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Hard vs Soft Light: A Look at the Effects of Diffusion Panels


Here’s a 3-minute video by photographer Francisco Hernandez that shows the difference diffusion panels can make for an outdoor portrait. There are both pros and cons to hard or soft light, but knowing which one to use and when is always handy.

Hernandez is no stranger to lighting and how it is best used. He’s previously shown how to combine ambient light with flash for better outdoor portraits, as well as what differently sized octaboxes can achieve.

This time he starts by setting up two diffusion panels on a flash, capturing a shot of the model on a bridge. Each panel does cut the light by one stop, but it hides imperfections on the skin and reduces the chances of hot spots developing.

Next, he removes one of the panels. This introduces more light, with a nice contrast, but increases chances of hot spots and imperfections appearing.

Finally, without any diffusion panels, we see a more intense light and further contrast. It even has the chance of highlighting details in the clothing, but imperfections become much clearer and hot spots develop.

From left to right: 2 diffusers, 1 diffuser, no diffusers.

Throughout the video, he takes his diffusion panels and model to various locations, and the effect of the change in the setup is clear when you compare the results side-by-side:

For more lighting tutorials and comparisons, head over to Hernandez’s channel.