Which Lighting Modifiers Should I Get?

Here is one truth we can all agree on; light is a critical factor to the success of your photoshoot.

This makes picking a light modifier an errand that should not be taken lightly. But for the newcomers in the industry, you are possibly asking yourself…

Which lighting modifiers should I get?

Best light modifiers

The choices are boundless. And this could end up confusing or scaring some, especially if you are getting started in photography.

However, the following selections will help you get started the right way:

Beauty dishes

Beauty dishes are a go-to when you want to light up the faces of your subjects up close.

They tend to draw out the bone structure and add stunning light rings in the eyes. That’s what makes them an excellent choice for beauty and fashion photography.

When shooting a model (or anyone for that matter), you can notice that beauty dishes can result in shadows under the nose and chin.

Also, the light they produce is not as soft compared to umbrellas.

Nevertheless, advanced selections let you remove the middle plate or work with reflectors, umbrellas, and grids to do away with shadows.

Umbrella

Umbrellas are among the most common tools you’ll spot in a photographer’s arsenal. They bounce off light in a way that imitates a large window.

Umbrellas diffuse a very soft light that is ideal for shooting portraits.

Old-hand portrait photographers can be seen using a diffuser alongside umbrellas. This combination results in fewer shadow highlights and more flattering light.

What’s more, these light modifiers are light, common, and relatively cheap making them beginner-friendly.

While it’s important to have one, an umbrella may not be suited for some occasions like eCommerce photography.

But why?

Because when placed too close, they cast shadows that are easily detectable on product photos with ultra-white backgrounds.

There’s a lot more to know about umbrellas. For instance, they should be used indoors.

If you decide to get them outside, make sure there will be someone to hold them or find a way to glue them to the ground to avoid the wind blowing them away.

Types to consider

  • Gold/silver umbrella-they diffuse light everywhere making them absolutely fantastic for group shots. Gold sprays warmer light while silver emits a cooler contrast.
  • White reflective umbrella-Obviously the most common choice for studio shots. White umbrella emits a soft light and doesn’t lose a lot of it compared to diffusion varieties. Furthermore, they offer a bit more control. 
  • Convertible umbrellas– these can turn into either reflective or diffusion types. A black cover is used to turn them into reflective models.

Softboxes/Octaboxes

Top light modifiers for portraits

Want to make anything look good? Well, then you can never go wrong with a softbox.

The quality of light they emit is flatteringly soft and malleable.

Unlike an umbrella, if you change the angle or proximity of a softbox, the shadow direction and hardness of light will change which could prove to be problematic.

On top of that, softboxes can be stripped of a few removable panels to alter light quality. Some can allow grid replacements and masks with ease.

When shooting from a studio, you can add a reflective interior to get extra soft light shades.

Softboxes pop around in rectangular, square, and octagon (Octaboxes) shapes. So make sure the shape you pick meets your particular photography needs.

Scrims

One of the most versatile light modifiers every photographer should have is a scrim.

Like umbrellas, they too produce soft light as if emitted by an open shade, the morning sun, or overcast skies.

Scrims come in either square or rectangular shapes with a framework textile stretched throughout the edges.

So if you can’t afford or use a softbox and umbrella, your next best choice is a scrim.

Grids 

Grids are tube-like structures that you attach to another light modifier.

Their purpose is to narrow the spread of light to round spotlights that make for a more dramatic falloff.

Many photographers use grids with gels to avoid colors from mixing.

They can also come in handy when you want to keep light off the background. Since grids pair with other light modifiers, ensure your purchase will fit most (if not all) of them.

Snoots

Snoots should be your go-to tool if you want to create a hard light in a limited spread to bring up a certain detail.

In short, they imitate a flashlight or spotlight.

Snoots are compatible with specific light modifiers so be sure to consider that while shopping.

Collapsible reflectors

If you find umbrellas and beauty dishes to be expensive, another reliable choice is a collapsible reflector.

A ubiquitous collection amongst many photographers, this light modifier bounces light from your source (sun or studio light) to the subject. 

It gets even more amazing; reflectors come with different surfaces like white, gold, and silver so you can produce different light tones.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the ones mentioned above, there are a couple more modifiers that you can use to capture mind-blowing shots.

Examples include Fresnel light, ring light, color gel, and flag.

The more the choices the better as that would give you a diverse portfolio to work with!