Comparing 17 Lighting Modifiers

In this video, I look at the difference between 17 of the modifiers in my studio. With such a huge selection of modifiers out there, it is often hard to work out what you need. Hopefully, this video helps. 

It wasn't that long ago that lighting modifiers were pretty standardized. But thanks to the Chinese market creating a myriad of off-brand items, there is almost a modifier for every day of the month! Knowing which one you need is really challenging, especially, if like me, you have storage and cost issues to take into consideration. 

Going through a mix of softboxes, umbrellas, beauty dishes, and reflectors, the main take-home message is that there isn't a great amount of difference between similar modifiers. So, you can often save your money. A better image will far outperform a better or slightly different lighting modifier. That being said, between the main categories, there are clear differences and very distinct applications for the modifiers. 

Personally, for portraits, I like the two-meter high softbox for beautiful soft lighting and great skin colors, but everyone has a different opinion on such matters.

comparing 17 different lighting modifiers

A selection of the 17 modifiers

From the selection above (not all 17), which do you prefer? And can you guess the modifier from the image?
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16 Comments

Alex Yakimov's picture

One before last. 13 always wins. Let me guess... Must be Godoxesque.

Scott Choucino's picture

yeah I think you are right

Lee Christiansen's picture

You do realise that your ongoing mantra about soft boxes is making many of us laugh our heads off...

At some point, (mmm or maybe not), you'll realise that a soft box is essentially a scrim with sides built on, plus a whole load of extra advantages.

For the record, I'm a paid photographer, and although I have both scrims and soft boxes in my kit, I choose to use soft boxes almost every time. Think about it... no really... think about it. Think of how each works... It will come to you eventually. :)

Eric Robinson's picture

You honestly believe this? As others have said there is fundamentally no difference between bulb and material or material and bulb!

A scrim is ONE way to light a subject. Not the only way. A real pro is in command of a lot of tools not a lot of dogma.

Eric Robinson's picture

Both scrim and softbox are bulb behind a material that causes the light to diffuse.....resulting in the light source being larger and softer. I really don’t understand the point you are making.

Eric Robinson's picture

Day is light, night is dark, methinks you are swimming in a sea of exaggeration.

markmark has a point about the scrim. That is why on the BTS of celebrity shoot they often have 10x10 scrim when shooting one person..

Using 17 different modifiers from basically the same position is not the best test. Each has it's sweet spot.
For example using a beauty dish from 7-8 feet from the subject loses the elusive BD effect. To get the BD effect it should be almost in the frame and very close to the subject and aimed so you are using the 'transitional" area of the light > shadow, otherwise it is just another round reflector which is also ok.

Very nice article. Thank you for sharing this. I would have maybe shown the modifier you used juxtaposed to each portrait image for more clarity.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks for the feedback. Very new to YouTube

Scott Choucino's picture

That is a very cool DIY modifier William!

Eric Robinson's picture

Do people honestly think choosing the correct modifier is the killer decision in shooting a great portrait? I think not. In my opinion one of the greatest British portrait photographers ever, Jane Bown didn’t use any! Nor did she really bother that much about her kit.
http://theimageworks.com/pub/nn034/bown/index.html
This obsession photographers have with kit is really perplexing, imaging that using the correct modifier, scrim! or using brand x instead of y will make the difference is pure self delusion perpetuated by these kinds or articles. Without doubt shooting a great portrait is not easy, but the answer is certainly not in modifier choice.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yes, this is very much my point. Apart from hard to soft light, the difference is so small that I’d say it is negligible. It’s thete, but not worth fretting about

Good article. I have shot all sorts of modifiers over the years and the truth is that the differences are small. The real issues are spill, size and distance form the BG.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah very much so. There is a diff, but not worth losing sleep or money over in a lot of instances.