Blog Home Learn Photography Photo Gear The One Lighting Modifier You Should Always Have in Your Bag

Some of the best shots for stock photography are shots taken on location. When heading outdoors, you open yourself up to amazing settings, backgrounds, and environments that can’t be replicated in a studio. However, you also give up the complete control you had in the studio environment.

Outdoors, there are two things that can ruin a shoot. The first is the weather. If you’re planning on shooting outdoors and hurricane-force winds and torrential rains decide to move through, there’s nothing you can do about that. The second thing that could ruin a shoot, however, is harsh sunlight from a cloudless sky. The sun’s position will constantly change throughout the day, and as it moves, it will affect your light. But unlike the weather, you do have control over how the sun’s light falls on your subject.

Direct overhead sun will give you a look with very defined and harsh shadows. It will create a wide exposure range that can make it difficult to have properly exposed highlights and shadows in the same image. Here’s an example of an image shot with direct overhead sunlight:

This may be the look that you’re going for, but if it’s not, how can you fix this? You can either wait for a cloud to pass over the sun to diffuse the light for you, or you can use something that I always carry with me when I’m shooting on location.

The solution to your problem is this collapsible diffuser. Here’s what our image looks like with the diffuser placed between the subject and the sunlight. Notice how the shadow transfer lines have softened and the exposure has evened out.

Collapsible diffusers come in a variety of sizes, are lightweight, and can easily fold down into a to fit in your camera bag. When selecting the size of your diffuser, keep in mind how large of an area you want diffused. The larger the diameter of the diffusion disc, the larger the area of diffused light it will create.

Your lens choice will also have an impact on what diffuser is best for your situation. If you’re using a lens with a longer focal length and macro capabilities, you can get very close to your subject, allowing you work with a smaller area of diffused light. On the other hand, a wider lens, like a 50mm or 35mm one, creates a shot that will require a disc with a larger diameter.

I keep a 20-inch diameter diffusion disc in my camera bag with me at all times. This size is perfect for a wide variety of uses that can turn into great stock opportunities. When looking to purchase a disc, you can buy one that is only made of diffusion material, or you can use the center diffusion portion of a 5-in-1. Here are a few ways in which you could use a disc to help you create great stock shots:

– Take the disc with you to a farmers market. Here, you can capture images of produce lying out for sale and regional dishes that are unique to where you live or unique to where you’re traveling.

– If you’re taking a trip to the county or state fair, the disc will help you capture great images of a wide variety of attractions and foods on a stick.

– Visiting a vineyard or farm? You can take the disc out into a field and capture gorgeous images of grapes on a vine or other produce growing.

Here is an example of how easy it is to use a disc when you’re eating outside:

In image 1, you can see the harsh sunlight and strong shadow lines on the plate. Image 2 shows a diffuser placed between the sun and the subject. And in image 3, you can see the final shot. Notice how the diffuser has softened the shadows and evened out the exposure. Personally, I think food shots usually look more appetizing under soft, diffused light.

Wherever your travels take you, a collapsible diffusion disc is something that can make a huge impact in the look of your shots. Find room in your camera bag for one — you won’t regret bringing it along!

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