Speedlite light modifiers and umbrellas

Using Speedlites in place of bulkier studio strobe equipment for the same quality lighting is great until you discover a favorite light modifier that's not compatible with the smaller flashes. Photographers are problem-solvers by nature, and given a little thought and ingenuity, you can come up with some simple solutions to lighting problems by thinking them through.

Taking some corrugated plastic sign material and stacking several 1-inch-wide by 3-inch-wide pieces together in the shape of your flash lens makes a nifty grid spot for your Speedlite. Wrap some black foam paper from a craft store around the assembly, and you've got a professional-looking piece of gear that's highly functional. Likewise, a product called Cinefoil, which is basically heavy-duty black tinfoil, can be wrapped around your flash head to minimize spill and light only a specific portion of your image.

A small 24-inch white or silver umbrella or collapsible softbox can be highly effective at softening the light from the flash to produce very soft portrait lighting with pleasing tonal gradations. For larger groups, an octabank can provide even lighting over a broader range. Be aware that octabanks, softboxes, and umbrellas are very susceptible to wind currents when used outdoors, so plan on bringing some extra weights or smaller gear bags to hook on them to hold them down.

Combine the Speedlites with the Transmitter ST-E2, and you can go wireless and avoid the bother of cords altogether. In addition, the newer Speedlites come with small stands that make it easy to place them around the set to suit your lighting plan.

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