Flashgun Accessories for Using and Controlling Light - Digital Photography School
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Flashgun Accessories for Using and Controlling Light

A flashgun attached to your camera can help to illuminate your subject in low-light scenes and night-time shots, but often the direct nature of the beam can create prominent or unflattering shadows, rob backdrops of ambience, flatten textures, plus dilute the skin’s natural hues and tones.

One of the solutions is to use a light modifier, which can be attached simply and quickly to a flashgun, and are used to control the strength, shape light and concentrating of light. The portable nature of these accessories also means they can be easily stowed away in a camera bag to be taken on location, and what is more – a growing number of manufacturers are producing these lighting accessories to give amateur photographers more choices to use light creatively to generate more professional looking results.

Here is a brief guide to some of the more common modifiers for flashguns to help you get started, but there are lots more out there to try:

Snoot

Like its studio equivalent the flashgun snoot is a dark conical device strapped to the light source to generate a concentrated narrow beam of light. The spill of light is fiercely controlled and can be directed to illuminate areas of a scene shrouded in dim light or darkness like a spotlight. This particular accessory is fantastic for using for boudoir photography and even some stylistic-heavy fashion shoot.

Example: Honl 8” gold-silver reflector speed snoot, £28/$29.95, www.honlphoto.com

Honeycomb grid

Like the snoot, the honeycomb grid directs light with minimal fall off but isn’t as strongly controlled, plus instead of creating a circular field of light the result is more rectangular. Photographers can slot in patterned metal sheets to add an extra level of creativity, plus warm, cool or colour the light using coloured gels.

Example: Lastolite Strobo, £120/ $195, www.lastolite.com

Softbox

Just like soft boxes that are used in studio environments, photographers on the go use these shoot-through mini-versions by strapping them on to the head of the flash gun. The large flat white panels of the box diffuse the beam of light cast, spreading it more evenly for a flattering result. Thanks to the delicate nature of the light generated, soft boxes are the perfect accessory for shooting portraits of any kind, indoors and outdoors, and can be teamed with natural light to rid the model’s face of shadows cast by the sun.

Example: GamiLight softbox, £32/$53, www.gamilight.com

Bounce, Reflectors

A bounce is usually a flat or slightly angled surface that once attached to the flash gun is used to control the shape and angle of light. Photographers position the bounce so that the beam of light from the gun reflects of the surface and ‘bounces’ either directly on to the model, or for a softer result that comes from another direction, off of a wall or ceiling. Bounce’s can also come in coloured version such as an amber hue, to add warmth to the light.

Example: Rogue FlashBenders Large reflector, £30.99/$39.95, www.expoimaging.com

Globes, Domes

Similar to a soft box, globes and domes are made of opaque plastic and are designed to be shot through to diffuse the power of the light, and spread it across the scene more evenly thanks to their globe or dome like design. Depending on the construction of thick plastic, most globes and domes will result in one stop light loss for noticeable softer results. Wedding photographers will often use such devices during the first dance or evening parts of the celebration to gently light the subject’s whilst retaining the ambient light of the location.

Example: Gary Fong Lightspere Collapsible, £99/$59.95, www.garyfongstore.com

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

  • http://terminalvelocity.ca Ryan Cooper

    Cool tools but an example of painfully simplistic and cheap to produce photo accessories that are embarrassingly over priced. Talk about profit… Not a single item above has any advanced RND involved and is made out of very cheap and easily accessible materials.

  • http://www.portraitinspiration.com Jai Catalano

    I enjoy the gary fong diffuser but I really want to try the snoot on the flash. I love the control it gives. By the way this is a great post for beginners, intermediates and advance shooters. It just keeps the education and inspiration flowing.

    http://portraitinspiration.com/inspiration-for-the-day-19/

  • Scottc

    I’ve been wanting to try snoots, looks like an interesting technique that I can learn from. Thanks for the reminder and a great article.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157626340375625/

  • Tim

    My favorite accessory is the off camera extension cord for more interesting shadows.

  • Tod

    A basic one would also be a light stand

  • http://csafotography.wordpress.com Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri

    These are new to me. I dont know why but I have not purchased a flash or anything sort of that for improving my photography. One of the basic reasons for this is, I normally shoot during the day and rarely shoot at night. I have tried a few times during night but then, those shoots dont require me to use a flash. I got to make some clever investment in some flash accessories soon :)

  • Jay

    Thanks Natalie. Won’t the softbox interfere with the sensor on the flash’s front?
    My Canon Speedlite has a large red sensor that I rely on for the “thyristor” mode (yes, I’m that old!) – I prefer this to TTL.

  • Tod

    If you don’t want to spend big money on actual canon or Nikon flashes. There are a few cheap brands Sch as yongnuo which will do the job

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/photokautz Frank Kautz

    Chitra, you should try adding a flash during the day. You will be surprised at how much it helps.

    Frank

  • http://www.akshayjamwal.com/ Akshay Jamwal

    Wow, I have three studio monolights that have some cheaper accessories.
    Having said that, the light modifiers for flashguns in this article are definitely preferable over a bare-bones flash pop.
    I’m a little surprised that the humble, often-used (and seemingly forgotten) umbrella didn’t make it to this list of accessories.

Some older comments

  • Akshay Jamwal

    December 7, 2012 05:20 pm

    Wow, I have three studio monolights that have some cheaper accessories.
    Having said that, the light modifiers for flashguns in this article are definitely preferable over a bare-bones flash pop.
    I'm a little surprised that the humble, often-used (and seemingly forgotten) umbrella didn't make it to this list of accessories.

  • Frank Kautz

    November 23, 2012 07:40 am

    Chitra, you should try adding a flash during the day. You will be surprised at how much it helps.

    Frank

  • Tod

    November 21, 2012 05:39 am

    If you don't want to spend big money on actual canon or Nikon flashes. There are a few cheap brands Sch as yongnuo which will do the job

  • Jay

    November 21, 2012 04:21 am

    Thanks Natalie. Won't the softbox interfere with the sensor on the flash's front?
    My Canon Speedlite has a large red sensor that I rely on for the "thyristor" mode (yes, I'm that old!) - I prefer this to TTL.

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri

    November 20, 2012 11:41 pm

    These are new to me. I dont know why but I have not purchased a flash or anything sort of that for improving my photography. One of the basic reasons for this is, I normally shoot during the day and rarely shoot at night. I have tried a few times during night but then, those shoots dont require me to use a flash. I got to make some clever investment in some flash accessories soon :)

  • Tod

    November 20, 2012 04:33 pm

    A basic one would also be a light stand

  • Tim

    November 20, 2012 12:30 pm

    My favorite accessory is the off camera extension cord for more interesting shadows.

  • Scottc

    November 20, 2012 10:29 am

    I've been wanting to try snoots, looks like an interesting technique that I can learn from. Thanks for the reminder and a great article.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157626340375625/

  • Jai Catalano

    November 20, 2012 06:49 am

    I enjoy the gary fong diffuser but I really want to try the snoot on the flash. I love the control it gives. By the way this is a great post for beginners, intermediates and advance shooters. It just keeps the education and inspiration flowing.

    http://portraitinspiration.com/inspiration-for-the-day-19/

  • Ryan Cooper

    November 20, 2012 06:46 am

    Cool tools but an example of painfully simplistic and cheap to produce photo accessories that are embarrassingly over priced. Talk about profit... Not a single item above has any advanced RND involved and is made out of very cheap and easily accessible materials.

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