Direct, strong lighting produces hard-edged, dark shadows and is often used to emphasize texture. In portraiture, this style suits subjects with big and bold personalities and strong facial features.
Soft, diffused light is more delicate, creates light shadows and is often used to minimize texture. This lighting is by far the most popular style of portrait lighting, as it softly caresses sitters rather than starkly defining them.
Adapted from Langford’s Starting Photography by Michael Langford & Philip Andrews (Focal Press, 2009; $27)