Soft diffused light Rembrandt style

In the previous lighting set-ups, I used a strong direct light source to make the shadow areas and direction of the light completely obvious. But this style of light is rarely used for contemporary portraiture. These days, soft or diffused light is much more popular (see Figure 23.7).

In this example, I positioned the soft light source to the left and above the subject - Rembrandt style. Notice that the triangle of light is still visible but the edges of the shadow areas are much softer.

Professionals use special attachments for their studio flashes, called 'soft boxes', to create this type of soft diffused lighting. Some even use semi-transparent white umbrellas in front of their flash heads. You can replicate the same effect by passing your main light through some diffusion material before it falls onto your subject. You can use drafting or tracing film, or even an offcut of white sail cloth (the sort used by sail makers to construct the sails for sailboards). This also works well when you are photographing outside with the sun as your light source. Just place the diffuser between the sun and your subject.

Alternatively, you can bounce your light off an angled white board, or piece of polystyrene foam, that is positioned top left of the subject. All of these techniques work particularly well at softening the light falling on your subject.

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