Current Go-To Light Modifiers

Nikon SB800 with Gary Fong Lightsphere at left; Nikon SB600 with Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce at right.

Over the last few years I’ve acquired a lot of flash accessories. Recently, three items in particular have been a part of every shoot:

1) Gary Fong Lightsphere

2) Shoot-through umbrellas

3) Sto-fen Omni-Bounce

Today I’d like to talk about the Lightsphere. Some people criticize it as expensive, unwieldy, and more light-inefficient than something like a bounce card. I rely on the Lightsphere as my on-axis fill light, usually camera mounted, for two reasons: 1) I like the quality of light, and 2) it solves a problem more important to me than the issues above.

The Lightspehere scatters light in all directions.  In a smallish room with white walls and a low ceiling, the Lightsphere produces a very pleasing soft light. In rooms with a high or dark ceiling, I attach the Lightsphere’s inverted dome lid to create my own low ceiling.  It’s not perfect, but very handy for on-camera walk-around flash.  But why do I use it for on-axis fill in a multi-light setup? Because I like the quality of the light and because it scatters light in all directions.

Nikon SB600 with Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce and shoot-through umbrella. The flash has one small infra-red sensor for remote control, and keeping that sensor visible to the Commander unit can be challenging. In this case, the flash head is rotated 180 degrees. A setup like this (but with a much bigger umbrella) was the key light for the photo below.

You see, I use Nikon’s wireless CLS (Creative Lighting System) to trigger my remote flashes.  CLS uses infra-red signals to communicate between flashes, which means I have to maintain a line-of-sight between the Commander unit and the remote flashes.  I believe the Lightsphere helps me get those infra-red signals to remote flashes a little more effectively because of the way it scatters flash output. With the SB800 and Lightsphere as my Commander unit and fill flash, I get a nice diffused fill and more flexibility in placement of the key and accent lights.

Diffused, on-axis fill light lets me control the depth of shadows, and makes a hard key light seem much softer. By the way, you can tell from the chin shadows that the light is not truly on-axis. It sits atop the flash atop the camera, driving shadows down. Eventually I'll get a ring-flash adapter so I can send fill light from all around the lens. Now THAT's on-axis lighting!

Of course, if I used radio triggers for my remote flashes, I could place them anywhere and fire them reliably. But that would cost at least another thousand dollars, require that I keep track of that many more batteries, and I would lose the ability to control the flash output from my camera, which is a critical convenience of the Nikon CLS system.  So for now, I’m sticking with the Lightsphere as my go-to tool for on-axis fill flash.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Dance and Theater, Lighting

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