How to achieve super soft light

Here's a way to achieve super soft light with a great amount of control without spending a fortune.

In today’s post I will show you a technique which is quite similar to the one from my last tutorial, but gives you far more control. Last time we used a bare speedlight bouncing off a neutral coloured wall to enhance or imitate natural window light. Today we stick with one single speedlight to create our own portable window light! But before we dive into explanations, I want to show you a result of that technique:

As a backdrop I used two thin wooden boards of the type that is used as backs of cupboards, that were gaffer- taped together. But you can use the corner of any white painted room as well. As you see, the light is very even and very soft. And the great thing about this setup is, that the unbelieveably elaborated lightmodifier costs just about 5 Euros… 🙂

I bought an IKEA shower curtain through which I fired my speedlight.  In the studio I nailed it to a wooden frame so that it’s easy to setup, but on location I usually tape it to the ceilling, in front of a window, put it a boom stand or simply ask somebody to hold it.

Changing the zoom settings of your speedlight, you can vary the softness of the light by changing the lit area of the shower curtain. By changing the distance between flash and diffusion material, you can change the specularity. So if you have problems with reflections in glasses for example, just move your flash head further away from the shower curtain and you get rid of the reflections immediately.

So it’s literally just a piece of translucent fabric that gives you an amazing amount of control about your light. A control that a softbox can’t offer you, because with most softboxes the distance between lightsource and diffusion material is fixed.

If you don’t get any plain white shower curtains in your area, a bed sheet,  table cloth, a neutral coloured curtain or any other partly translucent material will just do fine. Some let more light pass through than the other, but as long as they let light pass through, they all work!

Here is the lighting diagram of the above shot:

Some diffusion material I always carry with me, because it offers you so many ways to shape your light, cost nearly nothing, are REALLY lightweight and fold up extremely small. Besides that, you can use them as backdrops, to place between your model and a dirty surface (important for weddings) or even as reflectors to bounce some light back into the scene.  For me one of the most used modifiers…

As a little recap – you have three ways to shape your light with these modifiers:
1. Moving the diffuser closer to your subject will result in higher lighting contrast due to quicker light fall off.
2. Reducing the lit area of the diffusor will give you harder light, enlarging it will result in softer light.
3. Increasing the distance between flash and diffusor will lead to a reduced specularity and vice versa.

If you have some questions, just drop a line in the comments below!
– Martin –