A little while ago I was teaching one of my lighting workshops and one of the attendees was looking to implement some of the set-ups I was sharing into his workflow. Seems simple enough right? Well it turns out this photographer was a Formula 1 trackside shooter that needed to get portraits of drivers and crew. As you may well imagine, there is limited time to setup a photoshoot in a busy pit-lane on race-day, so he was after lighting modifiers that would be suitable for his slightly more ‘run-and-gun’ portraits.
It’s not often I get to shoot very simple, clean white light shots, but in a recent shoot the model asked if she could get some updated ‘Polaroids’. For those of you not familiar with the term when used in reference to a model shoot, it’s actually not the now obsolete and ludicrously expensive single-shot film, but a request for very basic portraits of the model for their agency. This ‘Polaroid’ term is a relic from the analogue film days and it essentially now means shots that are un-retouched and with the model wearing very little makeup.
It’s summer and the days are long and sunny. If you shoot portraits outdoors, the harsh midday sun may mess up with your plans. You can embrace it and incorporate it into your shots, but you can also create your own shade and modify or even block the harsh rays of the sun. In this 2-minute video, photographer David Bergman of Adorama will show you a couple of possible solutions for creating your own shade without changing the shooting location.
There is an almost endless supply of lighting modifiers available on the market right now, some are cheap and some of the better ones are certainly a lot more expensive. But does cost directly relate to quality? Well, a lot of the time yes it does if you’re referring to build quality.
In general, the more you spend, the more well-made and durable the modifier will be. But does that extra money you spend mean you’re getting a better lighting modifier overall? I would have to say no, in fact for less than £15/$20 you can get some stunningly beautiful light from a homemade lighting modifier. Read on to see examples of the stupidly cheap DIY lighting modifiers I’m referring too.
The camera’s hotshoe is generally the last place you want to place a flash as your main light source. Sometimes, though, it can’t be helped. It’s common at weddings and events where you’re constantly walking around looking for the shot. It’s more about the memory than the quality of the light. Although that doesn’t mean we should neglect it entirely.
This video from photographer Ed Verosky shows us three ways we can modify the light coming from a flash on top of our camera. Ed admits that none of these solutions is ideal, but then putting a flash on the camera isn’t ideal, either. But these can go some way towards reducing that harshness of a bare, direct on-camera flash.
When a photographer decides to use flash, it typically starts something like this. Photographer posts online asking which flash to buy, gets a lot of responses, and buys a flash of some sort. They go and shoot with it, and are then disappointed with the look of hard light. So, the next logical step is to post online again asking “Which modifier should I get?”.
The problem is, it’s not that simple. We’ve no idea what look you want to go for. It’s something only you can decide yourself. Your vision is your vision, not ours. But without seeing what they all do, knowing what to get is impossible. So, have a watch of this video from Jay P. Morgan at The Slanted Lens. Jay goes through a whole series of different modifiers to show what they do to the light falling on your subject.
Flash modifier comparisons can be extremely useful things. Without having to get up out of the comfort of our chair, we can very quickly and easily see how different shapes and sizes of modifier affect how light falls on our subject. Here’s one we discovered by photographer Michael Quack and the team at Visual Pursuit comparing a very wide array of Hensel modifiers.
Hensel modifiers aren’t exactly inexpensive, but if you want the best quality, you generally have to pay the highest prices. While you may not be specifically looking at buying Hensel gear, it’s still a useful comparison. With the subject, lights and photographer remaining the same for each shot, you can quickly get a feel for the differences that modifier design can make in your image.
Strip lights have become quite popular over the last couple of years, and we’ve seen numerous options released compatible with both speedlights, as well for continuous light.
The StrobiStrip from Strobius presents something unique, not seen in these types of light modifiers before. As well as being extremely thin, and usable with pretty much every speedlight ever made, the StrobiStrip is also collapsible, with the StrobiStrip 50 breaking down into a small pouch not much bigger than your average 105mm lens.
Speedlights often go hand in hand with shooting portraits on the street, especially at night, but small flashes have one big issue. Due to their size, they often give very hard, harsh and unflattering light, especially if you’re forced to use one on the hotshoe.
After being asked to photograph a night time outdoor music event, and wanting the minimise the risk to expensive equipment, photographer Tom Simone came up with a DIY solution to help make that light a little bigger and provide a more pleasing look with help from a Chinese paper lantern lampshade.
Lighting modifiers can have a huge impact on specialized shots. With the right ones, light becomes putty in your hand, easily molded by the skill of the potter. (Yeah, I jumble up my euphemisms frequently.)
YouTuber Theoria Apophasis believes in the the power of light modifiers, but he believes even more in ingenuity. The “Angry Photographer” shared one of his favorite homemade mods to get creative lighting that adds drama to his images. This is one of the best lighting mods and can be easily created with craft store supplies for $5.