Light Modifiers – Comparison Shots

After making my DIY snoot, softbox and gridded snoot, I thought I would show you the effects each has on the light from the flash. So I took six shots, each using a different modifier but the same camera settings and flash power:

  • ISO 200
  • Shutter Speed: 1/200
  • Aperture: f/14
  • Flash power: 1/128
  • Flash head zoom: 28mm

Without flash, this exposure combination resulted in a black frame, so the flash is the only thing which has any bearing on the exposure. It’s interesting to see how the shadows and overall exposure change. First off, let’s see what the bare flash gives us:

1. Bare flash, no light modifiers
1. Bare flash, no light modifiers

The shadow cast is quite pronounced, the main subject is well exposed, even if the background is a little dark. Using the built-in flap down diffuser on the YN560 we get:

2. Built-in flash diffuser
2. Built-in flash diffuser

Compared to #1, the difference between shadow and background is less pronounced – the shadow is somewhat softer. The amount of light falling on the shuttle is reduced also. Next, I retracted the built-in diffuser and instead fitted the Stofen diffuser:

3. Stofen diffuser fitted
3. Stofen diffuser fitted

This gives quite a similar exposure to #2, but I think I just prefer the softness of the shadow and exposure on the shuttle with this one. Next up, I tried the DIY softbox:

4. DIY softbox fitted
4. DIY softbox fitted

This gives a really nice soft light all round, with good exposure on the main subject. Yes, the background is rather dark, but if I was using the softbox, I probably wouldn’t use it on its own – but with another flash to light the background as well. Next, let’s see what difference going the other way makes – using the DIY snoot to concentrate the light:

5. DIY Snoot fitted (short version)
5. DIY Snoot fitted (short version)

The main shadow is definitely more pronounced in #5 than with the bare flash (#1). There also seems to be a much paler secondary shadow around the main one, which I’m guessing is from light bouncing around the silvered inside of the snoot. Finally, I added the newly-fashioned grid to see what happened:

6. Gridded Snoot fitted
6. Gridded Snoot fitted

This is really effective for cutting out all extraneous light and focussing it directly on the main subject – which is exactly the job it’s designed for.

This has been really useful in showing me what each modifier does. It also shows that, if you do use a modifier, it’s likely that you will have to up the exposure either in camera or with the flash power to get a better overall illumination to the scene in question.

Obviously, all these images have been taken at quite a small (tabletop) scale, but the principles are equally applicable if you’re shooting portraiture or other larger subjects, either with off-camera flash or studio strobes.

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