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Soft light V. Hard light tutorial, breaking down 5 lighting setups in the photo studio

7/13/2021 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

There are two main approaches you can take in the studio, or on location. And which lane you choose will have a huge impact on the outcome of your images. You could choose to emulate window light, or you could choose to simulate sunlight.

As an aside, nighttime interior scenes can be a mix of the two.

Window lit images can be great for creating flattering light for most subjects and will look painterly, given that the Dutch master painters, whom we often seem to evoke, posed their  subjects near an open window.

Sun lit images tend to have harsh shadows and speculated highlights. This type of lighting can be great for athletes and adolescents, but it might not be the best choice for the textured skin of aging adults.

In the interest of exploring these two approaches, let’s go over five lighting setups.

About John Gress:

For over 20 years Chicago photographer & director John Gress has created stunning photography and videos for some of America’s largest companies and international media outlets.  His work has included national lifestyle advertising, portraits and videos for the beauty industry and action photography of professional athletes. Professional Photographer Magazine called Gress “one of the nation’s foremost experts on lighting.” Let's Get Connected: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | To learn more about my online learning platform please visit

Text, image and video via John Gress