Our Five Favorite Speedlight Modifiers

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Speedlights have grown in popularity over the years, especially as low-cost options have begun to flood the market and make more elaborate lighting kits accessible to beginners and advanced amateurs. However, these compact on-camera flashes, while good, are still limited by their placement on or near the camera and their usually very direct lighting. Once you start comparing them to full-fledged monolights and power pack systems, their limited feature set tends to become evident. Fortunately, along with the influx of flash options a major wave of modifiers has hit the market, providing photographers with a healthy sampling of tools to improve the quality or look of their portable lights. Here’s a look at some of our favorite modifier options for on-camera lighting.

Dome Diffusers and Lightspheres

Often found packaged with many speedlights, the venerable dome diffuser is a much-loved pick due to it not taking up much space in the bag, affordability, and effectiveness. One of the most often sought-out tools in lighting is a softbox to, obviously, soften the light, and the dome diffuser is a good way to do that with an on-camera light. Simply enough, you pop the dome on the flash head and then point your flash toward a ceiling or wall, creating an enormous light source that is inherently soft. If you are finding the bundled dome lacking, many photographers find the Gary Fong Lightsphere to be a great addition to their kit with a larger, adjustable design that can accept multiple domes for different color effects. Another bonus is the flexible material, which collapses for easy storage.

Vello Universal Bounce Diffuser

Gels!

One of the easiest ways to create a fun or exaggerated effect is by using gels. These flexible, colored sheets are quickly thrown in front of a speedlight and will change the color of the flash in subtle or dramatic ways. I like to differentiate gels into two different categories: practical and creative. An example of a practical gel is a CTO or a plus green, which allow you to match a daylight-balanced speedlight to tungsten fixtures or fluorescent lights near which you may be shooting. The use of these is recommended because it will make editing your photos a lot simpler if you aren’t fighting between two color casts. On the other side are the creative gels, which are your vibrant purples, reds, blues, etc. These are less critical in terms of correcting the balance of your light and are generally used to create a wash of color on your subject. The trick with gels is figuring out a good way to attach them to a speedlight, beyond just gaffer-taping them on directly. A popular method today is the MagMod system, which uses magnets to attach/detach various modifiers quickly, including a MagGel holder. This lets you snap on and take off multiple gels at a moment’s notice, if you wish.

MagMod Basic Kit

Limit Light Spill with a Grid

We’ve talked about a couple of tools to soften or enlarge the light, but what about those of us who want more control? This is where grids come in handy. Available in many varieties, a grid uses a honeycomb pattern to reduce the beam angle and control light spill, generally creating a narrower beam with quick falloff at the edges that is easier to position on your subjects. If you want this for your flash, I would take a look at the ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid Kit. Including both 25° and 45° grids, you can create a smaller 16° beam angle when you stack them, effectively providing three distinct beams in a single setup. Additionally, three gels are included for adding a bit of creative flair to your imagery.

ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid with 3-Gel Starter Kit

Transform your Flash into a Ringlight

The ring flash look has become more and more popular recently but, for many, the cost of purchasing a dedicated light has been too steep. Modern modifier manufacturers have stepped in to help out with items like the RoundFlash. This device pops onto your lens using elastic bands and has a specially designed opening for a standard shoe-mounted flash. The RoundFlash then bounces and redirects the light from the flash head around the mirrored interior of the ring to create an even, diffused light around the lens, effectively creating the circular light for which ring flashes are known, but without the added cost.

RoundFlash Magnetic Ringflash Adapter

The Simple Solution: Bounce Cards and Reflectors

My absolute favorite choice for effective on-camera lighting at events is an index card strapped to a flash head with a rubber band, to reflect just enough light forward while I have the flash pointed toward a ceiling for bounce lighting. Today, however, many companies have taken this idea and decided to do it even better with more effective shapes and sizes. One of the most famous of these options has to be the Rogue FlashBender from ExpoImaging. Now in its second iteration and in sizes up to XL, the FlashBender gives shooters a large area for bouncing the flash and is bendable with integrated supports for controlling exactly how the light is bounced forward. A huge benefit of these reflectors is their ability to accept accessories, letting you transform them into a softbox or snoot with ease.

ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 Reflector

What are your go-to flash modifiers? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

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