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use a 50mm F1.8 lens, aperture set at F1.8, shoot on a cloudy day,or shoot in the shade so that your entire field of view in the lens is in the shade, make sure there is no area of brightly lit sun in the frame.... even if it's not cloudy, use cloudy white balance...
if you're digital, play with the settings in post. if you're not, pick the appropriate film. but like vaxorcist said, shoot when it's overcast. the light will be diffused.
Natural light will give you "soft". Shoot w/ diffused light (shade, clouds, etc.). You can adjust the colors in post if you want, I'd not worry about white balance (I just leave it on Auto unless it is something super specific, all the others distort too much).
The more wide open you are (I just did an entire shoot at 1.4), the softer the bg and colors will feel.
What vax said ;-)
Yes, shooting overcast will do it.
If you're shooting jpegs, go to the camera's image control settings in the menu. Turning down saturation and playing with hue/colour does make a difference. If you're shooting raw, they don't affect the photo, you need to adjust these settings in post.
it's funny, unless it's a really sunny day this is basically natural light outside, but people and agencies have gotten used to oversaturating their pics with instagram filters
^ in addition to my and JG_LB's post: the trick is to not have full black (#000) and full white (#fff) in the picture overall and not to touch the edges of the color picker. Less gap between the levels make the picture less saturated. In my example, I just dark the whites out and light the blacks up. (insert racist comment)
take photo - upload to laptop - email it to your phone - add VSCOcam filter - email back to laptop - post