A Comparison of Lighting Modifiers

There seems to be a new modifier coming out of China every other week; in this video, I go over the key lighting modifiers I use as a food photographer.

My studio is crammed with umbrellas, spill kills of every size and depth imaginable, beauty dishes, sunbounces, octaboxes, octabanks, scrims, and more rectangular softboxes than anyone can really justify. When I first started out as a portrait photographer, I was flummoxed by the vast array of options available to me, all laying claim to being the best portrait photography modifier. Since my foray into portraiture, I have finally found my niche in food photography. I still shoot the odd portrait when I feel the urge (or a client has the urge), but most of my work doesn't move anymore. So, with help from Pete the Pineapple and the photography skills of Richard, I set about comparing some of my more commonly used modifiers against some of those that have been gathering dust for the past five years.

set up for a food photography lighting test comparing modifiers

Food photography test setup

The big take-home message here is that with a bit of tracing paper and light, you can create something pretty darn good. Then, with any modifier, be it something designed for still life or a beauty dish, you can make it work with a still life or food photograph. 

My personal favorite is always the soft box and scrim with a combined kicker of a beauty dish with a grid to pull out the hero of the shot.  What are your go-to modifiers?

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7 Comments

michaeljinphoto's picture

69" Octa, 28" Beauty Dish, and a 1'x3' Strip Box is my go-to combination at the moment.

Scott Choucino's picture

I’m in the market for some nice strip boxes atm, but I shoot bowens predominantly and I can’t find anything of use in the UK

michaeljinphoto's picture

I use the Westcott Strip Bank. I started using them because I wanted to do Peter Hurley's KinoFlo setup, but with strobes instead of continuous lighting and I like that they come in 1x2, 1x3, and 1x4 which makes them easy to mix and match since you won't get weird catch lights from varying widths. That having been said, they're uber durable and produce beautiful results so I would highly recommend them.

The ones I have are the ones that say "10 Year Warranty". I don't have the "Switch" series so I can't speak for those. If you go with Westcott, you can just use a Bowens speedring, which is what I use when I move the boxes over the my Godox light for occasional video use.

Alex Herbert's picture

I recently bought a Phot-R stripbox from Ebay (Chinese seller) was about 55 quid and it's the umbrella opening kind, so no faffing about with metal poles etc.

Scott Choucino's picture

Alex is perhaps the best source on YouTube for product photography and general lighting knowledge. I never feel that this guy got the recognition that he deserved.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Nice link, thanks!

Have to agree on the scrim, I've got a couple of 3x3ft 3mm thick opal acrylic sheets, I love them. Also use A Rosco silk scrim film, I forget the number though. Plus I have a load of custom made Rosco tex 3060 Silent Grid with rubber suckers around the edge. These I had made for scrimming aircraft windows when shooting the interiors but as as useful in studio for desktop work light. Only downside with those is they're creased and crumpled, less than ideal when shooting reflective surfaces.

Tony Clark's picture

An informative video, the only issue I had was the set. Perhaps a more realistic setting with a surface, a wall and a couple of props to create an environment. I do these kinds of experiment sessions regularly when it's just me in the office trying to find a new combination or preparing for an upcoming shoot..

I haven't used strip boxes but used Kino Flo Diva's for a couple years. I recently decided to go back to my Profoto Acute2 kit. I liked the quality of light from the Kino Flo along with low operating temperature but felt the need to reinvent myself. If you do much video, I'd probably research LED panels because they seem to be rather small and have good output but I don't know how consistent the color is on them.