Monthly #bvs capture challenge - May theme: HARD LIGHT

Monthly #bvs capture challenge - May theme: HARD LIGHT

Welcome to May and our next #bvs capture challenge!  Enter for your chance to WIN a £100 or £25 voucher

About the #bvs challenge

Our monthly challenges are open to everyone in the creative community, hosted via Instagram, co-hosted by myself (Sophie!) and some of our brand ambassadors – Anna, Suze, Matt or Patrick – plus special guest judges each month.

For each challenge we will share professional styling and photography tips and ideas that follow a monthly theme. The tips and themes explored should be useful in all still life photography - including food, product and lifestyle content.

We hope to inspire our community and be inspired ourselves – I always find it fascinating how people can interpret things differently and use the same theory in lots of different creative ways! 


Each month we shortlist four finalists and then the community votes for their winner via Instagram.  The winner will get a £100 BVS gift voucher and the runner up will receive a £25 BVS gift voucher.

Plus all winners from January - November will get the chance to be crowned the 2022 overall winner in December!


So let's introduce our May #bvs challenge and guest judge

The May 2022 challenge theme is hard light and we're chuffed to have Cath @cathlowephoto as our guest judge helping Anna, Suze and I select the finalists. 


'Food and drink photography endlessly fascinates me… there is no end to the play of light, shadows and textures in this delicious medium. I either shoot in my own studio, or on location. I regularly photograph for restaurants, magazines, events and food companies, covering every aspect from the product, to the staff in action, headshots, interiors, exteriors, or whatever you require. Whether on location, or shooting and styling your product in my home studio, I will work with you to ensure you get the feel and style for your product that fits with your brand.'


An incredible capture by Cath @cathlowephoto getting those beautifully defined feather shadows using direct, hard light


About our theme - using hard light


I am only just starting to play with and see the possibilities with using hard light in my photography - as a 99% natural-light-photographer I need direct sunlight to get hard light and strong shadows.

But its so much fun exploring this technique now I have some lighting kit! Strong, direct light gives you those hard edged, highly defined shadows rather than the softly graduating patches of darkness you get from soft - or diffused - light.

Typically, larger light sources (that will wrap light around your products and props) produce soft shadows, and smaller, single light sources (like slim, directional light) produce harder light and shadows because there is little or no other light softening the edges from other angles.

Even though the sun is a massive natural light, its so far away it acts like a small light source, so you’ll get hard shadows from direct (strong, not overcast) natural light.

I have been playing with a Godox VL200, taking the diffusion panels off to get a harder light.  I like the effect here but I think it would be harder if I took the softbox off completely or even channeled the light between black panels.

Light adapters for creating a harder light with a more distinct fall off are next on my shopping list - hard reflectors, grids (or honeycombs), barn doors (the flappy ones) and snoots (a conical tube to narrow and focus the light) are all great ways to reduce the spread of light.


hard light food photography tips styling stylist backdrops studio how to backgrounds product commercial derby


Playing with backlighting and hard light on the 'Puglia' rough peach effect backdrop


Photography tips for using hard light and creating defined shadows

  • alter the height of your light source to change the length of your shadows  
  • change the direction of the shadows by moving your light or set around
  • you can still lift or deepen the shadows of hard light by bouncing light back in off white card or absorbing more light with black card on the side of the set where your shadows are - this won't effect the fall off of the edge of the shadows, only the strength of them
  • investigate some of the adapters above or channel your light using black polyboards or card (away from the heat of the light!)


Styling tips when using hard light

  • consider your shadows in the composition as they will be strong elements
  • set up in a way that keeps enough of your shadows in the frame to make an impact
  • go bold - you could use more colour and pattern to balance the strong lighting
  • try placing solid objects on top of thin or transparent props to see how the shadows fall



A beautiful shot by Suze using a snoot on a single light source to really direct and narrow the light hitting the scene. Shot on the Powder backdrop.


Editing ideas for hard light photography 

  • play with the shadows and blacks to intensify the contrast
  • try gradient or brush masks to darken off any hot (over-exposed) areas due to using strong light
  • use the clarity and dehaze sliders to bring detail back in



Playful shadows captured by Anna @anna_janecka with hard light on the June photo backdrop

I hope that’s given you some ideas; hard light might be harder to access but it brings a lot of fun opportunities to your styling and photography!



How to enter 

  1. Follow all hosts and judges on Instagram - @blackvelvetstyling @anna_janecka @gourmetglow @cathlowephoto
  2. Have fun exploring hard light photography
  3. Post between 5th - 25th May 2022 using the hashtag #bvshardlight and tagging @blackvelvetstyling

Each entry will be judged on how you’ve used the technique and how you capture the essence of your subject with it.

We look forward to seeing your posts and announcing the four finalists on Instagram soon after the competition closes at midnight on the 25th May 2022.

Good luck!


Competition Rules

Entries don’t have to include our backdrops, our monthly capture challenges are about exploring different techniques.

Entries must stay on your feed for the duration of the competition and judging period if you are a finalist.

Four finalists will be selected shortly after close and announced via our Instagram stories.

The winner and runner up will be voted for by the public via our Instagram stories, this will be live for 24hrs.

The winner and runner up will be announced via our Instagram stories soon after close.

We only need your email address to deliver the prize.  We never ask for personal or bank details via email or private messages.

No purchase necessary to enter.

No minimum order necessary on the voucher prizes.  They will be valid for 12 months.

Open worldwide.

All decisions are final.

Not in conjunction or affiliated with Instagram in anyway.


Good luck, we can't wait to see your framing ideas!



Backlighting with hard light is fun with translucent or coloured drinks because it passes through them so strongly it makes them glow! Beautiful image by Suze @gourmetglow on the Spa tile effect backdrop

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