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How to Diffuse Light in 4 Easy Ways

how to diffuse light

Regardless of where you shoot the wedding day images for your couple, there are always lighting challenges that present themselves. Is there one location where you constantly shoot but never know exactly what to expect for lighting conditions? Since you cannot always control the weather or the times of day you will be shooting, it is essential to know how to diffuse light to capture beautiful shots.

How to Diffuse Light

There are several types of lighting in photography. As a photo editing service for photographers, we see plenty of lighting scenarios that can happen during a shoot. Diffused light is usually softer than direct or natural light, and produces less sharply-defined shadows on your clients.

couple portraits diffused light

Image by ShootDotEdit Wedding Pro, Leeann Marie

Shooting in this type of light helps you capture details you may not see in harsher lighting, creating unique images your clients will love. Learning how to diffuse lighting may seem like it can be a hassle, but it is actually a simple process for you to incorporate into your shoots. We’ve put together 4 easy tricks to help you work with unflattering light and create images that are perfect for your couple.

1. Understand How Light Works

Before you begin diffusing the light, it is important to understand exactly how light works. The results you will get from the light start with how big the source is in comparison to your couple. It could be light coming directly from the sun and bounced off of a large flat surface, such as a white reflector or sunlight hidden behind clouds. Remember, the further away the light is, the smaller it becomes. This can mean that the harsher the lighting, the more unfavorable details are pointed out on your couples’ faces.

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Related: Can lighting dictate the pose you use?

Diffused light is flat and even, and can be one of the best lighting situations. When you place your clients under diffused light, there will be less of a chance that unflattering lines or shadows will fill their faces. Soft light helps you create beautiful images of your clients, which they will appreciate.

2. Use a Fabric Diffuser

As a busy photographer, it is necessary for you to have gear that you can quickly set up to assist you with diffusing the light. To gain more control of the way that light falls on your clients, use a fabric diffuser, such as a pop-up reflector. A fabric diffuser is portable, lightweight, and can typically be placed right in your camera bag. Some diffusers can attach to your camera, covering the flash to soften the light from your on-camera flash. 

As you shoot indoors, you can use a sheer piece of fabric to diffuse the light and create a natural window light look for your images. The idea is to separate your clients from the background, but avoid placing too much light on their faces. Using a fabric diffuser is a quick and inexpensive trick you can use to shoot with to create diffused light for the images.

3. Utilize Tools to Diffuse Light

In addition to using fabric diffusers, there are other tools you can use to create soft lighting. Try using a soft box, which is adaptable and portable for photographers to use. Place the soft box over spotlights or off-camera flashes to create flat and even lighting for your shoot. Soft boxes are resourceful light fillers since they do not cast harsh shadows on your couple, and the light is more controllable compared to a shoot through umbrella. Soft boxes can be easily used in any lighting situation and can give you the light you desire to use during the shoot.

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Learn Pro Lighting Techniques

Tip: In an outdoor shoot, place your off-camera flash on a light stand behind your couple, and have your second shooter hold the flash with the umbrella in front of them. Not only will this give you an even light, you will create a dramatic background for your image. Working with diffused light in this manner will utilize tools you already have to create some exciting images. For more information on how to use off-camera flash, read these 5 valuable tips.

4. Work with Natural Diffusers

In most of your wedding shoots, you will often have natural diffusers that can help you capture the shots you want to create with off-camera light. No – we’re not talking about off-camera photography gear that you bring with you or backlighting techniques – we’re talking about utilizing what nature gives you as your diffused light. This doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it is a simple way to incorporate diffused light photography into your shoot. The perfect example of a natural diffuser is when the sky is overcast and there are clouds that allow only a bit of light to shine through. The light you receive from this type of sky will be similar to what you could produce with equipment.

If you are in an outdoor shoot where the sky is clear and the sun is bright, reposition the bride and groom to a place that will provide shade. For instance, if you are shooting in an area that has surrounding buildings or trees, move your couple there to capture a diffused light. The objects you place the bride and groom under can help you bounce light, placing the right amount of light on their faces.

Having the ability to create and work with diffused lighting photography in any situation gives you the chance to produce beautiful images, regardless of the location of the shoot. The more control you have over the lighting situation, the better your images will look (and the happier your clients will be). Spend the extra time you have after sending your images to a photography post production company to start practicing with off-camera lighting. This will help you become more comfortable shooting in different situations and you will become a more capable photographer. Learn more about diffusing light during your wedding shoots with our Pro Photographer Lighting and Posing Guide!

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