Day 52: Flash Gear and Modifiers 

Welcome to day 52 in 100 days of photography!  Right now we are two days into a 10 day lighting series, so if you missed yesterday, click right here!

My first wedding I had brought way too much gear. Minutes before the grand entrance I was frantically trying to set up three lights with huge softboxes while the DJ raised his eyebrows at me. I held up the entire timeline and learned very quickly that I needed to figure out a more simple lighting setup.

Yesterday we talked about the inverse square law and how it affects your photos, so today I wanted to talk a bit about how the size of the light source can affect your images. When you’re shooting with any light source (natural light included), the larger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the light. For example, the sun is a huge light source. It’s bigger than our entire planet. But because it’s so far away, it’s barely the size of a drop of water in relationship to us as humans which makes it a very hard light source. Now if we moved a giant cloud in front of the sun, that becomes a diffuser, making the light more even and soft. The same applies for a flash. If we use a bare flash bulb that is ten feet from a subject, the flash is the size of a dime, making it a hard light source. If we attach a big umbrella to that flash, then it becomes like a cloud, making the light softer. If we move that umbrella closer to the subject, it becomes bigger in relationship to the subject and therefore softer.

This isn’t talking about flash power… your flash power will change based on how close or far your subject is. This is just talking about hard light vs soft light.

When it comes to wedding receptions, I bring two lights, a light stand, a flash bender, and an umbrella.

One light goes on my camera along with my flash bender. You guys, I have tried a Lightsphere, a Magmod (several attachments), my bounce card, and a stoffin.  My favorite has been the flash bender and a close second is the Magmod. It increases the size of your light while pushing the light in the right direction and allowing you to get even lighting while you and your subjects are both moving a lot. While I might not use a flash bender in studio photography or anything else, when it comes to wedding receptions, I absolutely love it.

My 2nd light goes on a light stand and is placed in a corner of the room that I will be shooting into for most of the night. I set it to the lowest setting and angle it with no modifier at 90 degrees. When looking at my reception images, you can see the off-camera light either coming from the side of the subject or you can see a small pop or light right behind them. I feel like this gives my reception images more depth and visual interest. You will likely develop your own personal preference and I encourage you to play with this setup and find a style that suits you.


I usually only break out the umbrella when shooting reception details. When natural light is available, I prefer to shoot without a flash, but often a reception will require flash for the details. I attach the umbrella to my off-camera flash and place it 45-90 degrees from where I’m standing. So if my table is right in front of me, my flash is to the side, angled at the subject. This gives me directional light and allows me to have a softer light from the umbrella.

That’s it! My lighting setup for receptions and how I use each piece of gear! The last bit of advice I want to leave you with today is: Don’t be afraid to add more light in. So many photographers shy away from bumping up their flash power when it’s needed, and they’re left with really dark images. If your image is dark while you’re shooting, bump up that flash power!

Thank you for being here for day 52! Tomorrow is Day 53: Flash has two different exposures.