.

January 14, 2018 at 8:38PM

0
Reply