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Learning about Light Modifiers

With a single speedlight mounted off-camera, you can get great portraits… if you use a light modifier such as a beauty dish or umbrella. All you need is a subject that isn’t 

Today’s digital cameras and flash systems make it really easy to set up a simple home studio. You can do really great things with just a single flash, but you’ll need some accessories to help you shoot with the flash off-camera.

While the first step for getting good portraits is to take the flash off the camera, you should also consider using a Light Modifier on your flash. Here are some common light modifiers and examples of the results they produce.

For this set-up, I put my camera (Nikon D800e) onto a tripod and I set the pop-up flash to Commander Mode. This setting triggers my main flash (SB-900) without contributing to the overall exposure. My SB-900 was set up to the left of the camera on an inexpensive light stand with a Photoflex shoe-mount multi-clamp. I then proceeded to test several lighting scenarios:

  • Bare Flash (no modifier)
  • 18″ Beauty Dish (custom built as a DIY project)
  • 40″ Umbrella
  • 40″ Umbrella with cover removed (shoot-through umbrella)
  • 40″ Soft Box

The idea behind using light modifiers is two-fold. First, you are increasing the size of the apparent light source. Second, you are modifying the way the light wraps around your subject. Both of these factors allow you to create shots that reduce the appearance of harsh shadows with differing degrees.

Results after the jump… Continue reading Learning about Light Modifiers