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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:
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
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
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
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
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