Light modifiers (light shapers) direct light in any way you want. After you try a modifier you may well conclude that that it was a great investment. They can be very beneficial to your efforts to produce high quality images regardless of the light source. Modifiers can help with daylight, continuous light or flash. They are easy to use to place the light where you want it and they can also modify the properties of the light you’re using. Modifiers come in all shapes and sizes.
This is a brief introduction to light modifiers so any piece of hardware that’s described will probably be part of a line of available products that ranges from inexpensive to very expensive. Most newbies will likely want to try an inexpensive model first.
Light modifiers are used primarily with the intent to mimic or fabricate lighting conditions from the natural world or to create lighting that is most appropriate to reach your photographic goal. You will often have a mental image of what is needed to compliment your subject. Sometimes you may want to replicate lighting from a faraway location.
You’ll want the right equipment for the task. Consider exactly what light you’re trying to imitate and the general mood that you want to convey.
The most basic and generally useful type of modifier is called an Umbrella. An umbrella creates a quality of light that is soft and abundant, and very forgiving. A reflective silver model will create crisp highlights and shadows. A bounce umbrella throws light everywhere.
The modifier that you will want to have handy in many situations is the Softbox. The softbox can make almost anything look attractive by softening light by making the source larger and more diffuse. The two most common shapes are octagon and rectangular. Square and rectangular replicate window light. The softbox is useful for portraiture.
Reflectors direct light. They reflect light in a narrow, bright beam and can be used with umbrellas. Reflector boar is an affordable alternative and can be trimmed to your needs.
A Beauty Dish is an important tool for portrait photographers. The beauty dish bounces light evenly yielding crisp light with exceptionally good quality contrast. The effect for portraits is to smooth skin and impart a natural appearance.
Barndoors are flexible and provide may lighting options.
Diffusion and Gels provide ways to make a color swatch on your subject as well as making possible many other special effects.
A Scrim will reduce light output with maintaining the light quality. A scrim panel is a square or rectangular frame with fabric diffusion material covering it.
The Fresnel light modifier gives a soft, crisp and very distinct look to my portraits.
Other items to consider are special lenses for you lighting hardware in addition to Grids, Gobos and the Hardbox.