It is hard to know when you should use a light modifier. Is also difficult to guess which one is the best and to find light modifiers on a budget. Here are some tips and tricks to practice your portrait photography and add some modifiers to it.
Natural light with some flash light to fill in the shadows.
Photograph by Nucky Dana Photography.
So you’ve bought your new awesome flash light, you’re all excited about it and you want to experiment and try out all the possible options. Obviously, among them is using some flash lights. That way we can change the direction of light as we please.
You have to remember that the light direction changes the quality of a picture. Generally speaking: light coming from the sides allows you to see texture, frontal light flattens and softens and backlight allows you to show silhouettes and halos (this type of lighting usually calls for a fill light).
“Light modifiers redirect and change the light to make it work the way we it want to.”
These portraits were made with the flash on an angle of 90º (aprox.) regarding the subject’s position, as I wanted some shadow on the side of face. Where’s the difference between the four portraits then if the direction of the light is the same?
It’s in the light modifiers.
Let’s start with the first picture, flash without a modifier. We can see the shadows are really hard and we have high contrast.
Let’s then talk about cheap modifiers for beginners. These will allow us to distribute light and shadows where and how we please.
Softbox: A softbox is a basically a box. Five of its sides are black and the front one has white fabric that allows light to reflect and spread. This has two functions: The first one, the black sides avoid light from spreading all around, so it can focus on our subject. The second function, with the white fabric, is to diffuse light a little bit; as the light focuses there’s still contrast.
White umbrella (third pic.): This is literally a white umbrella which you’ve to put in front of the flash. The light then hits the umbrella, the white fabric picks it up and directs it without spreading it into the subject. This light is quite flat and soft, so we can achieve softer and sweeter portraits.
Black umbrella with silver side (last pic.): This umbrella is black and it has a silver reflector side inside of it. Therefore, you have to just set it backwards, flash into the silver side and let the light bounce back. This makes the light even softer and has less contrast.
I hope this post helps and you try now with your flashes and practice to see these differences. And you know that if you have any doubts, I am happy to help!