Cinematography

The Science of Soft Lighting

Creating a beautiful soft light can enhance your glamour shots, your interior day scenes, and the actors will forever love you for making them look great. There can be a lot of questions and misconceptions regarding soft light. For the most part, you can bounce or diffuse light to achieve a soft effect. In this post, we will be looking at the “science” behind achieving this effect.

The softness of the light depends on two things: size of the light source and distance. With that being said, your light source becomes what you bounce your light on, or what your shine your light through. If you are filming a night scene and you want some soft moonlight, you may bounce a light like in the example below. The light is no longer your source, it’s what you are bouncing your light on. The bigger your bounce, the softer the light.

The other factor is distance, and this is simple to grasp. Set up a light and find yourself a round object like a golf ball. Bring the golf ball closer to the light, and you will notice that the light on the ball has a nice “wrap” around it. Start to bring the ball away from the light and you will see the soft wrap go away. This concept is the same no matter what situation.

Try this out! Go do some tests and experiment with your lights. There are infinite ways to light a set, and the best way to learn is to keep doing it. Find some examples in your favorite movies and replicate them.

No matter what, keep practicing!


Josh Layton

Josh Layton is a 21-year-old cinematography student from Pennsylvania. He attends school at Center for Creative Media, a Christian film school in Tyler, TX. He draws much of his inspiration from adventure and being in nature. He cites bacon as one of his greatest creative muses.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *