Your Top 3 underrated lighting modifiers

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by phil_planta, Jan 5, 2004.

  1. Hi Everyone:

    I am lighting modifer junkie, just wanted to hear about your favorite tools for
    modifying light other than the standard fare ie. softboxes, reflectors and umbrellas.

  2. Balcar V-PLB 65 prisma light. the best way to describe it is a semi-rigid " strip"
    shaped (the ratio of the height x width are roughly 2:1) softbox with a three
    dimensional facted diffuser.

    small mirrors.

    small mirrors with black gaffers tape.

    A 4' x 4' scrim placed under a softbox and tilted to a slightly different angle to
    influence fall off.

    The above with "cookies" of different colors, transparrency & shape laid on it.

    A 4' x 4' (or larger) scrim that has slits cut into it for a mixture of hard and soft light
    from the same source.

    Grid spots.

    Black Wrap (AKA Rosco "Cinefoil")

    cheap lenses.

    anythiing that can refract light.

    My imagination.
  3. Concrete. (Walls, pavements etc)
  4. Hi Ellis....
    Hey, the response about mirrors sounds intriging! Is there something that you could post that was done using mirrors, or some shot on your website? If not...perhaps you could delve into it in more detail?
  5. Optical spot projecter with metal gobos and mirrors on table top sets.
  6. And glass blocks.......with or without gels.
  7. You asked for three:

    1) Black heavy foil

    2) Large white tarp

    3) White plexiglass
  8. Similar to mirrors, I like to use compact discs. It is easy to attatch a tiny A-clamp to them and hide them to light a small setup. They can also be bent to form the light into some interesting shapes. I like large sheets of silver housing insulation for the cost, size, and reflectivity. If someone needs to stand on one, or have an A-clamp attatched it isn't that big of a deal, unlike replacing a large lite disc or something where you wouldn't want someone or something to tear it or to dirty it. My final choice is white plexiglass. I like to place small objects on top of it and light them, as well as to shine a strobe through the bottom onto a subject standing above.
  9. Yes! my favorites...
    • Tupperware white salad bowl
    • Glass paperweight
    • Holographic gift-wrapping paper

    • -regards,
  10. The Matthew's knuckle stands with with diffusion flags are the most versatile light modifier you can have.

    'Cookies' are underused and appropriate in a lot of situations where they at might at first seem not.

    'Florentine' silver cards are softer than regular silver cards, and I use them a lot.

    But if you're a "lighting modifier junkie", you might get regressive and try to master the 'bare bulb', which to me, often seems uncontrolable!

    Good luck!
  11. Lowel makes quite a few modular products which I find useful such the flexible shaft which you can attach various flags and reflectors to. Great for blocking stray light from backlights, etc.
  12. John G : I thought I was the only person to call it 'Florentine' silver card.
    Where did you pick up that name?
  13. There's a randomly woven fabric sold at good plant nurseries to protect young seedling from burning in hard sun, called row cover. It's color neutral, very thin comes in 50" wide folded bundles that are 30 yards long. It's not prone to combustion and it layers to create uneven diffusion. It's extremely lightweight and very cheap. <p>I also like TransLume, a rollable diffusion material that works great in southfacing windows. It dings easy, but works great on clear plex for a table to bottom light through and your object doesn't reflect in it like milk plex... t
  14. Hi Jstoll:

    I don't know where I first heard them called "Florentine" cards, but I first started using them when I discovered that shiny Gold cards were very green. So I started using the Gold Florentine cards. Maybe that's what the salesperson called them....I guess I also bought some silver ones then also, but they are also very common in still life studios. I sometimes bend the full card to produce an arching light source. It can look similar to a hot spotted scrim, but more adjustable. Another set I've seen is a bent card with another smaller square card in front of it, with a light between them. It can produce a very interesting lighting setup, with the light source virtually invisible in the reflection of a shiny surface. These techniques usually require a hard back light, which is a favored technique for me anyway. I did a shot the other day, of a model's hand holding a digital camera in her palm. I used one backlight from behind and florentine silver cards above and below the lens. Perfect.

    But Jstrol: Here's one for you, what do you call a light placed near the camera to kick light into a shot, usually to decrease contrast or to add light to an uneven main light? I have always called it a "kicker" light, but I notice here that other photographers call "kicker" lights what I call "side" lights. I've taken to calling this front light a "dope" light because it's a little embarrassing to put a light next to the lens, but more and more neccessary with digital!

    See you around!
  15. Regarding "a bent card with another smaller square card in front of it, with a light between them"... huh? Which way is the light pointing? At the "bent" card, or the smaller one? I get the hard back light concept, but this bentcard/smallercard/light between setup has lost me. It sounds interesting... t
  16. Hi Tom;

    I've never actually used the small card in front of the bent card technique. I work freelance in a studio, doing product shots. When the studio manager saw me bending cards he came over and complimented me on the technique, saying that he uses that technique and had never seen anyone else doing it. Basically, a single bent card saves a large scrim and gives a more specular light. It's a quick fix for lighting shiny, round objects and produces a modulated highlight from very low (close) to the subject to very high through the bend. The most effective way to use the set is to have a hard backlight, which can produce a very small specular reflection (see my image titled 'celebrate' in my 'still life' portfolio), and to use the bent card in front, and in reflection to that light. This will produce an image with a good sharp front light with a feeling of an ovepowering, very directional backlight. Lovely.

    But to your question, in that studio, occassionally, if I've had some question about lighting something on a table top...I'm trying to think of an instance or example, but I can't remember, maybe it'll come to me....this studio manager has come over and put up a bent florentine card, off the set, and put a light in front of it, low, and began to place a square florentine card in front of that, on the set, which I assumed he was going to reflect off the backlight. Both times he has begun to set this up, he has abandoned it, but he seems to be sure of what he's doing. I may have pushed him off the set, because there's really nothing worse than having to work on a set that another photographer has half built. Particularly when I'm not sure of what he was doing. I recall now that we were shooting X-mas stuff, so there might have been glass ornaments and such. I also remember that he was once using gold cards, so it might have been jewelry. I get the idea that by bringing up the square card to near the brightness of the large bent card that you'll end up with a broad but strong main light. Or perhaps it is a matter of achieving a nice reflection in the product itself. You'd have to check.

    The bent card technique, as I said, really saves having to put up a huge scrim. It wraps around and over the set. I should mention that this studio does not have any scrims!! Everything is done with the Matthews diffussion flags, soft boxes, large or diffused reflectors on raw lights, and cards. Fun. I bend the card by either using the Matthew's knuckle boom/stands and an A clamp, or by bending and taping it across on the sides.

    Also, thinking about this subject, I want to mention, that while light modifiers are great, and a studio should be equipt with a variety of modifiers, there is a such thing as a QUALITY of light inherent in the lights themselves. I sometimes work with Broncolor lights, and I have to say, that they sometimes make me giggly on the set. The quality of the light, through the Hazy Light, or just diffussed, is so good, that it makes taking pictures almost too easy. The quality of the light is so wonderful, the shots make themselves. I've tried to modify other lights I have, to emulate this specular/soft light, but without success. I've tried crumpled tinfoil in the reflector, creating my own reflectors with the flash tube turned sideways, and a few other things, but while the Broncolor lights look great at any distance, through any reflector, the other lights have a 'sweet spot' distance from subject, through certain light modifiers that just never beats the beauty of the Broncolors. Then again, though, whether that difference makes it through the printing press is another matter.....

    In any event, the placement of the light, the notion, and it's appropriateness to a shot is ultimately much more important than the manufacturer of the light or the modifier for that matter.
  17. OOPs, sorry, the light, with a small reflector, would be pointed up at the bent card. none of it's light would effect the small square card. I assume....
  18. Maybe the small square card is being used only to block the mirrored reflection of the light itself in the the product. But on a table top, why not just drop the light to below the level of the table top? I would have to think about it, but I won't, it's a little more advanced than I have to know. The first question is, does the bent card offer more than a simple scrim would? Because the effect is very similar..... In my circumstances, as in my life, as in my still life, the answer is "sometimes, yes."
  19. John G : I call that an "on axis fill" light, I never use the term 'key' 'cause I
    never know what it really means. I use shiny silver & dull silver all the time,
    and curve it as well (and white, black, and a few shades of grey paper) Your
    discription of the light in the middle of a curved card and a square sounds like
    a poor man's 'beauty dish' to me.

    The photographer I got 'florentine' from was Irving Penn's studio manager for
    a few years, I figured it came from there. I knew he had to get it from england.
    Its hard to find here -I can't even find shiny silver matte board.
  20. I just want to add softbox louvers to the list since so many people keep asking how to keep a black background black. Doesn't do the job for close ups of small objects but for people shots or when the background is seperate from the foreground base they work nice.
  21. I don't know if anyone is still watching this thread, but I noticed
    that in this month's issue of PDN (Jan.'04), still life photographer
    Robert Tardio comments on these Florentine silver cards.

    He says, "Florentine cards have a lightly textured surface-almost
    a pebbly texture- that give you bouned light that's more intense
    than the bounce you'd get with a soft silver card, but not as hard
    a the bounce from a shiny silver card. I use Florentine silver fill
    cards a lot because I don't like the soft silver cards, which make
    the bounced light look kind of grayish. Another reason that I use
    Florintine silver fill cards is that, when you bounce light into one,
    you get a hot spot and a gradual falloff, which can create subtle
    gradations in the lighting and add visual interest to the shot."

    The article is interesting.
  22. How about a hardbox? Direct sharp shadows! Check it out
  23. For a source of Florentine Silver or Gold Showcards, look at Set Shop Florentine Showcards.
    You can also find them under Expendables at other suppliers like or Paper Products at (known there as Shiny Pebbled Silver or Gold).
    Their generic name is 'Showcards'.

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