1. The broader the lighting source, the softer the light on your subject. Therefore, the narrower the light source, the harder and more bright the light. A broad light source (or positioning a light further away from your subject) lessens shadows, reduces high contrast, and suppresses textures. A narrow light source (or positioning a light closer to your subject) increases shadows, increases contrast, and shows more texture. The reason for this is because with a broad light source, light rays hit your subject from more directions, which tends to fill in shadows giving more of an evenly illuminated scene. A great tip to creating a free and useful softbox is to position a subject near a large window that is letting in nice bright, non-directional sunlight, requiring just a photographer and a camera. Of course, living in Arizona, sunlight is usually easy to come by, giving plenty of opportunities to create this free softbox.
2. Diffusion scatters light, essentially making the light source broader, and therefore, softer. This happens, in a sense, when a cloud drifts in front of the sun. By this happening, the light is softened and shadows become less distinct. When adding fog to the situation, assuming those higher humidity days in Phoenix permit it, shadows would completely disappear. Therefore, clouds, overcast skies, and fog act as diffusion properties, which essentially means they scatter the light in many different directions. Thus, these naturally occurring elements make the entire sky a single and very broad light source, somewhat of nature’s rendition of a softbox. Essentially, to diffuse a harsh light source without the help of nature, such materials as translucent plastic or white fabric can be used in front of artificial light to scatter it on your subject.
3. Bouncing light acts as diffusion. If a narrow light source is aimed at a matte surface such as a wall, it will act as a diffuser, making the light broader and scattering it over a wider area. It is important that the surface be matte, as a shiny surface will bounce the light almost as narrow as the source. A great material that can be used that is not quite matte, but will add sparkly highlights, is aluminum foil. Crumbling up a big piece of this material and spreading it out again will create a majestic surface. Just wrap it around some cardboard to steady and position it, point your light at it, and shoot away.
You might also enjoy these:
- The top nine photography lighting facts every photographer should know: part 2 of 3