Once you’ve started down the path of artificial lighting, you’ll soon realize there is a veritable bottomless pit of accessories available. The usual steps are to purchase a Speedlight or two, then to use simple flash diffusers.
If you want to dive further into light modifiers, then the world is your oyster with umbrellas, softboxes, colored gels, screens, and more. Basically, any object that can change the shape and quality of light can be a light modifier.
The easiest way to think about how light modifiers work is by imagining a portrait shot. Just check out the header image of this article. The photographer decided to have a small source of light on the face of the subject to create a moody feel. Then there is a light behind the subject to outline the hair, needing a possibly larger, but still defined light source.
Lighting theory, distance, and various applications for light modifiers are out of the scope of this article. So, we have shortlisted light modifiers for speedlights that have the most general uses and can be applied to a variety of situations.
Once you get a general handle on how to light a scene with basic modifiers, you can then dive into more specific tools. So, let’s check out some of the most popular light modifiers and their general applications.
1. Rogue FlashBender 2 Portable Lighting Kit (Overall Winner)
The Rogue FlashBender 2 Portable Lighting Kit may seem initially expensive, especially if you’re just starting out. But, this kit has everything you need for basic light diffusion and costs less than buying the items individually.
This kit consists of small and large FlashBender reflectors, small and large diffusion panels, a flash gel kit, 3-in-1 Flash Grid, Grid Gels, and a smart little carrying case.
The main focus of the kit is the FlashBender, which attachs conveniently to the end of a flash with a Velcro strap. The FlashBender, as the name suggests, can be bent to any shape you wish from a simple flat panel to bounce light or even rolled up into a tube shape as a simple snoot. The included diffusion sheets can be attached to make a small softbox, while the 3-in-1 honeycomb grid modifiers can provide more focused light.
These modifiers can also be used off-camera and do a fine job of diffusing light onto a subject. As the modifier can be bent, it’s easy to shape the light source, just as you want it.
This kit is very useful for weddings and portrait work, where a small area needs illuminating. The only real downsides here are that it’s easy to knock out of shape and an on-camera flash pointing upwards with the FlashBender attached can sometimes feel overly tall and unwieldy. In all other respects, this kit provides good versatility with plenty of light modifiers for speedlights.
2. MagMod Professional Flash Kit
This is another kit that may seem initially expensive, but has all the items to be very useful in the real world. Each unit attaches to the end of a flash with magnets for quick and easy swapping out of each modifier.
This kit consists of one MagSphere, a MagBounce, one MagGel attachment, a set of colored gels, and a MagGrid. Basically, all the tools you need for general and specific lighting.
The MagSphere and MagBounce are the biggest draws here. They’re made from a pliable, silicon material, which is extremely durable. The MagBounce acts more like bounced light from a flash, while the MagMod sends soft, omnidirectional light in all directions. The MagGrid is simple to swap out, creating directional light.
This is a versatile kit that provides very diffused light. It’s a compact solution that’s less intrusive than the FlashBender, however the FlashBender feels more versatile with its bending capabilities.
3. Honl Photo 16 Piece Master Flash Kit
The extensive Honl Photo 16 Piece Master Flash Kit makes you feel like Christmas has come early with all its contained items. The kit comprises of a 23cm collapsible softbox, large and small snoots, bounce card, flag, two grid attachments, three packs of gels, straps, and carry cases.
The small softbox provides directional light when bounce flash isn’t an option. The light diffusion is small, but this expected from its size. The grid attachments do a reasonable job but would benefit from a more secure fitting.
Each modifier has a simple design and although there are seven modifiers included, the build quality makes the full kit question the asking price. As some of the items have limited value, it may prompt buying the most important light modifiers for speedlights individually.
4. Neewer Pro Universal Soft Mini Flash Bounce Diffuser Cap
The Neewer Pro Universal Soft Mini Flash Bounce Diffuser Cap would have won our budget winner position if it wasn’t for wanting to recommend a bunch of umbrellas. This little soft box slips conveniently over the top of a speed light, diffusing light in all directions.
As it’s made from soft materials, it’s easy to fold down and store away. Also, the back surface of the Neewer Pro is black to throw light forward, rather than being omnidirectional. This solution is a step up from the usual plastic dome diffuser, providing a wider spread of light. Plus, for the asking price, it’s even worth experimenting with this little unit to see if it fulfills your needs.
5. Neewer Flash Mount Three Umbrellas Kit (Budget Winner)
When thinking about light modifiers for speedlights, images of on-camera attachments are usually conjured up. But, speedlights are also commonly used with off-camera modifiers, and the sooner you learn this way of working, the better. Off-camera lighting opens up so many possibilities, so it’s worth having a basic setup, such as the Neewer Flash Mount Three Umbrellas Kit.
Lighting umbrellas are a good starting point when it comes to playing with light. This usually means buying a shoot-through umbrella (the white versions) and one with a reflective inner surface for bouncing light.
You will of course need a basic light stand and bracket, which are all provided in this kit with a convenient carry case. Each lighting umbrella is 33 inches or 84 cm wide and provides just enough width for individual portraits or small group shots.
The gold covered umbrella is a nice addition for adding a warm glow to subjects. Plus, each umbrella feels sturdy enough to last a decent amount of time. If you need basic studio lighting or a quick and easy mobile lighting setup, this kit is a cost-effective solution.
Wrapping up the Best Light Modifiers for Speedlights
Hopefully, the examples above of light modifiers for speedlights should give you a taster of the most common light modifiers available. Basic modifiers such as the Neewer Pro diffuser cap will give you a good start point for general diffused light. On the other hand some kit modifiers will allow you to experiment with different types of lighting and how they can dramatically change the overall look and mood of an image.
Once you’ve dug into on-camera flash solutions, off-camera lighting is the next step forward. In this department you can’t go wrong with a few basic umbrellas for shooting larger subjects. You will obviously need some way to trigger the speed light remotely with either a basic cable or remote trigger. But, this solution is still within the realms of a traditional speed light setup.