Starting out in studio portraiture and not sure what light modifier to choose to achieve the photo you want? In the post, we’ll take a look at the differences between the main modifiers in order to help you make a good choice.
Beauty bowl, softbox, stripbox, reflector bowl, umbrella of all kinds and sizes, flash ring, etc… It is a bit like choosing a new car — there are many choices, but which one matches your expectations?
The beauty dish (or beauty bowl) is, as its name suggests, aimed primarily at the beauty of picture and thus essentially portraits, it produces a contrasting light and highlights the details of the skin and face. It’s often the modifier of choice for tight portraits in fashion photography and makeup photos.
There are generally two kinds: one with a silver interior and one with a white one. The silver gives a slightly harder light and contrast, and the white is softer. There are also various sizes on the market — the classics are 40cm, 56cm, and 70cm.
A small disc inside the dish reflects light back onto the dish surface, meaning there’s no direct light on the subject. There will also be a beautiful reflection in the eyes of your model.
The standard bowl reflector that comes with studio flashes is a basic option. There are different sizes and depths for different light qualities, and it generally produces a hard, direct light.
On the face of your model, we see that it will create a high contrast light with distinct shadows — if you want a soft portrait, this isn’t the modifier for you.
It’s a small modifier that you can use to play with shadows. You can also point it at a white wall for diffuse lighting, using the wall as a large reflector.
Umbrellas present many choices when it comes to shape, size, distribution, etc… The big advantage of it is that it can be set up quickly and doesn’t take up much space when folded up.
A silver umbrella produces harder light and more contrast. A white umbrella goes between your model and your flash, softening it and producing a very diffuse light that tends to illuminate your entire studio for soft, natural lighting.
A silver umbrella with diffusing fabric is a mix of the two umbrellas, with the silver side creating contrasty light and the diffuser fabric softening everything.
The ring flash wraps around your camera to create a look with no visible shadows. It gives a beautiful ring reflection in your subject’s eyes and a flattened look to your portraits. You can use the ring flash in conjunction with other light sources.
The softbox is a classic modifier that also comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes: square, rectangular, octagonal, etc… The silver interior helps increase the light, and the result is soft, diffused lighting like the white umbrella, except with more control. The larger the softbox, the more diffused your light will be.
The stripbox is a very long and rectangular softbox that you can use to achieve less shadows than a square softbox.
The Stripbox which are very long rectangular softbox, they shed light on a thin and long zone like for example an entire portrait have less shade than a softbox square.
In conclusion, there’s no right or wrong choice of light modifier — they’re just all different, and the best choice for you depends on what you’re hoping to achieve in your portrait.