When a person snaps the camera button the shutter will open to the set aperture for a set length of time. The camera finds the light available and uses this light entering the lens to create the picture that you want. Called either found or ambient lighting, understanding soft and hard lighting is a major step to creating an awesome image.
Soft light is basically reflected or diffused from the light source to your subject. The method of deflection or diffusion does not matter for soft light. For instance, the light on an overcast day is softer than the than that on a sunny day.
In the world of architecture photography a soft lighting source would be something like a frosted window or a skylight. This difficulty with this type of lighting is that it can easily lead to under exposure and dark photographs with muted colors. You counter this effect by increasing the amount of light into the camera. The use of shutter speeds, increased exposures, or even ISO sensitivity will correct these issues.
Hard lighting is the exact opposite. Think of a floodlight, spotlight, or even sunshine. While this can give you very detail images, this type of lighting can lead to easy overexposure and your photographs looking flat and colorless. You solve this difficulty by turning the hard into a soft by using a reflector, or by increasing the shutter speed or even decreasing exposure. A trick in outdoor floral photography is to create shade by using a diffuser or a polar filter.
The use of a polar filter is also an another way to solve these problems. Just throw money at it. There are technological solutions available to help solve these exposure and lighting problems. You can spend a little money on things like a simple reflector or lots of money on high-end lighting systems. You can also create a do-it-yourself diffuser.
The only real limit you have to solve any problems you may meet is your level of experience, your imagination, and the limit on your credit card.
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