Light Modifiers Outdoors


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Aug 4, 2010
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I have purchased a Gary Fong Collapsable Light Sphere for a wedding I did over the summer. It actually worked really well for me, the light was natural and really just made everyone pop! However, I haven't used it since. I've been experimenting with a speed light using TTL and a 24" soft box for most of my portraits which really gives photos that extra dimension, especially when you underexpose the background a bit. The problem is with the soft box it kinda gets bulky and is hard to manage sometimes (also I need to buy a radio receiver, still using infrared with the Sony). Which leads me to my question: Should I use my light sphere more on out door shoots? Also what are other light modifiers you prefer using outdoors and why?
Go with a shoot-through umbrella; almost as good as a soft-box, but wayyyyyyyyyy easier to pack around.
Go with a shoot-through umbrella; almost as good as a soft-box, but wayyyyyyyyyy easier to pack around.

Outdoors though if there's even a breeze that umbrella's taking off. Weights may help of course; depends on the conditions.

Here's what you've also got to decide. If it's portablity then theres no question, you're not going to carry around a softbox 5 feet at a time to set up for a candid shot at a wedding. Here's where the lightsphere is what you want. If you're doing a set photoshoot, work with the flash off camera and get some wireless triggers to use with either the softbox or umbrella ideas. As said earlier though, conditions may not allow for an umbrella outdoors. Softbox would be the way to go.

Also, if you've got an assistant or someone to help you out, light modifiers like reflectors can help a lot.
Stop and think about the properties of light for a minute.
To make light softer, you can do two things; increase the size of the source, or move the light closer to the subject.

Now consider what the 'Fong Dong' does. It spreads the light out in all directions, and does increase the size (compared to a bare flash head)...but if your subject is more than a foot or two away, the increase in size is pretty much irrelevant. And it doesn't move the light any closer to the subject than a bare flash.
So the main difference between bare flash and the LS, is that the LS spreads the light all over.

Now think about shooting outdoors. Where is all of that light going? If it's going out in 360 degrees, most of it isn't getting to your subject, so it's wasted. That means that your flash is working much harder than it needs to be....causing longer recycle times and eating batteries faster.

Of course, if you are indoors, especially in a small room, that wayward light may bounce off the the walls & ceiling, coming back to wrap your subject in light. That's great, that's what the LS is made for. But when using its outdoors, it doesn't just hurts your cause.

Now consider an umbrella or softbox. A good sized one will significantly increase the size of your light source, thus giving you the nice soft light that you are wanting. The problem with using them outdoors, is that they can easily catch the wind and blow over most light stands. So I'd suggest that they are best used when you have a voice activated light stand (assistant).
I wouldn't give up on the softbox. It may require more effort, but you have already experienced good results. I also use a 30" soft box with an old Lumydine portable flash unit. Battery pack is only 200ws (adjustable 50-100 200) but does the job. I agree with you about the "punchy" look you achieve when dropping the ambient light reading down a stop.
Umbrellas are easy to set up, but not as effective as the soft box and a real problem with wind.
If it's any help you can check my blog tutorial post on FLASH OUTDOORS at
I hope you stick with it, cheers.
Great advise from all! I think I'll stick with the soft box and only use the 'fong dong' mainly indoors lol. Great tips from your website as well :)
for location shoot, i bring some stands with 48 inches umbrellas and some sandbags. it does the job

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