How To Make It Hard

Lighting using three small portable flashes with no additional modifiers. Two used for backlight and one on camera flash


How to Make it Hard

The advantages of using hard light- drama, vibrancy, sharp detail!

Soft Light Shooters On Every Corner
It seems like most photographers now a days enjoy shooting with soft light- a large light source usually diffused which creates very soft or no shadows. This is a very pleasant look and very suitable for all types of portrait photography including wedding, family, seniors, etc. The typical method is to match the ambient light (background exposure) with the light on the subject and use a wide open lens with a shallow depth of field. This often creates a lower contrast, romantic tone with a lot of blown out backgrounds on bright sunny days-  a VERY popular technique used by many photographers as their choice of technique. Why not? It sells, it’s easy, it pleases most clients, it’s popular, end of story… right? When was the last time you wanted to do something like everyone else? Uh, like never! Heck, that’s why we became artists so we can do the NOT so popular thing!
The consummate photographer who takes their work seriously loves to use all types of light to convey different types of tones and emotions. CAN I BRING YOU TO THE DARK SIDE? I often use hard light for much of my portraiture work to create rich colors, sharp detail and DRAMA with a high amount of light contrast.


What is Hard Light?
Hard light is created by a strong and small light source that creates sharp shadows. Most people think of sharp shadows and equate the notion of “yucky light”. However, I embrace this “yucky light” and use its qualities to create a completely different look especially combined with my “black box” method (eliminating ambient light). If you are not familiar with this technique please come and hear me lecture live or better yet download the best video in the world on small lighting techniques, my creativeLIVE CRAZY STUPID LIGHT, 3 day workshop!! Best $149 you can spend if you want to understand light!


Creating Hard Light WOW!
A great way to “wow” with hard light is to add backlight on your subject- use the bright sun or with my favorite method, FLASH i.e. using my inexpensive Strobie 130. Flash is small, portable and very easy to set up. If you don’t have backlight, separation light or rim light, then hard light doesn’t really work for me, BACKLIGHT is the KEY to using hard light and creating WOW!
To create drama with hard light, try making your background dark by raising your f-stop and lowering your ISO, especially indoors. Take a picture with your camera with out ANY flash and if it looks very dark or completely black, you’ve just created a “black box”. When indoors ISO 100, F8 or F11 and 1/100 will do it most likely! Now you are in control, you only allow the viewer to see what you want them to see by using and directing light on whatever you want visible in the frame.
Here are some examples of how I use hard light, all these pictures use bare, undiffused, small portable flashes, mainly my Strobie 230 and my wireless, radio controlled,  Tiny Trigger off camera lighting system.
Experiment and have fun, using hard light can open up a whole new look by adding drama, sharp detail, rich and vibrant colors to your portfolio. BE A COMPLETE PHOTOGRAPHER AND KNOW HOW TO USE SOFT OR HARD LIGHT.


Hard Light Images by Scott Robert Lim
I used multiple Strobie 130s ganged together on a Big Boy Bar to give a hard/soft light look
Interested in creating hard light? Check out my Strobie 130, the perfect tool for creating hard light. Your comments and likes appreciated and makes future posts better and more frequent, the more people express they like this type of post, the more I create! Hope you learned something.
July 20, 2013 - 3:42 pm

Randy Field - Scott! WOW!! You inspire me to dig much deeper into creative photography! Hopefully soon I’ll have examples like the ones in this article in MY portfolio!

July 20, 2013 - 4:41 pm

Eddie Lopez - Scott, Wanted you to know how much I appreciate your sharing. You really inspire me.

July 21, 2013 - 5:16 am

Albert McCall - Hello Scott,
I think your work is very inspiring. I enjoy the approach you take to photography. Here in Texas we like photography so why not plan a workshop in Houston?

July 21, 2013 - 9:28 am

admin - Working on a Houston tour as we speak!!

January 3, 2015 - 9:49 pm

Myke D Photography - Scott! Thanx soooo much for Crazy Stupid Light! I recently tried your ‘Black Box’ technique during a promotional shoot for a local band, and the images were a mega hit! Keep up the awesome work, man!

Your email is never published or shared.