Hard Light vs. Soft Light
No matter where you’re at in your photography journey, lighting is one of the most important elements. It can completely refocus your subject and really level up your photos. There are various types of lighting, but the 2 most important to understand are hard light and soft light. Let’s examine each one!
Hard light focuses on creating harsher, defined shadows from your subject. To add hard light to your photos, cast a single point of light on your subject to get the darker shadows. See the photos below as an example. To shoot this Jungle Bird Cocktail on the left, we used a palm frond prop and one artificial light (I recommend the Godox SL-60 LED Video Light or the Aputure Amaran 200d LED) with no attachments or diffusion to get that crisp, defined shadow.
Soft light focuses on diffusing shadows and creating blurrier edges. There will be minimal shadows from your subject if any. See the photos below, and notice how there are softer shadows around the subject compared to the above photos. To create soft light in your photos, use a diffuser over your light source. For example, if you’re using natural light from a window, try using a sheer, white bed sheet over the window. The goal is to get your light source as wide and as evenly spread out as possible to create soft lighting in your photos.
There’s no right or wrong answer, it depends on your subject and preference. Travis and I use both forms of lighting when shooting cocktails and mocktails. We tend to stick with softer lighting but we’ve been playing around with hard lighting recently and we’ve been loving the end result! If you’re curious about how to shoot with shadows, check out my other post here.
Now that you know more about hard and soft lighting and the differences, take a look at the two photos and let me know which one you prefer! Both photos feature the Watermelon Rosé Fresca, but the photo on the left displays hard light where you can see the more defined shadows. Versus the photo on the right side which shows a less defined shadow. Which one do you prefer?!
And If you’re interested in taking Insta-worthy photos of your cocktails too, check out my free training on how to take Food & Drink Photos on a Budget!