Light Modifiers: The 8 Essential Modifiers For Photography

Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or only just starting out, this easy-to-digest guide on light modifiers will help you become a lighting whizz in a matter of minutes, not months. 

As you know, the key to any professional photo is lighting. However, getting the right light isn’t always as easy as it sounds and can often be a daunting process, especially if you’re only just starting out.  So we’ve wrapped up the 8 essential light modifiers for photography to get you on the right track. 

8 Core Light Modifiers 

Level up your photography game and create out-of-the-box content for all shoots and styles with these 8 core light modifiers.

1. Umbrella Light Modifiers

An umbrella is an essential piece of equipment for any photographer, perfect for beginners due to its low cost and being one of the simplest light modifiers to use. Using an umbrella in a photoshoot creates a soft, abundant light that doesn’t require much precision. The umbrella allows you to refine the way that the light responds to the subject and is generally used for portrait and studio photography. 

3 Types of Umbrellas: 

the three main light modifier umbrellas used for photography
source: www.hypop.com.au

There are three main types of umbrellas in photography. The first is a shoot-through umbrella which is made of white, translucent material that is used to produce soft light when the flash passes through. The second is a reflective umbrella which has a black outer material and either a white, silver or gold interior lighting. The reflective umbrella is used to reflect and bounce the light back onto the subject. And lastly, similar to the reflective, the deep umbrella (also known as parabolic) has a black outer coating and a silver inner lining that is rounder and deeper.   

2. Softbox Light Modifiers

The second light modifier is the softbox; this modifier creates a soft opaque light that helps highlights merge into shadows. Softboxes can be used in a studio or on location and come in an extensive range of shapes and sizes. The larger the softbox, the softer the light – which is ideal for group shots or covering large areas. And, the smaller the softbox, the more concentrated and harsh the light will be, which is perfect for small product shots or close up portraits. 

3 Types of Softboxes:

3 types of softbox light modifiers
source: www.bhphotovideo.com

When it comes to the shape, you will find three core softboxes; rectangle, strip and octagonal. Put simply, rectangular (or square) softboxes can be used to mirror window light, octagonal softboxes can be used to produce natural looking lighting and strip boxes can be used to produce a narrow strip of light.

3. Grid Light Modifiers (also known as a honeycomb or egg crates)

A grid is used with softboxes to give the photographer more control over the light. When a grid is added to the softbox it causes the light to get harder, preventing the light from spilling as it is more concentrated. Grids can come in a variety of sizes and are measured in degrees; the degree can make a significant difference on the lighting, the smaller degree numbers create more narrow beam angles and vice versa.

octagonal grid and split grid side by side
source: www.hypop.com.au, www.essentialphoto.co.uk

4. Scrim Light Modifiers (also known as a diffuser sheet)

A scrim is placed between your light source and your subject and creates a large area of soft diffused light like you would see on a cloudy day. Similar to the softboxes, scrims come in many different shapes and sizes, it all depends on their intended use. A scrim can be great for those DIY projects as it is affordable and easy to control. 

scrim on its own to show the look of it
source: www.tecart.com.au

5. Beauty Dish Light Modifiers

A beauty dish produces light that is softer than an umbrella but harder than a softbox which is perfect for lighting a subject’s face, making it a top choice for portrait photography.

“The beauty dish allows you to achieve well-defined edges and shadows, but still retain a flattering light on your subject” – John McIntire

a double image of a photoshoot using a beauty dish and the outcome
source: prophoto.com

6. Snoot Light Modifiers

A snoot is a photography tool that is placed over the strobe head. It is used to focus light into a narrow beam of light, which is great if you want to create a scene with high contrast. The snoot gives precise selective lighting which is often used in modeling as a rim light. If there is no snoot available to you, a similar style can be accomplished by using an unfolder umbrella.

light modifier snoot with image showing the effect
source: www.proedu.com

7. Reflector/Shade Light Modifiers

A reflector can be used both in the studio and in the field as they are extremely lightweight and functional. The reflector is used to bounce light towards the subject and fill in shadows, which is a great tool when working outside to bounce sunlight back at the subject.

light modifier reflectors in 5 different shades
source: hypop.com.au

8. Gel Light Modifiers

Gels are transparent multi-coloured sheets that are used to change the colour of light that is produced to give a large range of effects. The gels are tinted to compensate for daylight or tungsten light sources and help to separate the background from the subject by using opposing colours

gels light modifiers
source: learn.lindsayadlerphotography.com

Keen to try out these light modifiers for yourself? One76 Photo Studio has all of these light modifiers ready to roll with all full-hire bookings. You’ll never have to worry about getting the right lighting again.

For more insights on lighting techniques check out our studio lighting guide that covers the essential lighting techniques so you can nail your next photoshoot.

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