Monday, August 18, 2014

See the Light Series Vol 3: Modifiers by Mark Kitaoka

Part 3 of 3 - Using Modifiers

Photographers often ask, "Mark what's your favorite modifier? Is it a softbox, umbrella, shoot through or bounce?" My answer is always the same - My favorite modifier is what I think is the best one for a specific job. Sometimes it's a softbox, sometimes it's an umbrella, sometimes a cone or in quite a few cases it's a combination of several.

So as I often like to do, let's go back a few years. One of my teachers, actually the man who taught me about using artificial light was thankfully VERY hard on me. No namby pamby talk; it was mostly, "You must not be listening to me because that looks terrible, here's why!" And he would go over EXACTLY why it was bad and he was always right ... back then. After a bit my photos moved from terrible to a proverbial "Nice" which in his speak meant crummy but not horrible.

Once in a great while I would garner a "Great Shot!" from him, with his caveat "One day you may understand how to use light, not soon, but one day and it's only a maybe... And remember, one in a row doesn't count for anything if you want to be a commercial shooter." I used softboxes as my primary light modifier. Reading through blogs, forums and such it seemed to me that most 'pros' or advanced non pros used them extensively. So naturally I wanted to emulate the 'pros' and found I was able to consistently produce 'nice' images on a relatively consistent basis.

What I noticed though was no matter what my subject matter, inside a studio, on location or outdoors my lighting seemed to all look the same. Soft light, done decently, but not that different from one to another. So it was back to my mentor for some more ego beatings. "So do you ever feather your light or do you hit the talent in the dead center of the softbox you're using?" Huh? Feather?

You will be amazed at how much of a different look you can achieve by feathering light. What does that mean? Well instead of hitting your subject with the dead center of the softbox light, swing it left or right, up or down to see how the wrap of light can make a difference. Use your modeling light if you have one to observe how the mood of your subject changes as you move the light around. Take off the outer diffuser to see how that looks. Use a grid to direct your light. Take off all of the diffusion materials to see how that looks. Try it all!

Read more on Mark's blog!

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