Testing and Comparing 25+ Lighting Modifiers

One photographer. One model. One huge collection of modifiers to test and compare.

Have you tried our Lighting Comparison Visualiser yet? This amazing tool lets you compare more than 40 lighting effects achieved using 25+ different modifiers.

The first step in building this tool was an epic photoshoot. In this video, which first appeared on our YouTube channel, you’ll go behind the scenes on that shoot.

Then you’ll watch Karl conduct a thorough comparison of each effect, helping you figure out exactly which modifier you need to achieve the results you’re looking for.

Questions or comments about this class? Please feel free to post them below.


  1. Hello Karl, what do you recommend for beginners? One reflector or more? Should I start with one? If yes which one will you recommend ? Also the beauty dish you used is white or silver?
    Looking online doesn’t show the same numbers you used wonder if on the websites these numbers are different ?

    1. Hi Ozzy, a 70cm silver beauty dish would be a ‘must have’ item if you’re planning on doing some beauty and portrait work. Some standard reflectors with a set of grids for backgrounds or hair lights etc – that’s where I would start. If your subjects are older and need a bit more flattery then an Octabox 150 is a good all rounder.

  2. Absolute no brainer for every photographer. Thank you. One small question.
    How does the quality of the light from the different modifiers change when used at different distances: 2-4feet, 5-7feet, 8-10feet, 11-15feet greater?

    1. Hi, the feeling of the light becomes harder because the light becomes smaller relative to the subject. The inverse square law is also affected but is variable dependent on the modifier used, for example parabolic or fresnel modifiers are less affected by rapid changes of exposure due to the inverse square law as they collimate the light forwards with less spread of light lost. It is a bit of experimentation though to decide what distance is best for each modifier as they can be affected by things such as the studio space or even the model/subject shape.

  3. Thanks a lot for your fast and thoroughly responde!

    On the video I saw from Tim Flach, it was mentioned exactly what you wrote – small Staro through a scrim just to take the edge of the light slightly 😉

    You are a great photographer as well as
    a teacher. Easier to absorb information the way you explain things.

    All the best.

  4. Hi Karl,

    hope all is good. My question is how would you approach mimicking the Satelitte Staro? You mentioned using a scrim and another light source (min 21:38). Which source would you use?

    I’m asking because i saw Tim Flach using the Satelitte Staro behind a scrim saying that was part of what gives a great texture on feathers. Since it’s so expensive any thoughts about it?

    Thanks for your time. Best regards.

    1. Hi, do you mean the mirror version of the Satellite Staro as they made different versions; a big, a small and a diffused one?

      1. Hi there. I mean the Satellite Staro the mirror version, i guess it’s around 35″.

        You mentioned firing a studio light through a scrim material / a light source through a scrim for something similar…you mean just a barebulb? I guess it’s somehow a standard reflector on steroids.

        It’s so expesnive that if a fairly similar look or something worth trying could be done, i’ll take fairly similar.

        Thanks again for your time. Sorry about sending the question twice, didn’t see it had been sent.

        1. Hi, the mirrored version of the Staro came in two versions, the big one and the small one. Tim has one of the big one’s I believe and he has used it to light animals in the landscape from far away (over 100m) as it has a very long reach because of it’s mirrored and focusing surface. I’ve used the small one on this shoot for it’s lovely crispness and texture: https://visualeducation.com/class/04-skater-girl/
          I have also created my own version of one by converting a solar cooker into a reflector and shining a P70 light into it, this worked well but not as well as the Staro, we have a video on a full fashion shoot using my own version coming soon, in the meantime you can get a brief look of the results near the end of this video: https://visualeducation.com/class/testing-and-comparing-25-lighting-modifiers/

          In answer to your question though there is no point directing a light like this through a scrim (unless it’s just a very very thin scrim to take the edge of the light a little). If we diffuse any light through diffusion material such as a scrim then it doesn’t matter as much how the light originates for example you could shine a Flooter or a P70 through a scrim but on the subject side of the scrim you would just have a round ball of light. Diffusion, diffuses and therefore cancels out any collimating properties of light. Please watch more of the lighting theory section videos and the Product Photography Introduction section on Scrims to get a better understanding of this.

  5. Hi Karl,

    So, I’m switching over to beauty and fashion photography and I’ve been looking at your videos comparing light modifications but I noticed that the modifiers that you use are expensive such as the broncolor Octabox 150. I really like that modifier but I don’t think I can afford to buy it right now. I was thinking that the Beoncolor Octabox would be great for both styles of shooting but I could be wrong. What modifier would you suggest for beauty and fashion or a cheaper alternative until I am able to spend $400 on the broncolor Octabox?

    1. Hi, I’m sorry I don’t know what your budgets are but the Octabox is unfortunately one of the cheapest modifiers for beauty and fashion especially compared to the Para modifiers. A 70cm silver beauty dish could be a good budget choice or other independent brands of Octaboxes?

  6. Hi Karl,
    we are toying with the idea of buying a Para.
    We do full body shots for our small fashion label.
    We just don’t know what size 88, 133 or 177?
    Can you give us a tip?
    Thanks in advance

        1. Hello Karl,
          We now have the Para 177 but unfortunately had to find out that our Profoto b10 + is too weak.
          With short flash sequences, the images became darker with the second flash.
          How powerful should the new flash be?

          1. Hi, a 600W light but with a protruding bulb should be sufficient?

  7. Karl,

    I am learning a lot from your courses. Before I signed up, I had no clue about lighting. I am really enjoying the way you put everything up together.

    Can you please recommend a light modifier for newborn baby photography? I have looked up at several places before and people were suggesting 65-inch umbrella with a diffuser on it.

    Like here: https://www.paulcbuff.com/Flash-Units/Lighting-Kits/Newborn-Kit.html

    Would you recommend it or can I go with a 60-inch Octobox. Or would you suggest something different altogether.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Jyothi, the umbrella you mention would work well and it would produce a good soft light but they are a bit bulky and unbalanced to use as the rod that holds the umbrella often isn’t strong enough for that size of umberlla. The 150cm Octabox gives a slightly better light and is more compact and easier to handle but a little bit thinner. In our comparison App you can compare a 65inch white umbrella against a 150cm Ocatbox. For baby shots though in the longer term you are going to need more than one light as you will need at least one light for the baby (and a big white reflector board) and you will need a light for the background/set. You can do a lot with one or two lights as you will see in the sections on that in our portrait section but obviously the more lights the easier it is to create more options with your lighting.

  8. Hi Karl,

    Couple of general questions:

    1. I have gone through your modifiers comparison tool and spent quite a bit of time in carefully looking at the differences. Your paras indeed produce incredible images, the best. I noticed that 110 cm deep focus umbrella has produced an incredible image as well. Slightly better than beauty dish and para 88, do you agree with it? Is it white inside or silver inside the umbrella?

    2. From your years of experience what kind of catch light in the eyes did you like the most:
    1) catch light from an octobox
    2) catch light from an umbrella
    3) catch light from a rectangular softbox
    4) catch light from a square softbox

    3. Again from your years of expereince did you like/lean more towards silver or white soft boxes?

    1. Hi Jsamayam.
      1. The deep focus 110 is a good modifier (silver inside) but i think I prefer the 70cm Silver Beauty Dish for consistency, ease of use and look.
      2. I’m not really too concerned as the catchlights in the eyes can easily be adjusted or changed if necessary, I’m most concerned with overall lighting but people don’t often like the catchlights in the eyes from Paras. But I would say I like the Horizontal 30x120cm softbox catchlight or the Satellite Starro the best. Octabox catchlights are also good but as I say I’m thinking more about the overall lighting.
      3. There would be no difference in the inside of a softbox being silver or white if the internal and front diffusion are good. Both are meant to put out an homogenous diffused light the silver one would probably just be a bit brighter.

    1. Hi, it’s in your customer ‘home page’ very top of the page of our website, just to the left of the ‘my account’ button. You will then find the app in there.

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