Photography Friday: Light Modifiers for Your Studio

Posted by on Jul 12, 2013 in Photography | Comments


In this Photography Friday post, we’re going to take a look at light modifiers: the accessories that photographers use to help manipulate light in their studio.

There are a few basic tools you can use to modify your light, no matter if you are using natural light, flash, strobes or constant lighting. I could get much more in-depth, but I figured we should look at the basics first to get you started!

Light Modifiers: an Umbrella for Photography Studio

Reflectors are a great tool whether you are in the studio or shooting outside using ambient lighting to light your subject.

Reflectors do exactly what you would think; they reflect the light. Reflectors come in multiple sizes, and can be white, silver, gold, black. They can even come in a multi-disk kit where a reflector will have all of these surfaces rolled into one.

Get a multi-reflector.

I would tend to go towards a multi-reflector as it gives you all the necessary surfaces in one convenient kit. They are also easy to store, and collapsible so you can take them with you.

Plus, multi-reflectors also come in a variety of sizes and shapes. A quick search online will show you the range of options available. Chances are, you will be shooting without an assistant so you might want to look at a square or rectangle reflector.

Purchase a larger size.

As for size of a reflector for a studio be sure to go with something larger than a 40″ square. This size casts more light on your subject than the smaller reflectors. I prefer the larger reflectors because of the options it offers you.

If you have been looking at various lighting kits might have you wondering whether you should go for an umbrella or softbox setup for your studio.

So which is better? There’s no absolute solution to this question as they both have pros and cons. Both essentially modify and filter light to make it softer and less harsh when it hits the subject.

Umbrellas are usually cheaper and fairly versatile.

They often come with a reflective cover that allows you to shoot light into the umbrella, and have it bounce back out or simply filter the light right through the material with the cover removed. They come in different sizes and can be purchased with different colored canopies– each effecting light.

Umbrellas can spread light out over a wide area and are therefore great for large rooms or groups of people. Finally, umbrellas are quicker to setup and tear down than softboxes.

Softboxes tend to be a little pricier but they allow you to focus and control your light in a small area a lot better than umbrellas.

These are perfect for when you’re shooting a single subject or are confined to a smaller area. Softboxes also make for much less distracting reflections than the shape you’ll get from the umbrella.

Light modifiers can be attached to both your umbrella or softbox. Modifiers can be diffusers, grids, or egg carton style modifiers. They take your lighting to a new level and should be something you consider when you get more experience with using a lighting source to photograph a subject.

Most professional photographers would prefer to have a few different sized umbrellas or softboxes to be used in various situations. Softboxes  come in a variety of sizes and depth; each used for different techniques: soft focus for just head shots, large even lighting for models that are standing, and so on. The applications are numerous and you should consult your sales person at your local camera shop to get more information about what is right for your needs.

But if you have a limited budget and are just getting started, umbrellas are a perfect first step. Check out Photoflex’s Web site to see the variety of products that you can choose from.

To delve in-depth in to finding the ideal light modifiers for your studio, be sure to check out Kirk Tuck’s Studio Portrait Lighting.

A few other essentials for your home studio…

  • Fans to circulate the air or to use for effect in your images.
  • A low playing radio to create some ambient noise. Music creates a better mood.

Learn more about props and accessories and lighting kits you might want for your home studio.

What light modifiers do use regularly in your studio?