The Convertible Umbrella: The Most Versatile Light Modifier

ISO 400, 1/100th f2.8

ISO 400, 1/100th f2.8

While many photographers love to work with softboxes, there are many other light modifiers out there. But the single most versatile light modifier out there is the umbrella–and more specifically the convertible umbrella. An umbrella can function as many different light modifiers and the right one can be all you need in your lighting kit. Indeed, it’s a simple to use and very effective light modifier that gives you the most bang for your buck.

To understand why, you’ll need to understand more about how the umbrella works.

Continue reading…

Make a DIY Softbox from a Clear Plastic Storage Container

Homemade+light+modifier

All images by Sean Conroy. Used with permission.

Photographer Sean Conroy came up with a cool way to create a DIY softbox at home–and this one is quite sturdy. It involves using a clear plastic storage container and finding a way to affix a flash onto one of the sides to make sure that it doesn’t move. However, you’ll also need to cover one part with silver tin foil–but Sean used a silver shiny emergency blanket.

You’ll also need to sand down the bottom of the storage container because the light will be coming out of that. When you can’t see through the bottom clearly, it means that you’ve got enough diffusion. The results are rather beautiful.

More images from Sean are after the jump, but be sure to check out the hack on his blog.

Continue reading…

The Limitations of a Flash in the Hot Shoe

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung GN58 Flash review product images (2 of 10)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 3.2

A flash in the hot shoe may be the easiest way for someone to use one, but in many situations you’ll start to realize just how much you’re limiting yourself. A hot shoe flash can only do so much to a scene or a subject and it can do even less if the light is only in one place. Sure, hot shoe flashes (otherwise known as speedlights or speedlites) have tiltable heads and can bounce their light to a bunch of different directions, but they’re still limited in mobility.

Taking the flash out of the shoe though opens up lots of possibilities.

Continue reading…

Review: Magmod Magsphere Flash Diffuser

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Magmod flash modifier review images magsphere product photos (1 of 8)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

If a compact flash modifier promised to make the head of your flash 300% larger, what would you do with it? It would surely offer much softer lighting–or at least that’s what the Magmod Magsphere claims. The closest thing that we’ve seen to taking on the Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible and offering a nice output came from a recent Kickstarter. The Magmod system isn’t totally revolutionary, but it is surely quite smart.

In fact, it’s so smart that it may change the way that light modifiers are attached to flashes in the future.

Trust us, Gary Fong is going to want to look very closely at this one.

Continue reading…

The Differences Between Hard Light and Soft Light Demonstrated

Large diffusers can provide very soft light on a subject.

Large diffusers can provide very soft light on a subject.

Many photographers can’t always tell the difference between hard light and soft light. By definition, the differences have to do with the quality of the shadows. Hard light delivers very, very dark shadows that seem to muddle details while in contrast soft light delivers very light shadows or even no shadows at all.

While traditional photographers will preach the benefits of soft light for portraits all day and night, modern editors and art buyers prefer the look of hard lighting.

The folks over at LearnMyShot have put together a video comparing the two using a situation involving a light bulb. In general, the larger the light source is in relation to the subject, the softer the light will be. But as you see, the host pulls down a diffusion panel to change the look of the lighting.

The video on the differences between hard light and soft light is after the jump.


Continue reading…

Make Your Own DIY Light Tent

DIY Light Tent

If you want to shoot photos of objects and products with little to no shadows, then one of the simplest ways to do it is with a light box or light tent. This is a white box with an opening in the front and with translucent white panels on each side that allows bright diffused light to bathe the subject in what can be a shadowless lighting effect.

The guys over at DIY Tryin created a tutorial video on hacking together your own light box/tent on the cheap. What they try to emphasize is diffusion. In order for a light tent to really work, you need to diffuse the light coming in from all sides. But as they were able to demonstrate, the light is so diffused that they can shoot an image with their phone and get something very diffused.

For what it’s worth, we would rather recommend having a three light setup than a two light setup. We would place two lights on each side and one on the back with the back lighting being cranked up to turn the background into pure white. An alternative is to have a very high powered strobe firing in from the top of the lightbox with a translucent reflector diffusing the light.

Their tutorial on making your own DIY light tent is after the jump.

Continue reading…

Which Light Modifier Do I Choose?

Silver Bounce Umbrella
Silver Bounce Umbrella

Silver Bounce Umbrella

How many of you out there are afraid of, or intimidated by off-camera lighting? Don’t be afraid to admit it; I was in that same boat when I first began too. A favorite quote that I have accepted lately, “If you’re too afraid to try for fear of failure, you’ve failed already” – Anonymous. If anyone knows where this quote came from, let me know in the comments. Okay, back to the subject. You can read an infinite amount of material on off-camera lighting. The problem is that there is almost too much information. You might fall into the trap of info overload without actually learning for yourself with experimentation and practice. My advice would be to read enough information to learn how to get your flash off the camera and then get out there and shoot.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog posting by Travis Lawton, the Lawtographer

Continue reading…