Modifiers, Shapers, and Speedlight Essentials Kit for Beginners!

Natural light sources cost nothing and can be manipulated to provide looks from contrasty and dramatic to even and flattering. But when you want to complement or punch up certain looks or effects there are a variety of tools, modifiers, and light sources. Within this post is a list and descriptions for you to start on your adventures in creative and supplemental lighting. The item links lead directly to the product for you to check out.



Natural light modifiers:

Photoflex 7-in-1

Photoflex 7-in-1

The most cost effective way to bounce or subtract light is some cardstock/paper, fabric, or posterboard/craft board. If you would like to step up to some portable solutions that you can bring along check out the combo reflectors and supplemental light sources. My natural light location kit includes various 5-in-1 reflectors. The larger ones are used if I have an assistant or some help and the smaller ones can be held with your non-shooting hand in most cases. The 3rd party value brands (ePhoto, Cowboy, Limo, Neewer...etc) will do the job on a budget, I tend to like the build quality and feel of my Lastolite, Sunbounce, Photoflex, and Savage a bit more.

Each of the reflectors can switch out between silver, gold, mixed, black, and diffusion. I use the black side to subtract/reduce light, the gold/mixed for more contrast/black and white images, silver for a little more kick (harsher than the white), white for some neutral fill and bounce (I use this majority of the time), and the diffuser to tone down harsh light (usually used with close portraits and high overhead sun). *Note: Learn how to collapse and fold the reflector and also learn to correctly "feather" the light off of your reflector to avoid hurting your subject/model/clients eyes... you could mess up some eyes... it's dangerous... forreals!

Shapers and Modifiers for Speedlight Flash:

Westcott Apollo Orb Kit

Westcott Apollo Orb Kit

Shaping light is part artistry and part technical. All these tools serve some type of purpose of helping soften, direct, focus, or manipulating color temperature/mood with the light. To start off, a convertible umbrella or softbox would be the way to go along with a basic traveling Rouge Flashbender and Grid kit. If you want all in one kit that gets amazing results go for the Westcott Apollo Orb, this is the tool I used the most when doing my one light portraits on the go. It includes everything but the flash and triggers...well maybe add a heavy bag, sandbag, or assistant to hold or spot it in windy conditions. *Note: Umbrellas are terrible for windy conditions unless you have heavy sandbags attached to the light stand or an assistant holding onto the stand.

Hardware for Speedlights and Modifiers:

Most of the light stands out there will do fine but when you get a chance to invest in a quality heavy duty light stand or c-stand then go for it. The c-stand is more at home with your studio but can take the rigors of being out on location as well, they are heavy and take some work to carry around. Heavy or medium duty light stands with sandbags or weights should do a sufficient job. Make sure not to forget a swivel/tilt bracket for each light stand.



Photography gets real fun...or frustrating when you start adding additional light sources to the equation. The ability to creatively light and bring focus to your subject. You have a wide selection of basic value speedlights to be used manually or really decked out TTL (Thru The Lens) automatic type of speedlights. If you are on a budget or starting out and do not want to invest too much until you understand the workflow a bit more then go with a 3rd party speedlight flash (non-brand name), some triggers (wired or wireless), stands, and a couple of shapers/modifiers. If you have a system already and want to stay brand loyal there are options out there but a bit more digging into the wallet may be needed.

Speedlight flash: The Neewer TT560 is pretty much universal and was the one used in my photography classroom. It does happen to be the best bang for your buck, just take care of it and you will get some great work from using it. There are also kits that have triggers and multiple flashes below if you are interested in the full electronics portion.

For those brand loyal and wanting ultimate compatibility with Canon there are the Canon 270EX II Speedlite Flash for Canon SLR Cameras (Black)Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash, or Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT. For Nikon there are Nikon SB-800 AF Speedlight for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras - Old VersionNikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras, or Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras. For other companies please feel free to contact me and I will send you my recommendations and suggestions based on your needs.

Flash combination kits:

Yongnuo RF-602

Yongnuo RF-602

Wireless triggers: The Cactus V5 was used for my photography class and my students found them easy to work with after they figured out or realized the correct way to put in the standard AA batteries... (just look carefully... it is illustrated for you... High School The 602 is compact and does the job as well but the transceiver module uses a non-traditional battery so that may be a bit limiting.

Accessories and Essentials: Rechargeables.... Get them, it will save you money and time in the long run plus there are great deals on bulk and combo sets! SD cards, you can never have too many so if you have a chance to buy them for a great price...get them!

Please feel free to email or comment with any questions on the setup or putting it together. I have ongoing workshops and private lessons on setup and how to use the equipment if you are interested (you can email me here). Happy shooting!


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