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Simple Ways to Soften Lighting in Your Photos

March 21, 2012 IADT Tampa, Photography 0 Comments

Photography LightingWhether you’re dealing with harsh sunlight or a harsh camera flash, stark lighting can easily ruin your photos. In the wrong context, bright lighting can create unflattering shadows, make your subject’s complexion look washed out, or convey the wrong tone.

There are plenty of sophisticated gadgets and tools used by photographers to soften lighting in photos. But there are also several quick and inexpensive fixes that can help you in a variety of photography shoots. Check out this brief list of simple ways to soften the lighting in your photos.

Use a diffuser. One important lighting principle to keep in mind is that the larger the light source, the softer the light. Soft light is created when the rays are diffused or scattered. That’s why a large lamp isn’t as harsh as the focused beam of a flashlight.

If you can’t control the size of the light source, there are a few tricks you can try to diffuse the light. One is to cover your flash with a small piece of tissue, fixing it with tape. Feel free to experiment with different opaque materials. If you’re using an external light, cover it with a sheet or umbrella made out of a sheer white or beige material.

Use a reflector. Another approach to scattering light is to reflect it instead of diffusing it. A simple way to do this is to create a bounce card. Attach a piece of white index card or card stock below the flash at a ninety-degree angle. This will reflect the flash onto the ceiling if you’re shooting inside, lighting the whole room and decreasing the amount of harsh glare hitting your subject.

You can also place a photo umbrella near your subject to reflect the light. The outside of the umbrella will scatter the light rays. If you don’t have an umbrella on hand, use sheets of paper or white cardboard to achieve the same effect.

Use natural lighting effectively. Natural light offers great soft lighting in outdoor shoots. The simplest way to get soft natural light is to shoot at the right time of day. Dawn and dusk are the best times to shoot because the sun isn’t directly above you, and the rising and setting of the sun will create a warm, soft glow for your photos.

Use photo editing software. If it’s too late to change the lighting in the environment, you can try editing your digital photos using the right software. Apply a new layer with a “Gaussian blur” if you’re aiming for blurred edges, and look for a “soft light” feature while you browse your editing options.

This article is presented by IADT-Tampa. Contact us today if you’re interested in developing marketable knowledge and career-relevant skills with an industry-current degree program from IADT-Tampa.


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