As a follow up to my previous case study/survey, I wanted to ask another six top-gun studio photographer about their all time preferred light modifier. Having an arsenal of light bending tools and techniques is a must for any studio shooter and I think we can all benefit from those guys' experience. Without further ado, here's what they had to say.
Mark is a still life photographer from England that shoots anything from lipsticks to food, drinks, people and products. He also offers retouching services. What he told me is that his favourite light modifier would be a standard reflector used in combination with a honeycomb grid. He chose that light modifier for its controllability. With the honeycomb coming in several flavours (anywhere from 5° to 60°) and the fact that you can expand or contract that circle of light by simply moving the light closer, it’s true that its output is well regulated. He also likes the graduated pool of light coming from that light modifier. You can see Mark’s work on his website and follow his blog to learn more.
The still life shooter, originally from Japan, is now working from New York. He photographs anything from fashion pieces to liquids and food. His most beloved light modifier is basically any type of fresnel. Although a fresnel spot is more used in the movie industry, Akira likes it for still life photography because it gives a certain elegance and texture to his subjects (his photos really have that particular look). The strong, deep shadows with a little transition edge is also something the photographer likes about the light the fresnel gives. As the opposite of many people, Akira prefers to stay out of the diffusion zone unless it’s for metals or liquids and doesn’t use strobe because they tend to be too crisp for him. He goes with tungsten fresnel lighting instead. You can see Akira’s portfolio and blog on his website.
Hudson is more concentrated in shooting smaller objects such as food, beers and products. His backgrounds are always colourful and his shots are clean and tidy. He’s based in Portugal and also has a conceptual section of work. What he told me about his favourite light modifier is that it's none that you can buy. In fact, he makes (most of) them himself. His story is that, at some point in his career, he reached a wall in term of what he could get with commercially available light modifier. So, he started tinkering with lenses, reflectors, differents box shapes, tube, plastics, etc… and stayed up late in the quest to find the best light modifiers available. One light accesory he made is a very advanced snoot. Inside, there are plastic lenses that can change to focus of the light and black straws that can be twisted and adjusted in order to further modify the light coming out of it. Throughout his builds, he disassembled a children’s slide projector, played with light bulbs, Pringles can, toilet paper rolls and made pyramids out of cardboard. He says that the people he collaborates with sometimes comment on his tools and are impressed by them. All in all, his favourite light modifier(s) is/are one(s) that can’t be bought because they can do something readily available ones can’t. He talks about the particular snoot on his (now retired) Tumblr page. Furthermore, you can see his photography online and read his new blog.
Directly from New York, Adrian is making images of food, product, general still life and locations. He shared with me his favourite light modifier and it is a stripbox. More precisely, he enjoys the Chimera Super Pro X Plus Stripbank because of the fact that he can create very precise highlights (think of the white band reflections on a bottle) when used as-is. As a double duty, he can put sheets of diffusion in front (he uses Lee 216), angle the strip softbox relatively to the roll of diffusion and get very nice gradient tonal ranges as another type of reflection. The fish image you see is part of a serie which was all light using Lee 216 as sheets in front of stripboxes or placed on the reflector of a strobe. You can even see a BTS photo of his setup on his website. Also, follow Adrian on his blog.
This photographer is based out of Toronto, Canada. As you can see from his website, He prefers to shoot general still life and advertising. He has separate portfolios for cars and beverages. He says that he doesn't have a particular favorite light modifier but he likes using big and large reflectors. They allow him to point his light at the product’s surface with a lot of freedom and precision. He also shared with me is favorite lighting brands. They are Speedotron, Profoto and Broncolor. He enjoys the latter because of the consistency of the light output, which is one reason why the combination of Broncolor packs and head give such a lovely light quality. Check out his blog on his website.
Clinton is from Vancouver and he’s mostly shooting adverts, food and people. He told me about a few of his favourite light modifiers and here’s the rundown. As for the company, he goes with Profoto because of the broad variety of modifiers and add-ons. Then, he says that most of his images are shot with at least some kind of scrim. Sometimes it’s a four feet square with Rosco or Lee diffusion material. Other times, he goes for a 6’ to 12’ one with single or doubled material. Directly on his strobes, he may use a telezoom reflector or strip softbox (through a scrim). By varying the distance between the stripbox and scrim, you can go from a more specular light to a softer or more feathered one. Furthermore, he may use a Profoto beautydish paired with a honeycomb grid. He likes it because its light output is broader but still quite directional and that light is hard to get using anything else. For photographing people, Clinton takes the 6’ Elinchrom Octabox. Finally, in a way to replicate natural light, the photographer uses the white ceiling in his studio. It gives a very soft and even light that’s useful for filling tricky shadows. Check out his work on his website.
For my part, I like using a snoot with a small honeycomb grid because the small circle of light it produces is great to light a bottle’s label. Also, a stripbox with a sheet of Savage Translum is always a winner for me.
What are your favourite light modifiers? Why? Tell us below!