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The Difference Between Using Bare Flash Heads and Light Shaping Tools

As a young photographer, I used to think a beautiful flat light, that gave smooth skin tones was the best way to capture a portrait. I invested in a bunch of large diffuse light modifiers, such as softboxes, beauty dishes, and octoboxes, and shot photos of people with the smoothest and flattest lighting I could muster. Although, as time progressed, I learned the greater importance of telling a STORY with your photographs, rather than just making them look pretty or clean. This is when I learned about grids, bard doors, and negative fill in order to actually shape the light and not let it spill all over the photo environment. Thankfully, Profoto has debuted a series of videos to teach photographers about the most effective way to use light shaping tools.

There are many assets and skills a GOOD portrait photographer must have. One of the most important? Learning how to tell a story by shaping your light. So, if you haven't already, I highly suggest learning all about light modifiers including grids for softboxes and beauty dishes (great tutorial below).

Here is another helpful Profoto tutorial: What's the Difference Between a Snoot and a Softbox?

​Aside from creating a dramatic light on your subject, modifiers keep you from spilling unwanted light on your backdrop or environment, giving your photos an unpolished appearance.

Another great one: The Difference Between Grid and No Grid

Would love to see your portraits below using modifiers to tell a story by shaping your light. Post in the comment section below!

Make sure to check out more of Profoto's tutorials and videos. A lot of pretty interesting and helpful content:

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Andres Herren's picture

thanks for this nice article. But is there a bts video of the articles main picture? this would be interesting. thanks

Douglas Sonders's picture

haha thats one of my old photoshoots. i can do something on that photoshoot and style in the future

Andres Herren's picture

that would be great. this picture catched my attention and i was a little sad, that the video in this article isn't bout this photo. anyway great work and i really like your style. Thanks

Patrick Lemmens's picture

From a shoot I did a while back, where we tried to recreate an old Hollywood mood. The light is intentionally harsh and I used a snoot to get the narrow directionality.

Dusty Wooddell's picture

I couldn't stop thinking about my speedlights and magmods watching all of these!

Rex Larsen's picture

The two dynamic black and white portraits under the headline interest me more than the Profoto infomercial.