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Lighting with Constant Light

Lesson 10 of 18

Light Modifiers

Mark Wallace

Lighting with Constant Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

10. Light Modifiers
Hard reflectors, barn doors, grids, softboxes, and more! In this session, Mark compares different light modifiers and explains why you would use each one. Mark also takes a look at a few specialized lights and describes their shape and function.

Lesson Info

Light Modifiers

now it's time to talk about light modifiers and the position of light, hard light, soft light and all that kind of stuff. So we've got some crazy demos ready to show you what we're gonna be doing with all these different light modifiers, so that when we start doing our lighting setups with Teresa, you'll understand why I've chosen different light modifiers for that specific lighting setup. And so to start off with, I want to talk to you about these two things right here. So we've got some soft boxes way back behind me there and all of these soft boxes have a diffusion panel on the front of them. Now, these soft boxes and most common soft boxes have a choice when you open the package of different diffusion that goes on the front. And so one of them is more translucent than the other. And so that means that one of them we'll have more light coming out. So I think this is a half stop diffusion panel and this is a full stop diffusion panel, something like that. So one of them let's half as...

much light than the other one does. The other thing is the one that's more translucent this guy right here, because it's more translucent, you'll be able to see the source of the light that's gonna make the light more spectacular. And what speculator means is that you can see the reflection of the source of the light. Think about looking at a glass of water in a room, you can see in that glass, the reflection of all the lights in the room that's called speculum lights a reflection of the lights that are illuminating. Whatever your illuminating. And so if you use one of these guys and you shoot a model and it's really toasty in the studio, like we are right now, you might get hot spots on the forehead or cheeks because of the nice doing this. That's happening. So that's what these are. So we are going to use the full stop uh diffusion panel. The light is gonna be a little bit more diffused and a little less speculum. We also have these guys. Thank you Teresa. And these are grids and what a grid does. Sometimes they're called egg crates. Um but what a grid does is it restricts the light um from going everywhere. So if I turn this, you can sort of see that. You can only see through this at a certain angle. And so what that's going to allow us to do is to have light going maybe on Theresa, but we don't want it to spill on the floor on the ceiling or somewhere else. That is what a grid does. Grids are one of my very, very favorite light modifiers. And if all possible, I always get a grid with every soft box I buy if it's available, we're gonna be using grids today to do some really cool things. Okay, so let me show you sort of how we have things set up behind me because we're going to have to do some wacky stuff to make this work. So Theresa hop on over. We've already marked out a spot for you and we have this little theater, this little cove of light that we're working in and we've been working here all day, but you'll notice if we go to our sky cam that we have lights in the sky, so we've got all these lights up here. Those are the video lights that we're using to illuminate us so you can see what we're doing. The problem with that is if I start taking pictures, those video lights are going to mess up all of our photos. So we're gonna have, that's considered ambient light pollution and so we need to turn those lights off to be able to make this work. So what we're gonna do right now is Hannah is going to turn off the lights that are eliminating the front of me and so go ahead and turn those guys off and you'll see, I go very dark but we still have the stage illuminated so we need to turn off those lights. So, Hannah is going to do that. We have one special trick up our sleeve though and that is this right here. So I have this little pool of light that I'm in and that is because this light that is eliminating me right now. We've put a grid on it and a grid like we mentioned before will allow you to put light in one place and make sure it doesn't spill anywhere else. So watch what happens as I walk out of this pool of light. So Hannah is going to follow me. I'm just going to walk over to where Theresa is and you'll see that I am now underexposed, completely dark, there's no light on me and if I walk back over here to my little station, I'm illuminated. So that grid we've already learned about one light modifier allows us to put light in one place and keep it from going everywhere else. Okay, so what we're going to do now is I'm going to turn on a light that's on Theresa and I want to talk about the direction of light because the direction of light will really change how we use light modifiers. So we have my video camera hooked up so you can see my camera hooked up so you can see it. And so we have Theresa there and I have a light that I'm gonna be moving around so I can show you from the sky cam here that I'm going to be moving back and forth around Teresa like this. We can see that from my camera. If I move around. You can see how that light changes. We need to first understand what changing the direction of light does to our scene and also feathering the light. So I'm hitting her just with the edge of this light and it's going out. We want to learn about feathering the light and the direction of light because we'll do that differently for different light modifiers. So first what we want to do is I'm going to zoom in pretty darn close and what I want to do is I want to show you the shadows under Theresa's chin. So let's take a look at the shadows underneath Teresa's chin exaggerate those just a bit. So notice how the shadow under her chin is very distinct. It doesn't fade out at all from the dark part to the brake part, there's no transition. It just goes shadow to light boom, that is hard light. And so when we talk about hard light modifiers, what we're talking about our modifiers that create this kind of shadow. The shadow that's under her chin right here. That is a hard light shadow. So when we're looking at Colonel lenses, standard reflectors, things like that. I will refer to them as hard light modifiers and it's the type of light that they create if we want to modify those and make soft light, you will see as we go forward with our demos the light under her chin. Pay close attention to that because it will change the shape. It will go from the hardline to a much softer transition. And we can sort of go between super hard light two, middle hard light to super soft light where you can't even tell the difference between where we have a light and where we have a shadow. So that's what we're going to be doing. The other thing to note, I'm going to sort of blind you here for a second is the position of light so the light distance from our subject. So I'm gonna go really close. So we're gonna go back to Theresa here. So I'm gonna go really really really close to her and this I'm gonna turn this down so we don't blind you too much. That sort of pretty like there. That's pretty cool. So what we're having here is notice the background is totally black, I'm gonna turn the brightness down to about 30%. But look at the shadow underneath her chin the closer I get not gonna burn you on my burning, you know, we're good notice the shadow underneath her chin now has from here to here my shadow, we have a transition area. I can even take this down to about 10%, something like that. And notice the background is absolutely black. So now I'm gonna take this exact same light and I'm gonna move way way way way back. So I'm way back, I'm going to turn my light way up, look what happened to the background, so the background is now grey. So if I go close the background gets darker, if I go far away, the background gets lighter and that is called the inverse square law. And so let's go to the let's turn on the front lights for just a second so people can sort of see me and let's go to the sky cam so I can explain what's happening. So what happens is the light from the camera, the light from the light source. So if you have a light source, the amount of light coming from that light source drops off precipitously. So the amount of light is inversely proportional to the distance from the subject. And what that means in non science terms is if you have a light here As you go forward, it's exponentially getting lower and lower and lower. And so from here to one ft you're already dropping by half power and then 75% and then it just goes lower and lower. So it's sort of this curve that goes down. So if you have a light really close to your subject, so we're really close over here to Theresa and I have my light really close. Almost all the light is right here and then it's going to fall off behind her. And so that's why behind her turns into absolute darkness because the light has gone away. And so that is a weird rule. So if you want the background to be dark, move close. I know it seems weird. It seems the opposite that if you want the background be dark you put the light far away, but that's not the case you want the light to be really close so that the background doesn't get as much light as the foreground. Okay one other thing we need to talk about, we've talked about moving the light close and far away to change how much light is illuminating the background. Let's talk about moving the light side to side to change contrast. So again we're gonna go to my light my camera and so when we look at my camera we can see we're gonna oh yeah we're gonna turn off the front lights. Thanks Hannah. So when we turn off those lights were only now getting the light from my camera. There we go notice that when I put the light really close to my camera it's almost above the lens. I don't know if we can show that with the sky camera so you can see that. Can we show it from above as well with the sky camp. Yeah, there we go. You can see that my light is right next to the camera when I move and we look at the light from my camera's angle of view, you can see that our contrast is pretty low. In other words, the difference between the brightest and darkest areas in this image doesn't change much and the reason for that is the light is on axis, you move that up a little bit so from the left to the right side of Teresa's face. From here to here, the light is pretty much equal because the light is falling straight on here. That's called front light. If I move this light to the side so I'm gonna move this light over here to the side and then go ahead and show that on my camera. There we go. So keep on my camera to show that one more time. So we have light from the front and as we go to the side, look how that changes the light on Theresa's face. So we went from low contrast too high contrast. So the light on the side now I'll adjust that exposure is complete darkness and complete brightness and so we do that by the position of her light. So low contrast front light, high contrast sidelight. So just moving your light will change how the light looks. Um Sometimes you don't need to change light modifiers, you just need to change where your light is. So a great background. Move this closer, closer, closer and then we have more of a black background like there, we just moved our light much closer. That's all we had to do. Look at that. I need to move this down so you can see it. Mhm. Like that. Look at that. Okay, so I want to show you this on the sky camp. So you get a really good understanding of what's happening. So I am incredibly close. Let's see if we can show that from Hannah's camera as well, incredibly close to Teresa and then my camera look how black the background is. It's very very dark. We have this really contrast. You look really cool now. Same light, same modifier. I'm gonna go backwards show from the sky cam. You see that I'm way far back. And then let's show from my camera. Look at that background, how that has changed considerably. We're just moving the position of her light. Okay, enough of that stuff. Let's talk about the modifiers. So what we've learned is let's review really fast and it's gonna give me a light watch this. Okay, so what we have learned that this one this is good. What we've learned is that if you move close to your subject, the light on the subject is very intense and then it falls off so things behind it are going to be very dark. That's the inverse square law. The second thing we've learned is that front light light that's on axis from the camera and the subject gives flat low contrast light. When we move that light to the side we increase the contrast and we get high contrast. The difference between the brightest and darkest area increases. We've also learned that the edge of the light from the modifier as we move that we can play with the light from the edge of that. So let's start seeing what happens with different light modifiers. So we've seen with our first light modifier. This little hard light reflector that we get hard light. We've seen how that works. What happens If we put this guy on there? So, this is a soft box. It's a force of 60 soft box. It's about I don't know a foot, a little bit more than a foot. It's like that big. And so we're going to play with the light forward and back and we're going to play with that again. So let me put this on the same light, the same light. And what we're going to see now is soft light. So, it's very difficult to do this in the dark that we're gonna get there. Alright, here we go. Just like this. I get this on there. Go on. There we go. All right, good. All right. All right, fine shoe almost didn't happen. Did you see that? It's all right. Now, this light is going to turn on full blast. There we go. And let's go to my camera so we can see how this works. I'm gonna set the color temperature back. Actually changed it. Okay, now I have this light to the side. This is to the side. Pretty much where we started with the other light modifier. The thing I want you to look at. That's really important. Is the shadow under Theresa's chin. Look at what's happened. We went from a really, really hard shadow to a shadow that you can't really see where it starts or stops. We have a shadow there. We clearly have a shadow right underneath Teresa's chin? But we don't have that line, we don't have that hard line. And even if I move this around, we still have a shadow. But we don't have those hard lines, that's soft light. So that is what this is going to do for us if I put this to the side. So now we have that really contrast. The look looks really cool, but we have a soft transition from the where the shadow starts to where it stops. And so it's just a really awesome look. That's soft light. That's what a soft box does for us. We still have all the same attributes that we still have the contrast or the low contrast if we come to the front front light so that still works, we still have moving really, really close. We're so close in the scene. But if I could get a little bit closer there, notice how the background gets darker. If I move really far away, I would have to change my exposure but notice how the background gets brighter. All that stuff still works. The only thing that's really changing are the shadows that we have on our subject. So that's really cool. Okay, so let's keep moving. The next thing we're going to do is we are going to go to a different light. So I'm gonna unplug this little guy and we're gonna start taking photos. So we've done soft light, we've done hard light. What about the size of our light? So what we're gonna do is instead of using a small soft box, we're going to use a giant soft box. So we're gonna compare those two things. So why would you want to use this small soft box compared to this giant soft box right here? What's the difference? Well, the difference is what is called the effective size of the light. So I am going to take this guy. So here's what happens. This is what effective size means if this light is way far away, it's going to appear very small in our scene, think about the sun. The sun is millions of miles away, although it's gigantic, it looks like a tiny dot in the sky. And so that's the same thing with our lights. So if we have a light that's very, very far away, what will happen is it will cause us to have hard light if we take that same light and we move it very close to our subject the same size. But it's effective size is much larger and a much larger light. What it does is it wraps around the subject and it's filling in all of the shadows. So depending on the distance of our light, we need to have a larger, softer light. So if we have this guy really close we're gonna have soft light. But if we have this guy really far away, way back here, notice it looks really tiny and so it's going to be hard light. So if you need to be far away and get soft light, the solution to that is a large light modifier. So let me show you that in real life. So now what we're going to do, I'm gonna plug this guy in. We're just gonna start taking photos at this point. So I'm gonna flip my camera from being a video camera to being an actual camera camera. I'm gonna change the mode from a video camera to a still camera. So let me do that and there we go. I need to do this before I plug it in. There we go. All right, so now I am at I'm in manual mode. I'm at 200th of a second and we'll change the I. S. O. And everything once we get it dialed in. Alright, So now I'll turn this on Bano. We have a very bright light and here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna move this light really far away like this. I'll make it brighter, something like that. Okay? And move it to the side. All right, so now what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna dial in my exposure here. So my exposure on this. We're gonna shoot this at F5. That's gonna be good. So I'm going to take a shot. Perfect Teresa. All right. And then I have to tether have to start tethering. I didn't start tethering it. So don't start start tethered capture. Yes. Okay now here we go. Now let me take that picture. Are you ready? Look right at me. Okay now that's going to come in and now we can go to the computer. There we go. Right so this is the photo that I just took. You can see that I shot this at 640 S. 0. 2/100 of a 2nd. 5200 kelvin is my color temperature And I was F five. So that's my settings. But the thing I want you to see is this shadow right here notice that we have a shadow that is not entirely soft. It's a little bit hard. The reason why that's a little bit hard is this light is so far away? So I took the same light. I moved it closer. Okay so we're going to have a closer light like that then I will change my exposure accordingly. So now I need to be shooting f. 13. There we go. Beautiful. Take that shot. And now what's happening is notice how we have more contrast to light? But the light underneath her chin is much softer. So we just changed the quality of light by moving forward and a far away with our soft box. Well what if we wanted to have soft light and be way way way far away. We can do that. We can do that by putting on a giant soft box. So that's what we're gonna do. So here we go. It's always fun doing this in the dark. Come off of there. There we go. Okay, so Theresa's gonna help me put on this giant soft box. Here we go. And yeah, yeah, we'll put that on there. Go to your right a little bit. And sorry Theresa. Okay, twist to your side. All right now. There we go. Now we're up. Okay, so now we have this giant soft box. We'll turn this guy on sort of see this. We'll leave it at the same distance to start with. Well we can't You'll be it's too much. It's too much. So now we have this giant soft box, we'll move this around about like that and we still have contrast delight. But look what we get when I take this photo, I'll take it bam. We'll throw this up on the screen here in a second. There it is notice we have just really really soft light. The other thing we can do though with this guy that's so big as I can move it way back something like this. Maybe we have two or three people. We need to show more than one person in a scene. I'll turn that up. I'll move this over like this and I'll take a shot. So I'm going to meet her this We're now at 63. I'll take that shot and I'm going to widen out way wide. So we have a shot that I would not normally take. But notice we have a close shot and a wide shot and both of them have nice soft light. So that little small soft box. We would have had a vignette in around the side. We couldn't have gotten this big wide shot. So that's great if you're shooting groups. So like two or three people or wedding photos, something like that. Where you need soft light with a lot of people giant modify it works great. Okay, so we've done soft light. We've done hard light. Let's play with one other light that I think I've been talking about quite a bit. That is the frontal the for now we need to talk about that. What does it do for us? And why is it so awesome? So that for now we're gonna bring out for now that I've already rigged up. Here we go. This guy, Let's play with it. If you have a for now, if you can rent a for now, I highly recommend just taking a day in your studio and trying every possible thing with it because what you'll find is the final is so versatile that it will become one of your most favorite light modifiers. Okay, this guy is so bright. We're only at we're shooting with our force of 500 right now I'm at 10%,, I'm at 10% power. Let me see what we are. So at 10% power. I'm at 6.3. I'll take a photo and notice this photo. We have very hard light so that light underneath her chin, it's very hard like we had before this is light that is all the way zoomed out. So what I'll do is I'm gonna fade this lighter than a feather. It so we're just on the boundary of the final. So I think I'm I'm shining light into the video camera, sorry, but I'm at the boundary of the funnel so where it fades in and out. So I'm using feathered light now. And then what I'm going to do here think I feathered it too much, Bring it back just a bit, just a bit. Something like that. Perfect. There we go. Now. We've got this sort of a weird look, I'll point this back away from the camera where I don't think you can quite see it on our video here, but we have on one side of Teresa's face, we have much lower light than see how we have this cheek here. This a little bit hotter than this one. We're sort of feathering the light across that, but we're still retaining this hard light. It's really cool. I'm gonna bring this back so we can see the background by the way, we're still at About 50% power right now. So I'm gonna widen out my camera so we can see the background quite a bit and I will take a shot. Oops, I didn't exchange my exposure. F nine. Yeah so let's not look at the first picture, it's overexposed. The second picture, notice the background, we have this really really white, solid white background with the shadow on it. So the thing that we can do with our for now is if we wanted a white background I could move it in front, behind Theresa use a little barn door right here, make sure it's all the way out now she's going to be dark. You take a shot, it's like that. So now we have this background you can see that is illuminated. I'd have to sort of move that around so if we had two lights we could light the background and foreground separately. The other thing I can do. So look straightforward Teresa see if I can get this. So now I'm heading Theresa just with the side just with the side of this. Let's see if we can get this to work. It's very difficult, very difficult. Okay so we need a little bit more time to dial this in. But look what I've done here, I have hit her with a side, just that feathered light and the background is getting hit with that light. So if I had multiple of these, what I could do is I could feather the light and light the foreground which would be Theresa separately from the background. I'd have to play with it a little bit more to dial that in. But just for the interest of time will move right along. But you can see again, let's look at that photo we have you can see where the feather is happening on this light. So just the edge of the light is hitting here on Theresa. But the majority of it is behind her. So we had one or two or maybe even a reflector. We could get the effect of two separate lights instead of one light. Okay, if we were shooting let's say video and we wanted a nice soft light but we needed lots of light. What I could do is one of my favorite things. I'm gonna take this barn doors. I guess I'll keep them on for now. And I'm gonna bring what's called a scrim or a silk out. Bring this guy out. So this is a giant piece of translucent material. I want to make sure that I can put it in a place that I want. Something like that. I think that looks good. It's fun to do this live and in the dark. Well, okay, hopefully I'm not hitting you. All right. I want to walk around and see what I've done here. All right. That should work. What I've done is I've set up this big translucent piece of material and then I'm gonna shoot into it with my friend l so I'm gonna turn my for now on I'll use the barn doors to block the light off of anything else. Make sure that zoomed out so I can zoom in and out of this thing. So I'm gonna zoom it out. So it's illuminating just that. Okay, so that looks pretty good. Something about like that. Turn that up so it's nice and bright and now if I come over here, what I have is nice soft light. So here it goes comes in, look at my transitions there. So this is a wonderful thing. If you have a funnel and you're shooting video and you want lots of light but you want not lots of soft light, you can light a really large area using scrims or these screens. If you look at behind the scenes shots of movies and stuff, you'll see these all the time. And usually there's silks That are giant like 12 ft by 12 ft and they have several funnels hitting those. So the final is really useful because you can illuminate the background, you can feather it to illuminate a model, you can do hard light on a model, you can illuminate uh reflectors or scrims. You can do all kinds of things with finals using like modifiers to get soft and hard light, but because they're so punchy, you get a lot of light out of them. Okay, we're about to wrap this up. Let me show you one other thing that we have going on here, a couple of special lights and one of my favorites, We're gonna do an entire lighting set up with these so I'm just gonna show it to you really fast. Yes please. Um we're gonna light up my face. I am okay, this is a Paavo tuba nan, like Paavo tube, this is an RGB W W light and so it allows us to mix light to get any color we want and we can also change the color temperature across the white spectrum. So that's what this guy does but it's a tube and the tube is going to give us interesting speculator highlights. In fact, if I turn this around so Hannah maybe turn that light off just a second and we'll see if we can get this to work. If you look at my eyes, I can see it, we have to adjust that. Can you zoom way in on my eyes, you can see that the reflection on my eyes from this tube is sort of groovy. So I've got a really cool speculate highlight, don't know if you can see that or not, I can't see because I'm being blinded. You can't see it. Okay, so that's one of the things this does is it creates an interesting reflection of the source of the light. We can also light things up vertically so we can move this so it's a vertical light. So maybe you can do like a strip light, something like that behind somebody. You can also change this so it's red, green, blue, whatever color that you want. You can do that. And then we also have, let's go ahead and turn on the other light over here. Some very special lights that you haven't been. You've seen them in every single thing that we've shot in this session. Um and that is the lights that are illuminating me right now. I'm gonna turn off this for now. So you can see these guys. So what we want for our video is we want nice diffused soft light. We wanted to sort of go everywhere. We wanna be able to control it with grids. So the answer to that are the lights that we're seeing right now. These are called nan light compact 200 bees. So these are 200 bees, we can see them. We've got a camera that's on them. Is the camera on them? There it is. Yeah, so these are what's illuminating me. So I'll walk over here, These are on all the time in this video and they are like soft boxes. But I'll turn one of these to the side and you can see they're very, very thin, very thin. And so we're able to put these up in the sky. We have a sky. Can you can see these up in the ceiling, you see those mounted and their illuminating everything. So for video, if you need a soft box that basically is rigid. Then these guys right here these compact 200 bees are amazing. Now, the other thing about the compacts that I love is they are the B stands for by color. So we can change the color temperature of these two daylight or tungsten or anywhere in between. And so they're really fantastic. They would also work for photography, but they're specifically made for video. And so if you've wondered what they look like and how well they work Well, everything that you've seen in this class has been lit by those 200 bees. And so we've been showing you all along a light modifier that you didn't even know is that there. Um the other thing is you can put a grid on it. And so we showed you before we had this little pocket of light. And so we've got a grid on one of those guys. It works just fine. Okay, so as a review, we've understood the position of light, the difference in having light close and far away. We've understood the difference in hard light reflectors. Soft light reflectors using something to shoot through a scrim or a silk. You we've shown you how you can feather delight to show illuminate something in the background and foreground a little bit differently. We've looked at special lights that are made for very specific things. So we're gonna start mixing all of these things together sort of in a rapid fire fashion and show you a bunch of ways that you can set up lights to create some really interesting portraits. Because all of this theoretical stuff doesn't really matter unless you can make some really cool portraits. And so that is what we're gonna do next. We're gonna start doing a bunch of lighting setups. Teresa is about to be a rock star. And so here we go, we're gonna do that right now.

Class Description


  • Shape light using specific light fixtures and modifiers
  • Understand the different types of LED lights and the benefits of each
  • Freeze motion to create stunning action photos
  • Mix RGB light to create interesting color effects
  • Work with different light modifiers to get the exact look you want
  • Create lighting setups that fit your style


For years constant lights have been reserved for video and film production only. But things have changed dramatically in a short amount of time. Using state-of-the-art LED lights, you can create stunning portraits, freeze motion, and create video content. You no longer need two lighting systems.

In this class, Mark Wallace explains the different types of constant light, uses hands-on demonstrations to show you how to control light, and creates many of his favorite lighting styles.

Mark explains the different types of light fixtures and light modifiers to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your lights. This class is perfect for anyone who wants to create interesting portraits and videos using LED lights.


  • Beginner to Intermediate portrait photographers
  • Anyone looking to use constant light for still photography as well as video
  • Photographers looking to expand their creative horizons by using new tools


Adobe Photoshop CC 2021
Adobe Lightroom Classic 2021


Mark Wallace is a photographer based in the United States. Best known for his web-based video series Digital Photography One on One and Exploring Photography sponsored by Adorama.

Millions of people have watched Mark’s videos on YouTube, and the numbers continue to grow. Mark has a solid social media following on Facebook and Twitter, where he spends time with viewers and workshop attendees.

In 2014, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2-year worldwide adventure. He visited 28 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe.

In 2016 Mark decided to give up planes, trains, and automobiles and is now exploring the world on his motorcycle.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tether Tools Pro Kit Discount

Tether Tools Starter Kit Discount

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Great course very informative and a pleasure to watch love the way you teach so easy to understand and follow through. learned a lot about continuous lighting ty

Alessandro Zugno

This is a very useful class for who want to start shooting video or photo with constant light. Creative Live should make more class on videography.