The Difference Between Using Bare Flash Heads and Light Shaping Tools

As a young photographer, I used to think a beautiful flat light, that gave smooth skin tones was the best way to capture a portrait. I invested in a bunch of large diffuse light modifiers, such as softboxes, beauty dishes, and octoboxes, and shot photos of people with the smoothest and flattest lighting I could muster. Although, as time progressed, I learned the greater importance of telling a STORY with your photographs, rather than just making them look pretty or clean. This is when I learned about grids, bard doors, and negative fill in order to actually shape the light and not let it spill all over the photo environment. Thankfully, Profoto has debuted a series of videos to teach photographers about the most effective way to use light shaping tools.

There are many assets and skills a GOOD portrait photographer must have. One of the most important? Learning how to tell a story by shaping your light. So, if you haven't already, I highly suggest learning all about light modifiers including grids for softboxes and beauty dishes (great tutorial below).

Here is another helpful Profoto tutorial: What's the Difference Between a Snoot and a Softbox?

​Aside from creating a dramatic light on your subject, modifiers keep you from spilling unwanted light on your backdrop or environment, giving your photos an unpolished appearance.

Another great one: The Difference Between Grid and No Grid

Would love to see your portraits below using modifiers to tell a story by shaping your light. Post in the comment section below!

Make sure to check out more of Profoto's tutorials and videos. A lot of pretty interesting and helpful content:

Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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thanks for this nice article. But is there a bts video of the articles main picture? this would be interesting. thanks

haha thats one of my old photoshoots. i can do something on that photoshoot and style in the future

that would be great. this picture catched my attention and i was a little sad, that the video in this article isn't bout this photo. anyway great work and i really like your style. Thanks

From a shoot I did a while back, where we tried to recreate an old Hollywood mood. The light is intentionally harsh and I used a snoot to get the narrow directionality.

I couldn't stop thinking about my speedlights and magmods watching all of these!

The two dynamic black and white portraits under the headline interest me more than the Profoto infomercial.