Hard Lighting is a type of direct lighting that creates harsh and unpleasant shadows across the subject's face. This is the lighting you'll often come across in real life. As such, blockbuster movies will often use hard lighting because it's often more realistic and gritty looking; figuratively cutting the audience's teeth on the edgy shadows of the film.
Soft Lighting, as the name implies, is a type of light that bathes the subject in very soft and smooth light. This type of light often wraps around the subject and hides their blemishes, giving a youthful and beautiful look. Soft light = soft skin. You know who likes soft skin? Beauty commercials.
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