Hard light is created by placing the model in front of a strong, directional light source.
This creates a defined gradation between light and shadow as the light hits the subject. Generally in portrait photography, the most beautiful images are created by using soft light; however hard light can be used to a striking, dramatic effect.
As the light source is strong and directional, a small portion of the face will be highlighted and defined areas, or stripes of shadow will appear.These strong areas of shadow can be used to create a cinematic or film noir feel. The shadow will leave some of the face partially obscured and therefore create a sense of intrigue for the viewer. By creating a generally darker mood to your photo using a sinister setting or darker clothing you can amplify a sense of storytelling.
Where the light hits, hard light will tend to highlight all the features and textures of the model’s face and surroundings. This can in many cases create a less flattering image, however it can be used effectively to create a very intimate and real image as well. If focusing on textures, try converting to black and white to emphasise this quality.
If you wish to create a dramatic effect in your photography and you are working on an overcast day without strong, directional light, try experimenting with an artificial light or flash.
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