Flash modifiers

By Martin Joergensen | July 30, 2008 10:14 PM | Permalink | Comments ( 1)

DSC_4038.jpgI 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.



Martin, you must be able to read my mind. I have been composing an email to you to ask if you could tell us more about how to use flash and how you accomplish your results. I have looked at sites like strobist but frankly found them unsatisfactory because of lots of data but no information or more importantly no simple dummies guide to get you off 1st base. I am looking forward to reading your future 'how to' posts.