The Wide World of Light Modifiers

We at LumoPro get a lot of questions about lighting. “How much weight can I put on my light stand?” “Why won’t the zoom on my flash change?” “When will a firmware upgrade be available to make my flash compatible with my drone?”

But one of the most common (and subjective) questions we get is “What modifier should I use?”. This one’s a toughie, as it’s dependent on quite a few variables. So today I’m going to talk about a few different types of modifiers, and the benefits and drawbacks of each one.

Small Modifiers

First up are small modifiers, like the LightSwitch. These modifiers usually mount directly on the flash itself and provide reflection or diffusion for the light your flash is putting out.

The biggest benefit of small modifiers is their size. They can be used on- or off-camera, squeezed into tight spaces on location and don’t take up much space or weight in your bag. Generally, small mods are very easy to set up, as it pretty much just involves attaching the modifier directly to the flash head. They are also a low cost option, with products like the Rogue FlashBender, starting at just $19.

Mannequin shot with LumoPro LightSwitch

Shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8
Flash power: 1/8
Flash zoom: 70mm
Flash-to-subject distance: 24″

The downside of small modifiers is that you are getting less surface area reflecting the light. For shooting smaller subjects, this is not a concern as the relative size of the light will still be big enough to provide soft, even light. But the lack of size will not work well for full body shots or multiple subjects.

Relative light size example

Bigger light (relative to the size of your subject) equals softer light!

Umbrellas

Moving on to umbrellas! These are most people’s de facto first modifier, and for good reason. Several reasons actually. Umbrellas are inexpensive and don’t take up much space. They create a larger relative light size, which means you’re getting softer (some would say more pleasing) light. Plus, umbrellas are a cinch to setup. If you’ve ever used a rain umbrella, you’ve already got it down.

Umbrellas are also incredibly versatile. There are a wide range of sizes available, and some models, like our 3-in-1 Umbrella, come with a variety of diffusion options in one compact package. Challenge yourself to only shooting with one light and one umbrella for a month – you’ll be amazed at the diversity of the images you can create.

Mannequin shot with white shoot through umbrella

White Shoot Through Umbrella
Shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8
Flash power: 1/8
Flash zoom: 70mm
Flash-to-subject distance: 24″

White Bounce Umbrella

White Bounce Off Umbrella
Shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8
Flash power: 1/8
Flash zoom: 70mm
Flash-to-subject distance: 24″

Downside? An umbrella is basically a light grenade. You don’t have much control over light spill, and you are going to have light going all over the place.

There are certainly ways to mitigate this, like by feathering your umbrella or using flags, but it’s important to understand all the same.

Softboxes

Next up are softboxes. These are the workhorses for many studio photographers. Softboxes are commonly found in four shapes: rectangle, strip*, octa and square**. Within those shapes there is a wide range of sizes available. You’ll want to choose the shape and size that work best for the subjects you shoot most often.

*Yes, we know it’s still technically a rectangle.  **YES, we know all squares are technically rectangles. Enough with the geometrical semantics already!

Examples of softbox shapes

Octaboxes, rectangles, stripboxes – oh my!

Softboxes offer lots of control over the direction of your light. Provided you know how to properly position your softbox, you’ll have few issues with light spill. Even fewer, if you use a grid with your softbox. Not only will a grid cut down even further on spill, but it will also give a more contrasty look to your light.

There are two main drawbacks to using softboxes. The first is longer setup time. Putting together a softbox, especially on location, is definitely more involved than popping open an umbrella. Some models, like LumoPro’s full range of softboxes, include features to make setup a much smoother process.

Softbox zipper makes setup quick and easy

Softboxes are also a larger investment than small modifiers or umbrellas. Not only is the cost of the softbox itself higher, but you will also need to think about how you will mount the box to your stand, whether you are using speedlights or monolights. Many photographers find the added cost worth it for what they find to be a “better” quality of light and more control.

Beauty Dish

Finally, we have the beauty dish. The beauty dish (some people just call it a reflector, but we think that’s confusing) is commonly used for, you guessed it, beauty shots. This modifier is very popular with portrait photographers for the distinctive, contrasty light it produces, which highlights detail in a pleasing way.

The light from a beauty dish is direct, but softer than a bare flash. This is because the beauty dish is a reflective modifier, not a diffusion modifier. Meaning the light bounces around the dish before hitting the subject, but does not go through any type of diffusion material. Unless you put a diffusion sock on the dish, then it’s both reflective AND diffusion! You can also add a grid to most beauty dishes to add even more contrast to your light.

Mannequin shot with beauty dish

Beauty Dish with 2 Flashes
Shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8
Flash power: 1/8
Flash zoom: 70mm
Flash-to-subject distance: 24″

Mannequin shot with beauty dish + diffusion sock

Beauty Dish + Diffusion Sock with 2 Flashes
Shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8
Flash power: 1/8
Flash zoom: 70mm
Flash-to-subject distance: 24″

Mannequin shot with beauty dish + grid

Beauty Dish + Grid with 2 Flashes
Shot at ISO 400, 1/200, f/8
Flash power: 1/8
Flash zoom: 70mm
Flash-to-subject distance: 24″

There are two tradeoffs when working with a beauty dish. First, is price. While the LumoPro beauty dish model is extremely reasonable, it is still more of an investment than an umbrella and even many softboxes. However, if you’re after that beauty dish look, it’s well worth the cost.

The other challenge of a beauty dish is transportation. Both the size and fragility of a beauty dish can make it difficult to get your beauty dish from place to place – especially if you’re flying. Your best bet is to get a case for your beauty dish and do your best to protect the dish from bumps and bruises.

Conclusion

There are plenty of modifier options that haven’t been covered here, and new ones pop up every day! The best way to choose the right modifier for you is to consider what factors are important to you (size, cost, ease of use) and what kind of subjects you shoot most often. And if you still have questions, our support team is always happy to help evaluate your needs and make a recommendation.

New Accessories from LumoPro!

We’ve recently launched three new accessories to make your gear bag even more handy. First up is the LP681 Male 1/4”-20 to Male 1/4”-20 Adapter, which connects accessories with female 1/4”-20 threads together.

This simple brass adapter is perfect for rigging video equipment and features a hex nut center for easy tightening. Attach the adapter to your camera, radio trigger, microphone or even the side 1/4”-20 mount on your LP180!

Next, we are introducing our own line of gaffer tape! If you’ve been photographing for long, you’ve probably run into a problem that can be solved with gaff tape. This matte black tape is easy to tear by hand and won’t leave residue on whatever surface you adhere it to.

We’re kicking things off with two sizes – LP729 1″ x 8 yd and LP730 2″ x 50 yd. Both sizes are currently available in black and can serve a wide variety of purposes.

The 1” roll’s small size and weight gives you all the handy benefits of having gaff tape on hand, without the extra bulk in your bag. This tiny tape is even small enough to carry around in your pocket.

The 2” roll is ideal for heavy duty or high volume use, such as hanging backdrops or taping down cables. Keep a roll in your gear bag, or wrap a long piece around the leg of your light stand or tripod and tear off shorter lengths as you need it.

Whether you need to attach gels to a flash, tape down cables or just create an impromptu adhesive bandage, this gaffer tape has you covered.

All three new LumoPro products can be purchased from our authorized dealers worldwide!

Quick Fill Solution for Empty Sandbags

The age-old struggle: you have modifiers; the wind has force. And that’s how you end up with an unintentional (and unwanted) sail when shooting outdoors. What can you do about it, you ask? Well, sandbags are a good start. While a sandbag won’t reverse the sail effect, it will help to prevent your light stand from falling over in the first puff of wind.

LP515 Empty Sandbag (15lb Cap)

Behold, a sandbag. Holder-down of wind-blown light stands.

Empty sandbags, like the LumoPro LP515, are simple to use, help to secure your setup and are pretty inexpensive. This kind of sandbag has zippers on either side that allow you to fill the sandbag with whatever you fancy.

Empty sandbag with zippers open

Check out that double zip action!

But once filled, those suckers are heavy (kind of the point, I know). So now you have a new problem – you have a way to stabilize your stands, but you’re hauling around extra weight equivalent to the average 2 year old.

Sandbag over the leg of a light stand

Just a sandbag hanging out.

One solution is simple, but brilliant at the same time – fill your sandbags with bottled water. Think about it. You already have water bottles on location anyway for your subject, crew or assistant (because YOU are a kind and thoughtful photographer). You can use those bottles for ballast in your sandbags and keep your shoot participants happy with refreshing beverages.

The best part? You don’t have to pack heavy sand bags back to the car! (Just don’t forget to gather up the empties. No one likes a litterbug!)

Plus, you get to avoid the hassle and mess of filling the sandbags with sand or gravel. Easy. Clean. Thoughtful. It’s a win-win-win.

Sandbag hanging on boom arm

Now obviously, this isn’t the perfect solution for every situation. If you’re working in a hot environment, your subject will probably appreciate water from a cooler more than one that’s been baking in the sun. In those cases, extra grip equipment, like clamps or gripheads, also work great.

So there you go. An easy tip to make your sandbag slinging easier. Do you have a creative solution for filling sandbags or dealing with flyaway light stands? Let us know in the comments, or post a shot to Instagram and give us a tag!

Garrett Martin Shoots High-Flying Ballerinas

This is a guest blog by Garrett Martin. All images and media used with permission.

I remember a day… One when we had to carry a million pounds of lights and batteries to beat the sun on location. You’d get stuck shooting 1/200 at f16 with your 70-200mm just to keep that “narrow” DOF look, but still control the light no matter where you go. Oh, those were the… what am I saying?! I don’t miss that at all. I’m sure my assistants don’t miss lugging around all that gear either!

Early on I had made the switch to LumoPro when they introduced the LP180 flash. Let’s face it, sometimes I’m a little rough with my equipment [ed. note: sometimes, Garrett? Two words for you: ceiling fan… 🙂 ]. After a few repair bills from my old *BIG-BRAND* speedlights, it was an easy choice to invest in flashes that were a fraction of the cost and that packed in all the same functionality – even more in some cases. I rationalized it to be cheaper to just buy a new speedlight when I smash them to smithereens!

When LumoPro dropped the LP180R flash with the high speed sync, this was a game changer. Being able to shoot f1.8 in direct sunlight is a dream. I ditched pounds of equipment for speedlights that will beat the sun and keep my assistant from sweating all over my model when I want some beautiful clam shell lighting in the middle of a field on a cloudless day at noon… why not?! I can!

High flying in the sunshine

I cut my teeth in the wedding industry, but find myself doing much more commercial work lately. One of my main clients, Explore Licking County, definitely keeps me on my toes. We’re always cooking up something new and exciting to shoot. Recently, we’ve been pulling together ideas to better promote The Arts in Licking County. “Art Lives Here” was the brainchild of Dan and Carol from Explore Licking County, and it was my job to bring it to life, visually.

The idea grew from the need to fill ad space in a local theater flyer that would run this year. We wanted to take performing art off the stage and into the county. After a good round of brainstorming and a model search post on social media, we had our locations and ballerinas.

Advertisement for Explore Licking County

Advertisement for Explore Licking County Photo by Garrett Martin

As you can see in the video, my assistant never breaks a sweat! During the shoot we were in bright direct sunlight, in the shadows of the alley and in the light of sunset on a river bed. Logistically, a lighting nightmare, but with my LP180R’s it was a breeze. Add in the ability to control everything with my Phottix Odin transmitter – I never have to leave my camera, and I can completely change my lighting in 2 seconds.

To say I love my LP’s is an understatement. Mixed with the right modifier, I have a studio anywhere, and it doesn’t take carrying crates of equipment onto location to get the job done.

Garrett Martin is a wedding, commercial and portrait photographer based out of Central Ohio. As a self taught photographer, he’s had a camera in his hand as long as he can remember. Garrett has been the owner and lead photographer at Martin Digital since 2004. To see more of Garrett’s work, visit http://martindigital.co/.

Giving Back to the Community Using LumoPro Gear

This is a guest blog by Daniel T. Jester. All images used with permission.

Community is always a big part of a photographer’s life. Photography tends to be a hyper-local endeavor, and the community where you work and live is often your source of inspiration, clients, and lasting relationships – both personal and professional.

I work as a professional commercial photographer in Riverside County, CA. The team I work with recently connected with the local chapter of Help Portrait to offer our skills and services back to the community. We planned a local event where we offered free portrait sessions, complete with hair and make up services, photography, retouching and refreshments.

My small part in planning this event was to lend my expertise in lighting, process, and workflow, so that we could offer this experience to as many people as possible.

The original plan was to ask volunteer photographers to provide their personal equipment to the event. We needed enough lighting and grip equipment to build out four portrait sets. As we started gathering lists of what everyone had, it occurred to me that in order to create the smoothest, easiest experience for our guests, we should standardize our equipment wherever we could.

BTS 3

That’s when I turned to my friends at LumoPro. I love my LP180 flashes, and if there is one thing I know about LumoPro, it’s that I can trust them. LumoPro generously lent us enough LP180s, light stands, background stands, and miscellaneous grip equipment to put together four identical sets. All we had to do was plug one of our photographer’s cameras in to each set, and they could start shooting portraits.

Family BTS

The event was a massive success, due in no small part to LumoPro’s support. The team at LumoPro came through, the equipment performed beautifully, and we were able to process over 80 portraits sessions over the course of a few hours.

Here are a few of my favorites from the day.

20170218-_mg_0248IMG_5043cm0b0430dsc_7413HP.4CM0B0204HP.2HP.3

Connect with Daniel on Twitter or his blog. Or see more of his work at http://www.danieltjester.com/

Gina Manning’s Conceptual Fashion Shoot with LumoPro Modifiers

A big part of fashion photography is making your images stand out, and one major contributing element to a unique look is lighting. Fashion photographer Gina Manning recently used LumoPro modifiers to achieve the edgy, cinematic look she wanted. All photos by Gina Manning and used with permission.

Model with metal head piece

Photo by Gina Manning

Gina used a combination of the LumoPro beauty dish, octabox and stripboxes to create a variety of intriguing images for her conceptual “La Reine Des Dieux” shoot. The video below gives a behind the scenes look at how the shoot came together and shows the gear in action!

Gina will be hosting a release party for the full set of images in a few weeks. If you are in the Boston area, be sure to get out and see the collection in its entirety. Find more info and RSVP here!

Release party August 5th, 5-9 PM, 460B Harrison Ave, Boston

See the full set of images and hang out with Gina!

GinaManning_02

Photo by Gina Manning

About Gina Manning

Gina is a high-concept fashion photographer fascinated with telling intriguing stories. She brings a cinematic quality to every shoot she designs; from creating atmospheres that set a surreal tone to selecting models with character to tell the perfect story. For her, it’s about the collaboration of gorgeous clothes and gorgeous ideas.

Her subject matter is largely focused on the concept and power of a confident and beautiful woman. Always with an obsession of the subconscious and the control that the mind has over an individual, she’s constantly incorporating the things that keep her up at night in her photographs.

Over the years she has honed in on a style that captivates the eye with light, color and texture. Gina believes in creating new worlds for fashion to exist outside of the ordinary.

You can find more of Gina’s work at www.ginamanning.com.

Double Flash Bracket Review with Nick Kilford

This post originally appeared on Love to Light. All images by Nick Kilford. Used with permission.

It’s easy as a speedlight shooter to be frustrated by the lack of available modifiers. It is one of trade-offs when using small flashes – the modification options can be small, fiddly or ineffective. While there are some superb options out there, sometimes you just want to go BIGGER.

You could stick with an umbrella. It’s a tried and true option that offers quite a bit of versatility. But if you want more control over light spill, or if you already have softboxes you use with studio lights, you’re eventually going to want to mount those speedlights in a standard softbox.

LumoPro Double Flash Bracket

The LumoPro Double Flash Bracket, in all its glory. Photo by Nick Kilford

Enter the Double Flash Bracket. This unassuming little piece of engineering allows you to use small flashes with big modifiers. Photographer Nick Kilford recently shared his thoughts on the Double Flash Bracket on his blog, Love to Light.

“To sum it up, the LumoPro Double Flash Bracket is a nifty little tool at a reasonable price that will allow you to not only take full advantage of the softboxes you may already own, but also gives you more options when it comes to preparing for a shoot.”

Close up of double flash bracket variable shoe

Variable shoes on the bracket’s adjustable arms fit any speedlight. Photo by Nick Kilford.

Check out the original post here for Nick’s take on the Double Flash Bracket and make sure to explore the rest of Love to Light’s posts for loads of lighting and photography tips! You can see more of Nick’s work here.