Friday, July 26, 2013

Step Up Your Light

By David Willis Published in Shooting
Lastolite Ezybox II Octa
Lastolite Ezybox II Octa
Harbor Digital Design Ultimate Light Box Diffuser ProPack
Speedlights and on-camera flashes have become so advanced that many photographers are using them as primary studio and location lights. Thanks to wireless communication, multiple flashes can be used together in several groups to produce very sophisticated lighting setups.

Just as adding more flashes will give you exponential lighting possibilities, working with light-modification tools will give you even more ways to control, shape and build your light. These tools are important because your flash is a highly directional light source. When used without any modifiers, a flash produces scenes with very heavy contrast. Your subject is lit from a single direction while the rest of the scene is dropped into shadow since the camera meters for the flash burst.

Honl Photo
Traveler8 Softbox
To wrangle the harsh unidirectional light output of a flash, diffusers are a class of light-modification tools that soften and spread light by passing the output through semitranslucent materials. Keep in mind that diffusion reduces the amount of light from your flash, and the material that you're using can also influence the color temperature and texture of the light.

The most popular diffusion system is the softbox, which offers a front panel of white see-through material on a housing that usually includes a reflective interior for channeling as much light spill from the flash forward as possible. The result is softened wraparound light that's very flattering for portraiture, much like natural daylight through a window on a cloudy day. Many softboxes are available with removable interior baffles for diffusing light further. Octaboxes offer a similar construction with a wider, more circular shape for a larger spread of light and rounder reflected catchlights in the eyes.

Impact Strobies Globe Diffuser
Umbrellas are particularly popular with speedlight users because the results are very much like a softbox, and setup is even faster and easier. Umbrellas produce more side spill, however, and because of this, you often lose more light from your flash. They're usually more affordable than softboxes, as well.

Interfit Strobies White STR104 Softbox
Beauty dishes are a good intermediate choice because the open-face design, coupled with a reflective half-moon interior, diffuses at the same time that it channels light forward. The results are much like an umbrella with soft light that wraps around your subject. Beauty dishes are popular in fashion and portraiture for their lively catchlights.

Domes are great diffusion solutions for on-camera flashes during events because they soften the highly directional output, and produce candids and portraiture with a more natural overall light spread that's similar to bouncing the light from a nearby wall or ceiling. They don't channel light forward, however; light rays are distributed along the circular circumference of the globe and become more omnidirectional. Domes can reduce light output quite a bit and are better for working at close distances.

Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Pro Kit
F.J. Westcott Fast Flags

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