Photography Lighting Modifier Guide - 20 FREE Videos

Why is understanding light in photography a vital skill?

A profound grasp of lighting in photography is indispensable for creative professionals, as the application of this knowledge holds the transformative power to elevate image quality well beyond the realm of the ordinary.

Mastering lighting techniques allows photographers to shape mood, texture, and depth, whether using natural or artificial sources. By learning to manipulate light, photographers can sculpt shadows, highlight subjects, and craft compelling narratives, transforming their photographs into captivating visual stories.

How does a photographer control light in studio images?

In the realm of photography studio lighting, a bare bulb studio light stands as a cornerstone for creating dynamic and versatile lighting setups. A bare bulb emits light in every direction, offering an omnidirectional light source that can be modified and shaped using standard reflectors and other modifier accessories.

Lighting the shot
So many studio lights and modifiers.

As someone who has tried countless lighting modifiers, I understand the overwhelming task of choosing the right one for your photography studio.

That's why I have created the ultimate guide to studio lighting modifiers – complete with a visual comparison tool that will save you time and money. 

Let's learn all about the different types of lighting modifiers

Each of the sections below covers the main lighting modifiers you'd expect to find in a photography studio. To learn even more about a particular modifier, simply click the relevant links for in-depth video tutorials.

Tutorial section: Bare Bulb Lighting

When you use a studio light with no accessories or modifiers whatsoever, you are shooting with a bare bulb.Light from a bare bulb escapes in all directions (including backwards!). In a studio, it will bounce off the walls. If you’re shooting outdoors, it will disappear into the ether.

When directed at a subject (such as a model or a product), bare-bulb studio light gives very sharp hard shadows because as a light source it is small relative to your subject. Click here to continue learning about bare bulb lighting.

Tutorial section: Octabox 150

In simple terms, the octabox 150 is a large, octagonal softbox. The light it produces is homogenous, meaning it is distributed evenly across the illuminated area. It's renowned as one of the most popular workhorses for photographers – and for good reason.

It’s main purpose is to produce high-quality soft light for portraiture. But it can do much more than that. Click here to continue learning about Octabox lighting

Tutorial section: White Shoot-through Umbrella
In this tutorial, we examine the white translucent umbrella, a fundamental and cost-effective diffusion modifier in the market. Exploring its utility, we weigh its advantages and disadvantages, empowering photographers to discern whether it suits their needs effectively. Click here to continue learning about White Shoot-Through Umbrellas
Tutorial section: Octabox 75cm
Dive headfirst into the realm of photography lighting with the compact yet mighty 75cm Octabox. This modifier, cherished for its ability to produce precisely directed light, is a powerhouse in my studio. This feature is particularly advantageous for creating dramatic male portraits, where the balance of softness and shadow is key. Click here to continue learning about the 75cm Octabox Lighting Modifier
Tutorial section: 160cm Deep Umbrella
The Deep Umbrella (160cm) is a true game-changer in studio lighting. In this test, a compact yet commanding, this remarkable 160cm light modifier seamlessly transforms from travel-friendly tool to impressive powerhouse. Click here to continue learning about the 160cm Deep Umbrella modifier
Tutorial section: Stripbox Modifier
The 30 x 120cm softbox, also known as a stripbox, is probably my favourite softbox in my collection. It provides a large, soft light source in one direction, while at the same providing a small, hard light source in the other. This means you can achieve many different variations simply by altering the angle or tilt of the modifier Click here to continue learning about the Stripbox lighting modifier
Tutorial section: Silver Umbrella
The humble silver reflective umbrella is often dismissed as a budget, no-frills modifier that’s less effective than a beauty dish. While all those things are true, the silver umbrella is still an extremely useful piece of kit, well worth adding to your collection.Click here to continue learning about the Silver Umbrella lighting modifier
Tutorial section: Silver Beauty Dish
The mighty silver beauty dish has been one of my go-to modifiers for decades. In my opinion, it outperforms softboxes, silver reflective umbrellas – in fact, it outperforms everything except quality parabolic reflectors.Click here to continue learning about the Silver Beauty Dish
Tutorial section: Deep Focus 110cm Umbrella
Want the effects of a parabolic reflector without the high price tag? Enter the Deep Focus 110 Umbrella, an umbrella which acts much like a para while costing much less. Click here to continue learning about the Deep Focus 110 Umbrella
Tutorial section: Parabolic Reflectors
As you can see, when it comes to lighting modifiers, there’s no shortage of options. However, I find that few offer the quality and versatility of parabolic lighting. Parabolic lighting is most popular when it comes to beauty and fashion work, and not without good reason. Click here to continue learning about parabolic light reflectors
Tutorial section: Ring Flash Photography
The ring flash presents photographers with an extraordinary lighting effect that can be harnessed across various genres of photography. While its popularity may have diminished over time, it still holds immense value within certain domains. Click here to continue learning about ring flash photography
Tutorial section: Satellite Staro Photography
Understand the Power of Satellite Staro Lighting in Your Photography. Delve into the captivating world of the Satellite Staro, a distinctive modifier renowned in beauty and fashion photography circles. Click here to continue learning about the mighty Satellite Staro!
Tutorial section: Honeycomb Grids Photography
Explore honeycomb grids - a versatile yet often misunderstood accessory. Whether you're just starting or already experienced, using honeycomb grids can boost your photography skills. Click here to continue learning about Honeycomb Grids in photography.
Tutorial section: Snoot Photography
The snoot crafts a concentrated orb of light, boasting a more defined and circular shape. Crafted from metal and engineered to contain light, the snoot stands as a versatile asset across various photographic endeavours. Click here to continue learning about using Snoots in photography.
Tutorial section: Fresnels lighting

15. Fresnels

Originally designed for lighthouses, Fresnel lenses have found extensive use in photography and cinematography due to their adaptability and capacity to focus light. Unlike convex lenses, they are lighter yet retain essential features that guide light efficiently over long distances. They were refined by Augustine Fresnel in the 1820s and are perfect for fashion and background lighting as well as creating precise spotlights. Watch our YouTube Tutorial on Fresnel Lenses Here
Tutorial section: studio photography picolites

16. Picolites

These compact lamp heads can be plugged into a power pack, offering more power and versatility than speed lights. The range of accessories for Picolites includes a compact fresnel lens, projection lens attachment, snoot, barn doors, and a very small softbox. These accessories provide precise control of light in small spaces, making them ideal for highly detailed product photography.. Watch our YouTube Tutorial on Picolites Here
Tutorial section: Projection attachments

17. Projection Attachments

Projection attachments are lenses that fit over studio lights and allow you to project precise shapes of light onto a subject. They can be used to create soft or sharp lighting effects and are commonly used in fashion and product photography. Watch our YouTube Tutorial on Projection Attachments Here
Setting up the trampoline and lighting on location

Para 222 in the 'soft' position

BTS - A truly epic shoot

Our intrepid model Brittany was photographed over a span of two days, using every single modifier in the studio. The process was intriguing, as we witnessed the varying effects that were produced by transitioning from one modifier to the next.

It is worth noting that certain modifiers possess the ability to create multiple effects, contingent on the manner in which they are adjusted. As an example, parabolic umbrellas possess three distinct positions, including hard, soft, and mid, all of which provide a slightly different ambiance.

LIGHTING MODIFIERS COMPARISON TOOL

STOP wasting money on wrong modifiers!

Explore the potential of light in your photography with our versatile tool. With 44 modifiers at your fingertips, gain comprehensive insight into their impact. Simply select, click, and zoom to compare the results (Both headshots and full-length body shots).
Learn More

The Lighting Comparison Tool

After concluding the photo shoot, our next task was to compile all the captured images and create the Lighting Comparison Tool. Our tool features a side-by-side display for head-and-shoulder as well as full-length shots, making it convenient to compare the effects of various modifiers.

Thanks to Britt's consistent poses, our Lighting Comparison Tool gives off the feeling of trying out different presets or filters in post-production. However, in reality, the tool presents authentic differences in lighting captured directly through the camera.

The final fashion image

Bare bulb vs Para 88 in 'hard' position

The final fashion image

110 deep umbrella vs Pico Fresnel

Comments

  1. This section is about choosing the best light modifier for your photography and it has a link to a handy comparison tool that I really like. However, it seems to be focused on how to choose the best light modifier for this specific subject or similar (a flawless female model). A visual aid like this for subjects better suited to a different set of modifiers would be killer. Just within the realm of portraits, you’ve got male models, elderly people, children, highly blemished skin, highly wrinkled skin, and so on. I suspect a Para 133 or hard beauty dish, for example, is going to hurt more than help when used on a lot of everyday people, correct?

    I think exploring this would be very helpful to many users, because most people who are learning probably do not have access to every modifier, and are probably not booking models.

  2. johnleigh

    Ive only just seen this post and video I somehow missed last year!
    Having watched the whole thing and played with the results in the visualiser tool it was great to see this and the work that went into producing.

    Im a speedlite guy due to space, budget etc at a small home studio and appreciated seeing the look and feel of the different modifiers like this — im guilty of aqcuiring multiple softboxes, umbrellas, snoots, fresnel so have plenty to work with but always dithering when i have a model in front of me because I want to use them all still .
    Most actors and models want a “variety” of looks so I do end up using several – in some ways I wish I could just focus on one or two but on the other hand I love mixing it up.

    Finally, seeing your comparisons is more than super helpful as not only great to see those results and looks, but that its confirmation that even with my modest and smaller size gear and setup I can obtain similar results

    1. Great to hear John hopefully it will also be a useful future reference. We are going to expand the app out into other genres too.

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