A Helpful Comparison of Various Lighting Modifiers

When you're first starting with artificial lighting, one of the biggest things to learn is how different modifiers affect the face. This helpful video compares numerous modifiers of different types and sizes to help you understand their effects and choose what's right for you.

Coming to you from Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens, this video follows him as he mounts various lighting modifiers to a Dynalite Baja A6 Monolight, keeping the front of the modifier a consistent four feet from the subject to ensure that the test isn't affected by the proximity of the modifier, which would make the light softer as it moves closer to the subject. Altogether, the test encompasses three reflectors of varying sizes, two beauty dishes, octaboxes, parabolic umbrellas, softboxes, and large umbrellas

While there's a lot of conventional wisdom about which modifiers are "best," part of the decision is also your personal preference, so be sure to pay attention to things like highlight-shadow transitions, how the lights affect the background, whether you prefer silver or white lining, highlights, etc. Another thing to consider beyond what the video mentions is catchlight shape. Be sure to think about what shape you prefer, particularly in regards to circular vs. rectangular. 

And if you'd like to learn more about the basics of photography, be sure to check out "Photography 101: How to Use Your Digital Camera and Edit Photos in Photoshop."

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Good article. :)

He says that he uses a Mola [Demi] 22" Beauty Dish at one point, but it's actually a Speedotron.

@Sean S. - Yeah, I noticed that too. But I think that "Mola" is kind of like "Kleenex" in that it's a brand name that has become descriptive of a certain type of product. In this case it's the specific tiered design of the demi, setti, and euro beauty dishes. Instead of calling it a "demi-like beauty dish made by speedotron" he just calls it a mola, and I have met many photographers who do the same. It's still good to know brands and models so that us viewers can purchase the same thing if we don't want to spend the extra $$$$ ;)

I actually considered the term being used generically (and even thought of "Kleenex" specifically), but... those types of proprietary eponyms result from the ubiquity of a product through market dominance. I'm not sure that I'd consider Mola beauty dishes to fit into that category.

For what it's worth, he links directly to the Mola Demi in the article on his website where the video is embedded. That means one of two things: either a) he's completely ignorant of the gear he's using or b) he's linking to a higher priced product on purpose to generate more income from the affiliate links.

Neither one of those possibilities is comforting to me.