Getting Started with Light Modifiers

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by Guy T. Phillips
Texas School Instructor

If you are just getting started with photography and wanting to go beyond the limits of ‘natural light’ the choices for light modifiers can be both intimidating and, if you don’t know a few basics, expensive.

First, consider what you are photographing and ask yourself 3 quick questions – who?, what? and where?.  For example, if you intend to work with a single individual for a headshot, that may not be the same choice as you might make for a group.  Let’s take a quick look at options that can be versatile and stay in budget!

An easy starting point (and one that you can use forever) could be either a Westcott Standard Umbrella – White Diffusion (45”, model 2003) at $21.90 or Westcott’s White Satin with Removable Black Cover (45”, model 2005) at $32.90?  So, how do you choose?

Personally, I prefer the or Westcott’s White Satin with Removable Black Cover (45”) at $32.90, because it’s just an additional $11 for a more flexible modifier.  The black cover can easily be partially or fully removed to reveal the same white diffusion ‘shoot-through’ umbrella, or used with the black cover in place as ‘bounce’ umbrella.  With the black cover in place, you can gain more control of the light, and the reflective surface bounces more light output onto your subject.

Here’s a quick pros and cons of each: