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.

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.

Test Driving the LP180 and LumoPro Beauty Dish

This post originally appeared on Ben Faske Photography. All images by Ben Faske. Used with permission.

Recently, freelance photographer Ben Faske had a chance to shoot some portraits with the LumoPro LP180 Quad-Sync Manual Flash.

image 1

Photo by Ben Faske

He used one LP180 in the LumoPro 22″ Universal Beauty Dish for a super simple setup that created some beautiful images.

image 5

Photo by Ben Faske

For more information on the gear Ben used and to see the final images, check out the original post.