The True Power of Using Hard Light in the Studio

In this video, NY based fashion photographer Lindsay Adler talks about why she loves using hard light for her type of portrait and fashion style photography.

This might seem to be counter-intuitive since we keep talking about the importance of soft light and how appealing it is especially for portrait shots however Adler in this video explains why she loves using hard light so much and how – if you give it a chance – you can do so much with hard light beyond anything that you can with soft, diffused light.

First, you need to understand that this isn’t a competition and there is no correct answer here. Hard or soft lights are tools that will let you achieve your visual goal in different ways and can be used to accomplish different things.

Next, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both types of light. While soft light is much more forgiving, especially on skin, hard light tends to be far less forgiving and requires according to Adler a lot more care with makeup and, for better or worse, a lot more work in post to fix blemishes and issues in the skin.

So why use hard light at all? the simple answer is that it gives you the tremendous creative freedom to cut and shape the light and make it an important part of your composition and not just a secondary player. Playing with light and shadows can help you create shapes, patterns, hide or reveal parts of your model and create much more dramatic looks that are practically impossible with soft light.

We would like to mention that a good place to start working with hard lights which is a good first step before you try it with live models is product photography. Still, life is much less forgiving typically for use with hard light, it doesn’t move (there is a reason why they call it “still life”) and it gives you the opportunity to try different things and experiment in length before applying those skills to a real human model.

You can find many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section as well as lighting techniques here on LensVid. You can find all of Adler’s other videos we have published here in the past on this link.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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