As an on-location wedding photographer, I need a lighting system that is portable, easy to set up and most importantly, gives me a soft light while remaining directional. In the past, I’ve tried pop-up softboxes, white and reflective brollies, speedlight modifiers and more. Eventually, I always end up going back to the trusty shoot-through brolly, but these three problems remain:
- Outdoors, I often found myself battling with the slightest wind. If my assistant was not physically holding the light stand, it would throw my lights around.
- The umbrella’s size and setup was also cumbersome. When walking from location to location, I’d have to break down and set up with every shot. Find a place for my light among some foliage, or even indoors, was also particularly difficult.
- Airport security checks were also tedious since I’d often have to check in my umbrella because of its sharp, pointy ends even though I avoid checking in luggage on short trips.
Scrolling through Outdoorphoto’s shelves, I found the MagSphere – a compact, silicone light modifier that attached with magnets to any fresnel head. It looked compact, lightweight and easy to handle. Hoping that this was the solution to many of my problems I went online to look up the MagMod system and ended up getting the MagSphere, a few MagGrips and some coloured gels too.
Why the MagSphere?
Wedding venues often have difficult lighting conditions, so I use plenty of on-camera bounce light. With this in mind, I knew that the MagSphere would be a great place to start. It bounces light up through the sphere, creating a large directional fill light that bounces off the ceiling (or a hard surface) while spilling some omnidirectional light from the sides.
Performance and handling
Compared to previous modifiers I’ve used, I immediately noticed that the MagSphere was a very power efficient light modifier. It meant that I often only needed to use one light, decreasing my set-up time.
The system is also easier to carry around when it’s on your flash unit: The silicone dome folds up and does not take up much space in my gear bag. Better yet – there’s no hazardous pointy ends! And, the magnets that hold the modifiers in place are strong enough to ensure that nothing blows away or falls over.
Features and flexibility
When indoors, I love having the option to bounce the light while the MagSphere fills my client’s eyes with a directional light from the sides. This creates the effect of having the light bounce from more than one light source, covering my subject with a beautifully soft light while lifting shadows. I rely on these shadows to define my subject’s features and keep things looking natural.
Pointing the MagSphere directly at the subject, I achieve harder transition areas for a more dramatic effect without it being as harsh as with a direct flashbulb. In this case, the light coming from the sides of the modifier act as a very subtle fill light. How close I choose to stand from a wall or reflective surface will also have an effect on how much fill this creates.
This technique also works wonderfully indoors or outdoors as a backlight (kicker light). Pointed directly at your subject, you get the main light power to create a solid rim around your subject. While at the same time, you have that great fill light from the sides of your MagSphere spread light behind your subject creating a more naturally lit scene.
When outdoors, I tend to point my MagSphere upwards, placing it close to my subject (usually a few centimetres out of frame) and using the light that comes out the sides of my MagSphere as a subtle fill light. This technique yields stunning catchlight in my client’s eyes.
At its base, the MagSphere has a geld holder to colour your light with either a corrective gel or get dramatic with a creative colour.
Create more natural light, the easy way
When I look at the MagMod system it seems a silicon wiz kid (let’s face it, we all geek out about something) saw the struggles wedding and portrait photographers were having with big modifiers and thought… let’s do this differently!
The MagSphere‘s design, together with extras like colour gels, makes it easy to create the image I have in my mind, and once you get past the fact that you’re using soft squishy materials and magnets to modify your lights, you’ll start to see how well thought out the system really is. It is lightweight, portable, durable, versatile and most importantly, great at modifying your light in as many ways as your imagination allows.