Photography Cheat Sheet: Comparing Light Modifiers for Portraiture

Want to master studio setups for professional-looking portrait photography? You’ll have to begin by understanding how light modifiers work. Today’s handy photography cheat sheet will help you with just that! 

Achieving the right lighting setup for the look you’re going for is essential to studio portrait work. At the heart of this are light modifiers. As the term suggests, they are used to shape, direct, increase, or soften the output of your light sources so you get the mood that you want for your shots. There’s no shortcut to professional lighting, but today’s cheat sheet makes a great visual guide for what each light modifier does.

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Which Light Modifier is Right for Your Portrait Shoot?

Planning to work in the studio but not sure which light modifier to use for your project? Here’s a video tutorial that will help you choose the right one.

So, you’ve decided to shoot some portraits in the studio, complete with advanced lighting setup. Apart from working out the lighting techniques to use, you will also most likely have to choose a light modifier to get the ideal lighting output for your shots. If you’re not quite familiar yet with these tools, this video tutorial by Adorama and Mark Wallace should give you an idea.

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KOBRA Flash Modifier Is Still More or Less a Gary Fong Lightsphere

If you missed the chance to grab a KOBRA Flash Modifier, the campaign has recently relaunched on Kickstarter

Unsatisfied with your flash modifiers and think your flash photography could be better? Through a Kickstarter campaign last year, the KOBRA Flash Modifier sought to be a more lightweight, flexible, and attractively designed solution to this problem. The project by Red Tusk didn’t meet its funding expectations then, but now it’s back up on Kickstarter with some improvements, including better price points. Continue reading…

How to Make the Most of Your Flash With No Light Modifiers for Portraits

When you’re getting into portraiture and you’re a photographer on a budget, sometimes you don’t have the money to buy umbrellas, softboxes, etc. So the best things for you to generally do is learn how to photograph someone with a flash firing directly at them. This is what lots of shooters do, and sometimes it delivers awesome results but other times it really doesn’t.

After shooting for years on sometimes a shoestrong budget, I’ve learned how to do less with more. Here’s how.

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How to Choose the Right Studio Lighting Modifier For You

Studio lighting is part of an element that can set you apart from many other photographers out there. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being a “Natural Light Photographer” as long as you really genuinely are one that’s experimented with and understands lighting–including shaping it. The amount of stuff that you can do with a photo when you start to take control of elements like adding your own lighting and creating your own scenes opens yourself to more potential with what’s possible.

We’re sure that you understand that though; so here’s how to figure out what light modifiers are right for you.

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Interfit’s New Light Modifiers Offer Quality for an Affordable Price

Interfit has announced a new line of professional heat resistant lighting modifiers, including softboxes, parabolic softboxes, parabolic umbrellas, and standard umbrellas. The company is known for their great build quality and affordable lighting solutions (like with the S1 monolight), and these new modifiers appear to be no exception, including things like a honeycomb grid in the box for added value.

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How to Figure Out What Light Modifier To Use

Many photographers just getting into working with light specifically are often very confused about what light modifiers to use. But they’re also never quite sure what they should use for the type of work that they’re doing. The true answer is that everyone is making good stuff these days and that very few people will be able to look at an image and immediately tell what light modifiers you’re using in the same way that they won’t be able to tell your camera, lens, etc for the most part.

Instead, it’s all about the type of photo that you’re trying to create.

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The Confusion Behind Modern Light Modifiers for Strobists

ISO 400, 1/100th f2.8

ISO 400, 1/100th f2.8

What do you get when you cross an umbrella, a parabolic umbrella, a softbox, a beauty dish, and an octabank together? You get pretty much every well marketed light modifier that have been coming out in the past couple of years. Yes, there are some traditional softboxes or beauty dish, but they’re not looked at as the best of the best. Those modifiers instead are a cross between so many things.

This makes it so much tougher for the introductory strobists trying to understand how light works and how it falls, but it makes the understanding of it confusing for the experienced shooter too. Many of the more experienced strobists probably have an arsenal of light modifiers–umbrellas, softboxes, etc. They work well and have for years, but there is a very new generation of light modifiers out there that almost promise to be an all-in-one solution.

And for serious lack of better terminology, we’re going to call it the Light Source.

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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.

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The 5 Most Effective Hot Shoe Flash Light Modifiers


Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (6 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

While lots of the pro photographers teaching workshops may tell you to take the flash out of the hot shoe, it’s a necessity for many photographers who shoot weddings, photojournalism, and events. For these photographers, it’s pretty much the only option that is also the most convenient that allows them to focus on shooting. Bare flashes as they are aren’t the most effective, and the best thing to do is to modify the light output a bit to give you better images to deliver to your clients.

If you’re stuck leaving your flash in the hot shoe, then consider these flash modifiers.

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How to Make the Best of a Single Speedlight With No Light Modifier

Model: Bec Fordyce

Model: Bec Fordyce

When you’re first getting started in lighting, you’ll probably have the very basics, which could be a single speedlight or single monolight with no umbrella, softbox, or anything else like that. There are many, many ways to make the best of a very minimal situation as long as you’re in the right environment or you’re in the right shooting situation. And even then, you can always make things work for you if you can just think a bit differently and creatively.

This is how you make the best of a single speedlight–and this guide is designed for beginners.

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Why the Photographic Umbrella is the Ultimate Light Modifier

I have a confession to make: ever since getting involved in the whole strobist world, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect light modifier. It has lead me down paths to experiment with beauty dishes, softboxes, ring flashes, umbrellas and octabanks. While every light modifier is very capable of doing their own thing very well, I’ve found that umbrellas are the most versatile. And because of this fact, I own four of them.

Umbrellas are great! They give beautiful catchlights in the eyes, can bring out lots of detail in a subject, have a beautiful and inefficient light spread that isn’t really directional but can be made so, and they’re super portable.

And more so than any other light modifier, I believe umbrellas rule them all.

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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.

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KickStarter MagMod is a Magnetic Speedlight Modifier


When I heard about the MagMod, it piqued my interest. Originally announced on Kickstarter, the project is already well past it’s goal on Kickstarter and rightfully so. The Magmod is a magnetic flash modifier which eliminates velcro, straps and adhesives. The Modifiers are made from a single piece of silicone rubber and it’s one size fits all. They say it works with anything from the Nikon SB600 or an old Sunpack Auto30DX to the the Canon 600EX and Nikon SB900. The MagMod comes with a modular flexible honeycomb grid and a MagGel kit.

More details are after the jump.

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The Phoblographer’s Introductory Guide To Light Modifiers

Lighting intimidates every person getting into photography. It is a whole other skill to be learned but once you get into it, it can become addicting because of all the creative possibilities you open yourself up to. Relying on natural light can be great if you can get the right light. But as artists, we can always create our own. And to shape the light to get exactly the look that we want, we need modifiers. It is best to imagine light as a stream coming out of a hose. If you change the shape of the head and the direction, the stream itself also changes accordingly.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a bunch of light modifiers we recommend. For more, we recommend that you check out the Lighting Section of our Reviews Index.


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Review: Photogenic Fresnel Lighting Modifier

Photogenic announced a Fresnel lighting modifier a while back. Fresnel modifiers date back to the days of lighthouses: indeed the giant towers would take existing light and use a Fresnel glass to focus the beam of light out onto a specific spot. That’s how the idea of spotlights came about.

Fast forward to modern day and they’ve been modified for commercial photographic use: complete with barn doors that could also prove very useful to videographers. But just how useful is this thick piece of glass?

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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

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Photography Cheat Sheet: Classic One-Light Portrait Setups Never Fail

Feeling intimidated with lighting setups in the studio? Here’s a photography cheat sheet that will help you get started with classic one-light setups for portrait photography.

Lighting is one of the most important elements of shooting in the studio and is crucial to portrait photography. If you’re still new to studio work and portrait lighting, you can actually practice with one-light setups tried and tested by pros. We have several learning resources that cover this, the latest being a handy photography cheat sheet that features classic setups you can get started with.

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Cheap Photo: Orlit RoveLight RT 610 Rechargeable Monolight Is Just $399

If you want to use off-camera flash, the Orlit RoveLight RT 610 HSS TTL with a trigger for $399 is the perfect way to start.

Using off-camera flash is the easiest way to make your images stand out from the crowd. It’s honestly not as hard as you may think to learn the techniques needed to take your photos to the next level. Some may think it’s expensive to get a quality rechargeable monolight to take with you on location. That notion couldn’t be further from the truth, though. For a limited time, you can pick up the excellent, rechargeable ORLIT RoveLight RT 610 monolight that features both HSS and TTL, and it comes with a remote trigger for just $399! Join us after the break for more details about this monolight and the deal. Continue reading…

8 Lights Perfect for Off-Camera Flash Use by Beginners and Pros

Whether you’re new to lighting and off-camera flash, or you’re an old hat looking for new gear, this roundup is for you.

If you’re ready to take the next steps in your photography journey by adding off-camera flash to your workflow, congratulations! We applaud you for wanting to take this on. A lot of people think mastering flash is hard, but we’re here to tell you that’s a bunch of hogwash. Off-camera flash is an easy way to add drama and extra dimension to your images. The best part is you don’t have to spend a fortune to get started with it. We have rounded up some of our favorite lights that we have reviewed over the years and have put them in one place for you. These lights are great for beginners and even for pros looking for some new gear. Continue reading…