Light modifiers alter or control the light, some of them soften the light for more flattering shadows and others can create hard light. Using modifiers require photographers have more creative control over light by changing the color or even shape. Photographer Sarah Edmunds will shoot a model portfolio, discovering how different modifiers can be used to create powerful portraits.
The background of the project
My shoot today is to update the portfolio of model, actress and DJ Giulia Alberti, who asked me to provide some simple, elegant portraits showcasing her personality and classic grace. My goal is to allow her natural beauty to shine, and lighting is key.
We’ll be testing out the quick release parabolic softbox, a silver beauty dish with and without grid, and the intriguing lantern softbox.
Light setup 1
Our first setup uses one light with the quick release parabolic soft box and silver reflector, also from Godox. The soft box has a unique and very easy click system. A silver interior maximizes the bouncing of light inside the soft box, and an interior baffle helps reduce the central hotspot of light, creating a more even light spread. The deep shape funnels the light. A Bowens mount is compatible with my AD600pro, as well as the s2 bracket I use for smaller Godox lights.
The light is positioned above our model, pointed downwards and in front of her, also known as front feathering. I’m looking for a clean, simple lighting pattern to match the neutral set and styling, and mimicking the way natural light falls on the face. A reflector on the floor catches the light and bounces it back up, providing a flattering fill.
Light setup 2
A simple variation on the first setup is to use a large reverse umbrella, this time pointed directly downwards at a 90 degree angle onto the silver reflector on the floor. The larger the modifier in relation to the subject, the softer the light, and feathering to this extents softens it even more. The result is a shaft of light in front of Giulia, lighting her face and full body with a soft, even glow.
The umbrella has a white interior, which provides lower contrast than a silver one. The light itself is reversed, pointing away from the subject and into the white umbrella interior, then bounces back out through the sheer white diffusion fabric covering the umbrella opening. The spread of light is so broad that Giulia can move and pose freely.
Light setup 3
Our next look is more dramatic, and I want the lighting to match the glamour. In my book, that means just a little more contrast and shadows. I’m still using only one light and a reflector. This time, using the amazing lantern soft box. Compared to the large reverse umbrella, this modifier provides a smaller light source, meaning harder shadows, yet the lantern shape diffuses the light omnidirectrionally, so light can bounce off the white walls, ceiling and floor. The large silver reflector provides brilliant flow and striking catchlights in the eyes.
To increase contrast and reduce the bounce of light from the white walls, I place black V-flats either side of the subject.
Light setup 4
For this shoot, we are gradually adding drama, just by changing the light modifier.
This time we are using a silver beauty dish. The smaller the light source, the harder and more dramatic the light fall off, and the silver interior of the beauty dish gives wonderful specular highlights on the skin. For maximum drama, I use only the beauty dish, with no fill. The light is concentrated and focused on the model with deep shadows.
Adding a grid focuses and narrows the beam of light to a tighter circle. Now I want to combine it with the large reverse umbrella as a fill light, and use the beauty fish to illuminate Giulia’s beautiful skin and emphasise her wonderful bone structure. Again, the large silver reflector adds real pop to the eyes.
I can turn off the fill light using my xpro trigger for a low key look, and turn it back on for the glamorous three quarter shots.
Silver coated beauty dishes offer a more specular and more contrasty light, which is a look I love. The result is that Giulia looks almost lit from within. The unique shape of the beauty fish means that light fires into the dish, hits the small central reflector, bounces back and then bounces again off the curved metal surface towards our model’s face. Shadows from beauty dishes tend to have quite a rapid transition from light to shadow. The effect is soft and flattering thanks to the large umbrella fill light, with with a glossy, specular glow from the gridded beauty dish.