Understanding Light Modifiers

Choosing the best light modifier for your needs can be a bit overwhelming, especially since most of us don’t have access to a studio with all the gear to try them all out in. Luckily, photographer Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens has taken the time to do it for us. But beware, sometimes the differences are quite subtle—you’ll have to pay close attention:

Light modifiers come in all shapes and sizes, and even different linings. The differences between them lie in the amount of light, the amount of wrap around, the effect on the background (light fall off), and occasionally the shape of the shadows. One useful thing to notice, however, is the difference between a white-lined and a silver-lined modifier. The white-lined gives a slightly warmer look, but the silver-lined will give you a bit more light output, allowing you to open your aperture a bit more.

Comparing silver and white-lined light modifiers

One modifier that tends to get a bad wrap yet looks absolutely gorgeous in many applications is the umbrella. The main complaint is that they “lack control” and spill over, but as you can see from Morgan’s video, it’s a simple fix.

Umbrellas have a beautiful wrap-around effect

Modifiers Compared

  • Baha A6 Strobe
  • DynaLite 7” reflector
  • DynaLite 11.25” reflector
  • DynaLite 13” reflector
  • Dynalite 17” beauty dish
  • Mola Seti 22” Beauty Dish
  • Photoflex Octodome 32″ x 13” white-lined
  • Photoflex Octodome 57”
  • Dynalite 36” parabolic silver-lined
  • Dynalite 47” parabolic grand softbox
  • Photoflex softbox 16″ x 12″ white-lined
  • Photoflex softbox 32″ x 24″
  • Dynalite softbox 34” x 24”
  • Photoflex softbox 54” x 34”
  • Photoflex 72” shoot through umbrella (shoot-through)
  • Photoflex 72” umbrella (silver-lined)

Umbrella comparison

Make sure to watch the whole video to see all of Morgan’s comparisons. And if you’re like me, you might have to pause it a lot to see the differences. Many of them are quite subtle. In the end, though, there’s no “one size fits all” or best option. It all depends on what you’re using it for. Even the priciest of modifiers might not give you the look you’re going for.

Have a favorite? Let us know which one!

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