Wrap -vs- Fill

These two terms frequently get used interchangeably, but they are different animals and they have a different effect on your image.

The easiest way to think of them is "wrap" is "softer lighting" with smoother/slower transitions from dark to light. And "fill" is "flater lighting" with less shadow overall.


Here is a drawing showing direct lighting.

In order to change the "wrap" (shadow transition) character we can do several things. We can change the effective size of the light by using a larger modifier (least effective). We can change the actual relative size of the light by moving it closer (most effective). Or we can feather the light source; either by changing the direction its pointed or by placing it off center (refinement).

Here is a drawing of feathering a lightsource by placing it off center.

By doing this we havent actually changed the direction of the shadows but we have allowed some more of the light to come in by seeing "around the corner." Because the light that is seeing around the corner is further away it is not as powerful and the effect is a more gradual shadow transition.

This image is an example of using a large light source (window) with a lot of wrap.

Lili by Onny Carr
Lili by Onny Carr


Here is a drawing of using a reflector for fill instead.

By adding fill we have added a second light source. We have not changed the characteristics of the shadows as created by the primary light source. What we are doing is "overpowering" the shadows created by the primary light source. The effect is that the shadows get lighter (filled in) with essentially the same transition qualities (hardness). The more fill we add, the lighter the shadow gets, until we have no shadow at all ("flat" lighting).

This is an example of using a second light for "fill" at a level equal to the main light.

Coworker Emily by Pat David

Coworker Emily by Pat David

Of course, you can also "feather" your fill light and get a combination of effects. And you can also use a light source that is so large and even as to cast no shadows in the first place. The overall results can be very similar, but it's "best" to think of them as two separate things IMO.

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