When a person snaps the camera shutter the shutter will open to the set aperture for the 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 found light or ambient lighting, understanding soft and hard lighting is a major step to creating an awesome image.
Two of the most common forms of lighting are soft and hard light.
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 light on a sunny day.
In the world of architecture photography a soft light 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 light into a soft one by using a reflector, or by increasing the shutter speed or decreasing exposure. A trick in outdoor floral photography is to create shade and using diffused light. Yet another solution is by the use of accessories like a polar filter.
The use of a polar filter is in line with yet another way to solve these problems. 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. Another way to save money is to create a do-it-yourself diffuser. Or you can go for the big techno gadgetry with light meters and flash controls.
The only real limit you have to solve any lighting problems you may meet is your level of experience, your imagination, and the limit on your credit card.
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