How to use Diffused Lighting

Diffused lighting is commonly found in fashion and commercial photography. Diffused light is light that is shooting through diffusion material to make it soft. Before we can talk about how to achieve and use diffused light, we must first understand the difference between hard and soft light.

Hard vs. Soft Light

Go outside on a sunny day and notice how harsh the day light looks and how many shadows it creates. Then, go outside on an overcast day and notice the lack of shadows. The light from the sun on a sunny day is unobstructed and travels in one direction. This is hard light and it creates harsh shadows. The light on an overcast day has to pass through the clouds on its path to the Earth. This causes the light to be scattered in all directions and gives us a lack of shadows. This is soft light.

Diffusion works like the clouds. It's positioned between the light and the subject to create soft light. But why would you prefer soft light over hard light?


Because of the multi directional nature of soft light, most people use it because it creates soft, unnoticeable shadows. It wraps its self around an object and is generally more flattering than hard light. 

When dealing with a hard light source, you would have to use flags and cutters to shape the light and keep it from falling off on objects that would create shadows. Soft light can just generally be there without causing harsh shadows and is a fast way to create great looking images. 

Because of its soft shadows, it is commonly used in commercial photography (where the product is the star) and fashion photography. It's also used to film and TV because it makes faces look much more flattering and blemish free.

How to Achieve Diffused Light

Light can be diffused either by shining it through an object or by bouncing it. There are many materials that can be used for diffusion such as white diffusion, muslin, silk and shower curtain. Simply place the diffusion between the light and the subject to get diffused light. Keep in mind that heavy material diffuses light more than lighter material, but this result happens as a sacrifice to light intensity.

Bounced light happens when the light source is a bounce material (something big and white). Bead board, a Styrofoam material used in construction, is a excellent bounce card. A light is shined at the bead board, which bounces the light to the subject. This creates a very nice soft light, however, you may need a large light to achieve this effect since a lot of intensity is lost in this process.

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