Last week I briefly mentioned soft vs hard lighting as well as warm vs. cool. This week I would like to expound on that a little more. This is still just basic information but I hope it will help you understand light a little better.
What makes light hard?
To determine whether a light source is hard or soft, look at the shadows and highlights. If the shadows are too dark and the highlights are too bright, than the light is hard. Because of this, the edges between shadow and highlight will be very defined. The only time you would want to use hard light is if you are strategically trying to make a scene appear very edgy.
If the light source is small or far away (making it appear small) then the resulting light will be hard. An example of hard or harsh light is the sun.
What makes light soft?
As stated before, the best way to determine if a light is soft, is to look at the shadows. If the light is soft, you will notice less of a different between highlight and shadow. Soft light is much more flattering for portraits.
If the light source is large or close (making it appear large) then the resulting light will be soft. An example of soft light would be a large studio light with a soft box or a diffused window.
What does warm/cool light mean?
The phrase “warm light” or “cool light” refers to the color temperature of the light. Color temperatures are measured in Kelvin and can range from red, to white, to blue.
What is warm light?
A warm light would appear as a red/orange color in your photo. The sun is an example of a warm light source.
What is cool light?
Using a cool light source would result in a blue cast on your images. An example of cool light is an LED screen. You will also notice a blue cast in photographs taken in the shade or on an overcast day.