Five Light Modifiers Every Portrait Photographer Needs

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer NYCC New York Comic Con 2013 exports (26 of 84)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.0

There are some lighting modifiers that we really like, and then there are others that often blow us away and that we never want to send back. These modifiers often combine versatility, a specific look that’s done perfectly, and ease of use. But of course, they also just need to work very well.

Here’s a round up of some of our favorites.

Impact 5 in 1 Reflector

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus EM5 Link Cosplay shoot (7 of 23)ISO 200

While we don’t often endorse house brand products, B&H Photo has done a good job with their Impact five in one reflector. The configuration that we have has a white, silver, black, and soft gold side while the reflector itself is translucent. We achieved the photo above by bouncing a monolight off of the reflector and back at our subject.

Reflectors are so useful because they can not only change the color of your light, but they can fill in the shadows where needed. In fact, that’s what they’re designed to do first and foremost.

If you’re a natural light photographer, this accessory, more than any other on this list, is what you want with you at all times. When combined with good knowledge of exposures and metering (and of course composition and posing), you can create some really stunning images.

RoundFlash Version 2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash and OCF Gear Cord Test With Jill (3 of 15)_PerfectlyClear_0001

If you’ve ever wanted more out of a ringflash, then Roundflash makes a product that will give you quite a bit of effectiveness. They came out with the original Roundflash–which is what the image above was shot with. But then they improved it by making the second version simpler and quicker to set up with the same level of effectiveness.

So what is the Roundflash? It is quite literally a giant donut shaped ring that goes around the lens of your camera and takes the light from your hot shoe flash then makes it travel all around in a ring shaped output. The effect is a beautiful ring-like catch light in the eyes of your subject.

Ring flashes are used by lots of fashion photographers. And for what it’s worth, the Roundflash does the best job that we’ve seen so far without going as far as a dedicated ring flash.

Profoto 7 Foot Shallow Umbrella

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus lens Kita (1 of 3)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 8.0

Profoto recently released one of their shallow umbrellas with a silver interior. So what makes Profoto’s better than everyone else’s? For starters, we’ve been using Westcott’s version of this umbrella for quite a while now. But when Profoto sent us their version for testing, we slowly began to fall in love with it a bit more. This umbrella spreads light in a more even and spread out shape than Westcott’s offering, and that’s because it is designed to do just that. If we wanted a more narrow beam, then we’d go for Profoto’s deeper version of the umbrella.

On top of that, Profoto offers a diffuser to essentially turn the umbrella into a gigantic softbox. Just by doing that, Profoto has created a super versatile product that will keep us shooting with it for a while.

Expect a more full review of the umbrella to come.

Phottix Luna Folding Octabank

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus with Grace (2 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 6.3

Octabanks in general are often used just for fashion–though we’ve seen them used at weddings for a bit of a different look. Know this: an Octabank will give you one look and only one specific look. But overall, that look is highly valued amongst many fashion editors and those with a more discerning eye. You’ll pretty much get a mix of soft light and hard shadows. But it’s a very sought after look.

We tested Phottix’s option: which is a very affordable offering. We liked the fact that it can be transported while still attached to the light because of the umbrella-like design. For that reason, we really, really like using this product when on location.

For what it’s worth, the output is also quite specular–which you might want to keep in mind when handing your images off to a retoucher.

Westcott 7 Foot Translucent Umbrella

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Impact One Light Kit Test photos (11 of 17)

Remember: the larger the light source the softer the light

Rounding up the tail end of this list is the Westcott 7 foot translucent umbrella. Though the image above was shot with a much smaller translucent light, these modifiers are beautiful because of the pure softening and light spreading abilities that they have. Quite often, they are the simplest solutions for creating a natural light look. Speaking of which, you can also use them in the middle of the day to diffuse harsh natural light.

And for the price point, you really can’t go wrong either.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.