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The Best Lighting Accessories

Lighting can separate the output of an amateur photographer from that of a professional. By considering how to control the look and feel of your scene with the best lighting available, you can immediately raise your photos and videos to new heights. Brands like Profoto, Elinchrom, Godox and Manfrotto excel in bolstering set-ups with the best studio lighting accessories for photography, video and more.

The Best Lighting Accessories

Those looking to create a brilliant studio lighting set-up are often more inclined to portrait, still-life and product photography, as these disciplines require maximum control over the end result. Furthermore, videographers get so much out of great continuous lighting for their studio and more – every type of creator from filmmakers to vloggers will benefit from enhancing their lighting with accessories. So, let’s jump in and explore the main lighting accessories you can use to improve your creations immediately.

What lighting accessories do I need?

The lighting accessories you’ll need will depend a lot on your shooting style. For the most part, lighting accessories are best catered to those who need maximum control over their shot’s appearance. For example, portraiture, fashion, event and product photography all require a consistent lighting system. Furthermore, those filming any genre of video content in a studio will inevitably require a similar level of video lighting control.

Luckily, this is where lighting accessories come in. Most come in the form of light modifiers – for instance, umbrellas and softboxes give users maximum control over their lighting, while additional accessories like reflectors, diffusers and stands can help your lighting system to go the extra mile.

Using a softbox outdoors

What are softboxes used for in photography?

Softboxes are one of the best ways to incorporate beautifully diffused light into your shot. The softbox itself is a diffusion box that goes over a light – this decreases the harshness of shadows created by the artificial light source. They’re easy to set up, but soften light brilliantly to control your studio lighting. They isolate the light from the rest of your scene to spread light directly onto your subject, and have a massive amount of versatility when considering the range of sizes and accessories like grids available.

  1. Square and rectangular softboxes are very simple to use, but equally versatile. These produce a soft, flattering light, and provide you with precise control over your scene’s lighting. These are effective when used with key lights, but there are no limits to what you can use these for in your photography and videography. Elinchrom’s Rotalux Squarebox and Rectabox models are ideal for both portraiture and product photography, and come in a wide range of different sizes.
  2. Octagonal softboxes are similar to rectangular softboxes in terms of output, but the difference here lies in the catchlights. This is especially important when shooting portraits – your subject’s eye will have a rectangular reflection when using a rectangular softbox due to the shape of the light that it casts, whereas an octagonal softbox gives you a stunning circular reflection, appearing natural and impactful. The Profoto Softbox RFi 5 Octa is a good choice to capture those beautiful catchlights.
  3. Parabolic softboxes have become more prominent recently, and are viewed by many as a hybrid of an umbrella and a softbox. With the shape of an umbrella, but with a much deeper design and the capability of holding a front diffuser cover, these lights funnel soft light straight onto your subject. Godox stock a wide range of parabolic softboxes, like the QR-P90 which has a rapid quick-release system to make setting up and putting down your softbox way more efficient.
  4. Strip softboxes work brilliantly when setting up a rim light, which exposes the outline of a subject and separates it from the background. They also work wonders when shooting reflective products, as they give crisp, vertical catchlights.

Lighting setup with photographer

Which umbrella is best for photography?

Umbrellas are another great option to enhance your lighting setup. These light modifiers are ideal for portraits, and illuminate a huge area of your studio. This means umbrellas are brilliant for times when you want to completely envelop your subject in light. Umbrellas can either be shoot-through or reflective – a shoot-through umbrella is translucent, and diffuses light in all directions due to its round, spherical surface. On the other hand, a reflective umbrella diffuses most of the light backwards as the outer surface is opaque, and the inside of the umbrella is reflective.

Translucent shoot-through umbrellas like these options from Elinchrom translucent umbrella and Godox parabolic umbrella will distribute your light perfectly. Elinchrom’s 125cm Translucent Deep Umbrella is also compatible with their 125cm Black Diffuser, which delivers the effect of an indirect softbox when paired together (also available in a 105cm variant for a smaller system). Which Godox also offer a vast range of reflective umbrellas too – their studio umbrellas come in gold, silver and white for different colour temperatures and brightness, and vary in size from 84-185cm.

Newell light setup

Photography umbrella vs softbox

Softboxes and umbrellas are equally useful for softening light, and both offer vast control over studio and on-location lighting.

The main difference between an umbrella and a softbox is how they direct light, which is defined by their respective shapes. A softbox only illuminates the subject due to its enclosed structure, keeping the light directed by the walls of the box. This offers much more directional control. However, an umbrella’s circular shape means that, when placed in front of a light source, the light spreads everywhere in the scene – for instance, a reflective umbrella will illuminate almost everything that’s behind it.

Therefore, if you’re looking to control exactly what you’re illuminating in your shot, then a softbox is the way to go. Softboxes can also be controlled better with additional accessories like grids and extra diffuser panels – grids help restrict the light to a focused area, which creates a spotlight-like feel, and diffuser panels work to make your light even softer. Remember to pick the correct size grid for your particular softbox. For example the MagMod MagBox PRO 24 Octa Grid fits the 24-inch MagBox Pro 24 Octa Softbox.

An umbrella, however, is much more portable, which is perfect when on location. Additionally, it works brilliantly when you need your lighting to completely envelop your subject – this is great when shooting events and interior photos.

Reflector to buonce light for portrait

Collapsible Reflectors

The collapsible reflector is an indispensable light modifier. Studio photographers and videographers alike use these to cancel out shadows and add some diffused light to their subjects. While reflectors come in handy in the studio, they’re equally impressive when used outdoors – by being savvy with your positioning; you can harness the sunlight to soften shadows or even add a completely new light source to your shot. Furthermore, collapsible reflectors pack away neatly, making them perfect for on-location use.

Manfrotto was one of the first brands to start producing collapsible reflectors, and their range today is hard to beat. Their 75cm Sunlite/Silver reflector set sets up quickly, and provides both a silver and bronze surface for a balance between bright and warm light. The Manfrotto HaloCompact is even better for photographers that are low on carrying space.

If you’re using an on-camera flashgun, you can deploy the Expoimaging Rogue FlashBender to soften the light from your flashgun and direct it up and forward towards your subject – this is where its range comes in as it’s flexible and stays in place when bent, meaning you can precisely direct your flash to anywhere in your scene. It straps onto the gun and is super lightweight, allowing you to carry it wherever you need it.

Setting up for video shoot

Best Lighting Accessories for Video

In the world of visual media today, it is impossible to ignore the growing influence of filmmaking in all areas of the field. Lighting is no different. Over the past few years, emerging brands like Rotolight have found success specialising in creating the best video lighting for all kinds of videographers.

To cater to their brilliant video light range, Rotolight have rolled out a selection of specific video lighting accessories to help with your productions. For example, their AEOS 2 light is compatible with a range of different accessories, like their 90cm parabolic softbox, which offers a stunningly soft light output. They also offer a rectangular softbox with two diffusion screens that can be used separately to control the amount of diffusion present.

One of Rotolight’s smartest products is the AEOS 2 SmartSoft Box – this accessory allows AEOS 2 users to electronically adjust the diffusion, focus and spread of their light without additional modifiers. This innovation is one of the biggest revolutions in lighting control, and is a must-have accessory for pro videographers.

Boompole with softbox

Lighting Stands

Lighting stands are vital for photographers looking to create a professional lighting system, whether that’s using off-camera flash technology or continuous lighting. Not only can these support flashguns and smaller video lights like the NEO 3 Pro, they can also hold light modifiers like umbrellas and softboxes.

Manfrotto applies their expertise in tripods to their lighting stands – their range of Air Cushioned lighting stands protect your gear after an accidental release of the riser. Furthermore, their stands feature Manfrotto’s quick stack system and are super light and portable to streamline your setup. Their 4-section Heavy Duty Air Cushioned stand will work like a charm for any of your lighting needs.

The key to an outstanding lighting system is pairing it with the best accessories available to deliver the perfect impact.

Shop our range of light modifiers, stands and more, along with the rest of our industry-leading range of lighting equipment, and we guarantee you’ll have brilliant lighting every time you shoot.

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By Thom Pyle on 30/11/2023

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