I have always loved using off-camera flashes and want to extend my arsenal of different flash modifiers. In this first round I will concentrate on the type you can mount directly on the flash. I may return to umbrellas, softboxes, diffuser screens other larger modifiers later.
I have started assembling a flash modifier kit. You may remember my home made snoot from my coin podcast. Snoots are one kind of modifiers, but there are many more: filters, grids, flags, and gobos to mention some. Diffusers can also be counted, but are on the border if you look at modifiers in a more traditional manner. I will not make this a flash photography 101, but just briefly touch on each type, and then return to each in later posts. Much of this will be DIY-stuff. I love making my own gear, and modifiers are one of the areas where it's both possible and in many cases gives you better gear than what you can buy - or at least as good. And always less expensive. The thing about these modifiers is that you want them exactly as you envision and not like a standard product. Each of them does a specific job, and in many cases you mod them on location to do exactly that. There are tonnes of ready made modifiers out there and I will mention a few in these coming posts.
But let me just begin by runing through each type quickly and illustrate each effect in a small schematic:
Unmodified flash: the bare flash as it lights with no modifiers. Some flashes have zoom functions, which can narrow and widen their light beam, some have built-in wideangle diffusers, which spread the light.
Snoots: these are tubular constructions that concentrate light in a small circle. They are used to make concentrated spots of light. Some snoots have grids in them.
Grids: much like snoots, but mostly shorter and because of this won't render the light as concentrated. They are often used to control spill light - that is prevent light where you don't want it.
Flags: flat pieces of black foam, metal, plastic or cardboard used to control spill light and create hard edges on your light.
Barn doors: Barn doors are a type of flags - one plate on each side of the flash, on two sides or all four. The plates can swing to adjust the border of light in all four directions - hence the name.
Filters or gels: translucent pieces of special plastic that changes the color of he light. Comes in many colors as well as neutral density (ND), which just dampen the light.
Gobos: modifiers cut out in plastic or metal, meant to create patterns in the light. Windows and blinds are popular gobos, but other shapes are found too.
Diffusers: modifiers that serve to spread the light - typically to create softer shadows.
In the coming time I will run through some of these modifiers, how to create them and how to use them.