Quality of light - what it is and how to use it | Mosaicoon Lab

Quality of light: what it is and how to use it


When directors of photography mention the quality of light, they refer to the intensity, direction, color (warm or cold light) and type of the light source they choose to use. While the first three aspects are quite self-explanatory, the latter deserves a more detailed description.

Depending on how it touches on the scenery and the characters, light can be hard or soft. It is called hard when it’s direct and focused, creating crisp shadows and adding contrast to objects. On the other hand, soft light tends to “wrap” around objects, casting diffused shadows with soft edges and less contrast.

The hardness or softness of light also depends on the distance of the light source and on its size.

  • If there’s a short distance between the subject and the light source, the shadows will be soft; as the subject moves away from the light, the shadows will become increasingly harder.
  • The smaller the source of light compared to the subject, the harder the light (and vice versa – the bigger the subject, the softer the light).

Moreover, anything that contributes to diffuse the light – clouds, dust, fog, fabric, the diffuser of a flash – makes the light more uniform, thus softer.

The quality of light in a scene tells a lot about the characters, the atmosphere, and the place and time of the story we are watching. Understanding how it works is essential for anyone who makes videos, because different types of light on the same subject create completely different effects.

Quality of lightGenerally speaking, we can say that hard light adds drama to a scene, while soft light creates a warmer and relaxed mood.

In the following video by RocketJump Film School you can learn how to obtain a hard or soft light, and how to use it for different expressive purposes.

Enjoy it!