Hard light used in photography is a point source of light, which produces a harsh and sharp shadow. Direct sun light and head on camera flash are examples of these type of hard and point source of light.
Contrast created by this type of light is more as compared to medium or soft light. This type of light is indispensable, when we have to capture texture on the surface of an object. As the light produces sharp shadow, element of texture is revealed with the help of small sharp shadows created within the surface area. These set of shadows produce the illusion and feel of texture.
Point source of light brings out maximum color saturation of the subject. This light is used in model and fashion photography, when we want to create an effect of direct sun light. However, we have to control contrast ratio with either second fill in soft light or by using silver reflectors to bring down the difference between the high light and shadow area within the latitude of digital image sensor. Or the result will be unpleasant with burnt out high lights and no details in the shadow area.
Shadow produced by point source of light is not possible to remove, even if we use a strong reflector. However, if the placement of shadow in composition is correctly done, it becomes important element in the photograph.
When the surface of a product or subject is glossy and polished, hard or point source of light is seldom used. In such case, the light will not help to show form of the subject and highly polished surface like stainless steel will turn out black in the photograph.
Unlike medium or soft light, a point source of light will remain point source, even if the distance between the subject and the light is increased. (Medium source of light will become point source and soft light will become medium light source if the distance is increased).
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Light attachments used in photography
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