Modifiers :: From Day 03 of My creativeLIVE Class

Ok. Are you ready to get your nerd on? Calling all pixel peepers! Here are the images for the modifier run down we went through on Day 03 of the creativeLIVE studio lighting class. I’m not sure which took me longer… Shooting all of these images during the class or prepping them for the web. :)

Before we get started with the images there are some things I want to go ahead and cover with you before you check these out.

This isn’t the most comprehensive light modifier test in the world. It isn’t even half way scientific in approach. There are real issues with comparing modifiers like this. I’m telling you right now that this isn’t the true proper nerded out way of doing this kind of thing. While we strove for consistency and Dan and I spent some time in the morning before the broadcast testing things out, remember there can be variations 1/3 of a stop from pop to pop with those Alien Bees. That’s why they are affordable.  With all that said let me now say… if you run through some modifiers in this way you’ll learn a lot. I do this kind of stuff when I’m checking out a new modifier.

Why do I feel the need to give this big disclaimer? To ward off the measurebators that are about to descend on this post. The guys who look at photos on the photon level and lose all the soul of this craft. I like to nerd out from time to time and discuss CMOS vs. CCD but never at the cost of losing the soul of the craft. So… enjoy this comparison. There are things to learn.

Things to look for ::

• Take a look at how the modifier effects the exposure on the subject and the background. • Watch the transition from highlight to shadow. How hard is that line? • Take a look at the catchlights in the eyes. • How effecient is the modifier in terms of lost light from the standard? • Look at the difference in the quality of light when some of them are moved closer than the standard shooting point. • Moving the light closer to the subject changes exposure so I didn’t list the change in aperture for those images since they deviated from standard position.

I’ve highlighted a few areas here to watch in the photos below… Look at this crop between the 7′ and 4′ Octabanks…


Notice how the transition from highlight to shadow is much more gradual with the larger 7′ Octa. Notice how the shadows are more open with the 7′ as compared to the 4′. Notice the 4′ Octa has a brighter catchlight. Notice they have about the same effect on the exposure of the background. The background is important to watch with these. There are times I pick a modifier based on how it is going to throw light on or flag light off of the background. Here is the same image without the circles. From modifier to modifier some areas will change dramatically and some will barely be noticeable.

The following image is the “standard” for this test.  It is an Alien Bee with its standard 7″ silver reflector in place. The standard exposure for this at this distance is f13. We then paraded different modifiers off of the same light stand position. At times I moved the stand to demonstrate a distance I would more likely be using that particular modifer.

Here is a crop of the 7′ Octa (our largest modifier) in comparison to the standard 7″ reflector. Notice how light from the Octa wraps all the way around to her ear.

Want to pixel peep? Here you go!

If you look at a few of these and say “I can’t really tell any difference between the $30 modifier and the $800 modifier!” then note the disclaimers above. There are ways of shooting a shoot through umbrella in this kind of situation and make it look a whole lot like the Octabank. Then there are times that one will absolutely run circles around the other and the difference is night and day. To walk through each of these drastic and subtle usage changes would have taken the entire three days of teaching. Your goal is to get to know YOUR modifiers and be educated about the basic differences between different kinds so you can make educated choices the next time you go buy one of these.

As Bill, one of the creativeLIVE crew members, said so well… “There’s no morality in choosing a light modifier.” Let that sink in. Sometimes I pick a modifier based on… “Ummmm. How about…. Uh. This one.” Other times I walk in a room and I know that I want my 28″ Westcott Apollo and there is no other modifier in the world that will do the job. Sometimes I pick a modifier because it is more efficient with light than another that is similar to it in look. Note how the reflective umbrella lost 2 stops of light as opposed to the 4′ Octa. Sometimes that stop is a make or break situation on a job.

At times there’s “just something” about one modifier over another. You can’t quite put your finger on it but you just like “that thing” about that modifier. That’s how I feel about the 22″ beauty dish. I could get a very similar look from the 28″ Apollo or a small silver umbrella but there is just “something” about how the light feathers and falls off with the beauty dish that makes me pull that out over a small softbox. Sometimes I just like the catchlight more.

I like circles. :)


Other times I like rectangles.

There’s not a moral issue on the table here.

Another issue with this test is we aren’t shooting full length. You’d see a BIG difference between a 60″ umbrella and a 7′ Octa when shooting full length. I tested that out and went back and forth on it. The reason I decided against it was our awesome subject, Lou, would have been standing in one spot for a long time. That little stool she was on was bad enough. I felt standing for as long as we needed to run through this would have been too much to ask. Remember, we are in the service industry. Serve your clients. Make them as comfortable as possible. I guess I could have had her lean on something. That would have been a light stand or a broom handle. Neither make for the best props. :)

My last caveat to all of this… Go shoot your own lighting tests! :) Seriously. You’ll learn so much doing this. Change the distance, the angle, the height, etc. Watch what your modifiers do full length vs. head and shoulders. LEARN YOUR GEAR!!!

All the images and download links after the jump….


Download the images from this post so you can sort them in your own viewer and put them side by side as you wish.

Why didn’t I add the Softlighter? Barndoors? Snoots? Brolly Boxes? Halos? Rings? Bed sheets? Well, A) I don’t use all of those. B) I’d still be there testing if I tried every modifier in the world. At the end of the day this is what I want in my bag…

3 60″ Impact convertable umbrellas 1 50″ Westcott Apollo softbox 1 28″ Westcott Apollo softbox 4 Standard grids (40, 30, 20, 10 degrees)

Once the camera is paying bills and leaving some left over at the end of each month I added these…

2 12×50″ Westcott Stripboxes w/ egg crate grids 1 22″ Beauty dish with sock and 30º grid 1 7′  Westcott 7′ Octabank

Find the list of gear (with links) I’m using here.

With these tools I’m good. I don’t think there is another modifier out there on the planet I feel that I need right now. Oh, a bit superfluous but sometimes enjoyed… The stupid looking Moon Unit for the Alien Bee ring flash. That thing looks stupid but gives good light.

ETA :: All I did in post on these images was convert them to B&W. I didn’t touch exposure, contrast, etc. I test lighting with B&W images because it helps me better see what the light is doing.

Cheers, Zack


  • Eric Krebs said on June 17, 2010

    This is a great resource and tool. Thanks Zack!

  • Ben Godkin said on June 17, 2010

    Very tangible information! Thanks for sharing and I really enjoyed watching you on creative live.

  • //d. said on June 17, 2010

    GOLD! man. you are dedicated. really awesome side by sides!

  • Carlo said on June 17, 2010

    I’ve been waiting patiently for these :) Thanks!!

  • Rhonda said on June 17, 2010

    Blown away (but not surprised) by the time and effort you’ve spent on this class. I hope everyone realizes what an invaluable resource you are to the photography world. Thanks Zack! :)

  • Paul Pratt said on June 17, 2010

    This is probably one of the most valuable lighting posts on the interweb. No one else has put the sheer effort into doing this. I think it will help a lot of people not only to buy the right modifier for their needs but perhaps avoid buying stuff the simply don’t need yet.

    Thanks, yet again.


  • Luciano Meirelles said on June 17, 2010

    Wow! Zack, this is just amazing. You did an awesome job those days, and a even better one in this post. Def a fave.

    Great job! 😉

  • Amanda said on June 17, 2010

    Great source of info Zack!!!

    Thank you!

  • Chris Zibutis said on June 17, 2010

    I recently started playing around more with my grid spots and I love em.

    Thanks for posting this!

  • Kristin said on June 17, 2010

    Man, you have worked HARD on this whole event. I can’t thank you enough for the initial course and now this follow-up. Awesome.

    THANK YOU [I have to yell, I’m in Australia ;)]

  • zack said on June 17, 2010

    Meg here…

    I’m really happy that this is helping out all of you but MAN. JEEPERS. This is one BORING blog post.

    I had to proof read it and fell asleep half way though.



  • Mart said on June 17, 2010

    Dude, This is fantastic. Loved all three days and now you are adding more infomation. Hope I can put it all to good use.

  • Steve F said on June 17, 2010

    great stuff. yea a little boring i suppose due to it being pretty techy, but im sure it’ll end up being a huge resource for shooters. interesting to see how so many modifiers can end up looking nearly identical

  • zack said on June 17, 2010

    Steve – In a test like this they can start to look identical. It’s the various other ways to use each of these that they can start to change dramatically. One thing is for certain… I often say that if I had to pick one modifier it would be the 60″ convertible umbrella. You can do so much with that one modifier.


  • Glyn Dewis said on June 17, 2010

    Meg…superb…I do like it when people speak their minds…lol :)

    However, allow me if you will…cheers for the work you put into the workshop Zack and posts such as these; you had everyone talking and Twitter crying out for help :)

    All the best to you,

  • Bogie said on June 17, 2010

    Interesting thing is that pretty much all of the images look Really Nice…

    Guys, if you haven’t sprung for the DVD, you need to. I watched it while it was being cooked, and the info is incredible.

    Zack – A concept on a modifier – a beauty dish -inside- the circumference of a large softbox – a brighter source in the center of a large source? Both from the same angle (can’t snoot from the side) – Ever play with something like that? (envision the “Zack Arias Series, from Westcott”)

    Oh, and even the chimped images looked just so cool… Could you enlighten us (probably in another “workshop for DVD”) about your lightroom/post stuff, and any specialized tone curves that you run? I spent the session with Firefox in one window, the chat room in another, and diyphotobits on the second screen, while I was moving Large Objects around this small apartment’s cleared-out living room…

  • Bogie said on June 17, 2010

    Baby’s up, huh?

  • juice said on June 17, 2010

    Kickarse, Zack. Thanks mate.

  • Nik said on June 17, 2010

    Your efforts are truly appreciated. I shall buy you a beer if we ever meet – thank you !

  • Nik said on June 17, 2010

    You too Meg, I know it must be boring having Zack working on all this stuff 24×7….

  • Sam Wright said on June 17, 2010

    Zack- Thank you. This really helps out.

  • Bogie said on June 17, 2010

    Oh, and I may be weird, but…

    My favorite image from the whole hot photo mess is…

    Redneck Ballerina

  • Stephen Elliot said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this! It’s a huge help, and I really appreciate all the effort you put in to making it so clear and straightforward for us. I know how time consuming it is, and I thank you all the more!

    I did a light test of my own a couple years ago. Very different setup, but at the end of the day it’s still all about understanding light. Hopefully others may find it helpful:

  • joar andré said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks Zack! It’s hard to believe you’ve given away all this info for free (including the awesome weekend).

  • Bram said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks for sharing all of this. You truly go above and beyond to share your knowledge. I spent the whole weekend watching every minute of your workshop I could and here I am at 3am reading your blog post over the information I watched live! Just goes to show how meaningful it is to some people. I can’t wait to put some of what I learned to use Thanks again for everything, sir. I’m with Nik, I’d love to have a brew with you sometime. I’d even settle for a brown oat soda!

  • Stu said on June 17, 2010

    I can’t believe how much work you’re putting into this workshop, Zack. Thanks again.

    I really feel I rocked out a shoot yesterday as a direct result of the workshop… I made a simple one-light setup (4″ octa), and concentrated on connecting with my clients, asking them about themselves, keeping the directions coming, not letting on if things weren’t working… fantastic! Thanks again!

  • NielsJL said on June 17, 2010

    I wanted to add my thanks for all the time and work you have put into the creativeLIVE workshop, and keep putting in to it. 😉

    I figure the best thank you is to say that I will strive to learn all that you have taught and apply this knowledge into gaining my own experience with my own photography.

  • Dave Hodgkinson said on June 17, 2010

    I think you missed 143 other permutations.

    Stunningly thorough work, thanks!

  • Cody Ames said on June 17, 2010

    Like most everybody else, I have to thank you for this and all the work you have put into teaching others.

    The results of that 7′ octa… wow… makes me want to pony up the bucks for it but I know I am not ready for that just yet. :)

  • Heinz Schmidt said on June 17, 2010

    Brilliant! Excellent test that will inspire me to start using my own modifiers to the full.
    Thanks Zack!

  • maski said on June 17, 2010

    great post! thank you!

    this was my fav part of the workshop……..

  • Kevin Wrenn Photography said on June 17, 2010

    wow that’s extremely comprehensive Zack! Thanks for your time, effort and energy. You ROCK!

  • Taylor Perkey said on June 17, 2010


    Thanks so much for doing creativeLIVE last weekend and all the work and effort that you’re still putting into it even after the fact. I was really inspired by all you taught and am truly grateful!

    Keep it real!


  • Mark said on June 17, 2010

    When watching you do this at the week-end I decided that I just have to do the same with the modifiers that I have already. I must be one of the few not wanting the 7′ octa – too big for my space. But I really fancy the beauty dish, the grids and the strip light… dream on. Thankfully my test will take much less time as I only have a few modifiers to play with 😉

  • jjpare said on June 17, 2010

    Great post, Zack.
    If nothing else, it at least lets me know that with the 60″ umbrella, BigMama and LittleMama Westcotts, and a set of grids, I can stop lusting after modifiers for the time being and just get down to shootin’.

  • Tim said on June 17, 2010

    Epic post. Bookmarked!

    Thanks so much for all the time and effort you’re putting into this – you’re building an outstanding reference tool here.


  • Daf said on June 17, 2010

    Woah – just what I was looking for – much thanks.
    Shall geek away.

    Although I was thinking about getting a beautydish been thinking about what you were saying about mastering the tools I have. Have a couple of softboxes (ones that came with the kit and strips I’ve bought since) and I might as well get better with those. Plus not much difference plus beautydish takes up space!

  • Charles Verghese said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks for these Zack


  • diego tabango said on June 17, 2010

    Freakin’ awesome Zack.

    Thank you so much for everything you’ve done.

    Last weekend was the bomb and surpassed my expectations.

  • Krzysiek said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks for sharing. Just what I was looking for – much thanks.

  • David Glazebrook said on June 17, 2010

    Mate I feel so nerdy right now I’m likely to start talking like Ned Flanders. You should what that sounds like with an Australian accent!! Many many thanks …. this info is excellent.

    David G

  • David Glazebrook said on June 17, 2010

    Meg – Many thanks for proofing this post, even if it is extra boring …. now go off with your life whilst try to find mine whilst I re-read this post :-)

  • Bruko said on June 17, 2010

    these are a great reference to have and a good starting point for exploration :)

  • ana said on June 17, 2010

    The CreativeLive weekend was massive impressive good work, and now this! Man, you are awesome!
    Tons of points to study and learn here at this post.
    Again, THANK YOU for such great work.

  • francesca said on June 17, 2010

    thank you soo much for all the effort in putting this together!

    Super appreciated over here!

  • Keith Hammond said on June 17, 2010

    Zack you must have been drained after those 3 days, how did you prepare yourself for it. Do you have any plans to come to the UK

  • Ned said on June 17, 2010

    Dude…you are an animal! If I’d just finished the event you did I’d wanna slack up a bit…not you!
    Very helpful stuff!
    My takeaway: Do not get enamored with the latest/greatest modifier being pitched. They all do something a little differently.
    But at the end of the day…the old 60″ umbrella will get most of it done…and none of the modifiers in and of themselves …will improve your photographs. (Not that I haven’t already acquired several that serve no purpose…HA!)
    Thanks again!

  • Keith Hammond said on June 17, 2010

    forgetting my manners,Thank you Zack & all your helpers, loved every bit of it

  • Briand said on June 17, 2010

    thank you very much Zack.

  • Sean Openshaw said on June 17, 2010

    I love coming to your site and can’t begin to say how much I’ve appreciated and learned from your site – from posts like this to your critiques. You truly inspire!

  • Cindy Lee said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks so much Zack .. your generosity with your time, efforts & knowledge are sincerely appreciated.

    I took the liberty to make a cheatsheet for myself and thought others might find it beneficial also. Downloadable here

    ~ Cindy

  • Paul B said on June 17, 2010

    I am in awe over the amount of thought and work you put into this whole weekend. Every time I think you’re done, you just keep adding more and more – THANK YOU!

  • Romesh said on June 17, 2010

    Hi Zack,

    A Quick question on lenses which has been bothering me for some time. How would you decide on which lens to use like a
    1) 24 – 70 2.8
    2) 70 – 200 2.8

    Both lens can be used to take a full length, mid or an extreme close up. How to decide which lens is appropriate for a certain situation. In case of a square crop, since you are dealing with music industry, which lens would you prefer to use more often.

    Thanks for sharing abundance of knowledge with us and taking the extra effort of posting these pics. I was glued to my computer screen for the 3 days of creative live classes.

  • Christine said on June 17, 2010

    I’m so thankful you did this, I’m just in the beginning stages of lighting and this will be an invaluable resource, so I won’t be wasting my money on stuff I won’t use! Excellent job!

  • Terrence Bibb said on June 17, 2010

    Excellent information as always. I was wondering that if in the future you would blog about how you profile your modifiers for use in lightroom? You briefly touched on this in the photo mechanic post.


  • Beau Murphy said on June 17, 2010

    WOW this is amazingly helpful. U have really worked hard to make this post. This post has definitely go me hooked on this site… Cheers.

  • Kimla Life Imagery said on June 17, 2010

    Such incredible generosity. TY sir

  • numbeos said on June 17, 2010

    As always, you’re great Zack..Thank you…very imformative, indeed.

  • Dorean said on June 17, 2010

    Love this! I do have a question, though.

    Is there a huge difference in brands on similar modifiers? Why a Westcott 28″ softbox and not an Alien Bee(or other) 28″ softbox? How do you choose a brand, other than, “Well, this one’s cheap…”?

  • susan patrick harris said on June 17, 2010

    I love being able to check your results and feedback.
    These are the details that help me see for myself when applied, which effects I prefer as a shooter.
    This info helps develop my “new equipment” list so I can budget accordingly!
    Thanks for your consistency Zack!

  • Daniel Pfund said on June 17, 2010

    hi Zack,

    I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for all what you have provided to us. I sure really appreciate it, had to stay up late to watch ya (from Switzerland).

  • Lisa Love said on June 17, 2010

    I love this and appreciate you taking the time with the modifier run down for all us creative nerds & pixel peepers!

    My head is spinning from the wealth of information you presented in three days. Thank you for pouring your heart~n~soul into teaching ~ I have my “Zack Videos” that I purchased from creativeLIVE to go back to for references.

  • Carl Licari said on June 17, 2010

    Zack… Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Just another example of your instruction cutting to the chase.

  • Jeff said on June 17, 2010

    Wow Zack, thank you for your patience in putting this all together. I think the new business model of generosity and gifts is truly fantastic. Thank you for being part of this venture and giving so freely.

  • Thomas said on June 17, 2010

    Thank you Zack, I was glued to CreativeLive all weekend. You were outstanding and I love how you teach.

  • Ashley Davis said on June 17, 2010

    Thank you so much! These are beautiful. Makes me want to BUY BUY BUY. But I will take your tried and true advice to heart once again, and learn to use what I have to it’s fullest capacity for now before moving on.

  • Jesus Hidalgo said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, thank you so much for putting all the time and effort into posting these images (and the whole creativelive weekend!). These shots are a great resource! You absolutely rock!
    …and now… let the pixel peepers loose!

  • James Brown said on June 17, 2010

    Thank you so much for this Zack!! This is so informative! Thanks again!

  • Jen Lapuz said on June 17, 2010

    Thank you for sharing the images. This is a great reference for learning light modifiers.

  • Chase said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, Zack, Zack – pure genius. Thanks for keeping it real about a real man with real struggles who goes out and gets it!

  • Andrew Rutherford said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks Zack! This helps out a lot. You’re an awesome teacher.

  • Nat Thompson said on June 17, 2010

    Hey Zack, Great show dude! I was sick and couldnt go anywhere and I was stoked that I got to watch it all with a good excuse. I didnt have to call in and say I had to go to my Aunties funeral. My snot was enough , it meant I got to learn heaps of stuff from you as an educator.

    I really liked watching your teaching style and I just want you to know that your on the right path.

    It MATTERS to people when you are real. Your vulnerability about your life is really encouraging and makes people feel open and appreciative.

    So yeah …nice work…as Chase says on his blog “You nailed it” . I think it was well worth the effort.
    KupKoonKa from Thailand

  • - g said on June 17, 2010

    Tour de Force. Thank you, Zack!

  • Christopher David said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, this is CRAZY bro!!! Thank you SO much!

  • Charlemagne Obana said on June 17, 2010

    Much respect, thanks, and praises. My garage is almost emptied out and I think I’m ready to start experimenting with everything you put out over the three days. You’ve got me so excited about venturing into the wonderful world of studio photography. You’re easily the best internet mentor someone starting out could have. “Bow to your sensei!” Will be looking forward to the tour of your studio. Cheers!

  • Bill Gaither said on June 17, 2010

    As Jen Lapuz said, this is just a great reference for learning light modifiers. I’ve love to be hands-on with it, but this is the next best thing. Thank you!

  • Jon Mold said on June 17, 2010

    Hey Zack

    Watched your CreativeLIVE from the UK. Awesome.
    Thank you so much, I’m just turned pro and you have inspired me to be Sucksessful. I have the OneLight DVD in my MacBook and watch it every few weeks to keep me motivated and drum the technical side of things into my sleep deprived head (got a young crazy 18 month old Son – he’s cool BTW).
    I have pre-ordered the weekend seminar and cannot wait to download, that’ll be on my MackBook and iPhone playing on loop.
    Recently booked some photo shoots to get out there and practice. Learn more, practice more and repeat till it becomes second nature, like learning to drive!
    Thanks for all the work that’s gone into this Zack, I’m spreading the Sucksessful word out here in the UK.

    Get yourself to the UK, there’s enough of us for several classes, and its the home of your beloved ‘bottle of Brown’.


  • Kenna Klosterman said on June 17, 2010

    brilliant – just brilliant. thank you!

  • Sheryl Rayner said on June 17, 2010

    This is just what I needed. So glad you included the zip files so we can pull them up and compare — very smart.

  • Justin Trapp said on June 17, 2010

    Anyone know when the classes will be available for download? I purchased them VOD but have yet to receive any instructions..


  • zack said on June 17, 2010

    Justin – The raw footage should be ready to go. I think you get an email when you order. Can you check to see if that reply hit your spam folder? Contact creativeLIVE. They’ll take care of you.


  • Karen Rubio said on June 17, 2010

    Incredible, fantastic !I will refer to this again and again, as I will the class which I purchased.Zack, You have a very easy to follow teaching style and I learned a ton over the weekend. Now if I can just replicate it. I bought 2 white poster sized foam boards @ Walmart(poor mans white seamless LOL) and am practicing with that.Loved every minute!

  • Justin Trapp said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks dude. Just emailed them.

    Really looking forward to it

  • viking_Martin said on June 17, 2010

    WOW – what a great series of the effect of the different light-modifiers ! This is realy helpfull suff – thanks a lot Zack !!!


  • Tim said on June 17, 2010


    Thanks so much for doing this…I can only imagine how much time and effort you have put into organizing all this and presenting it to all of us out here in the interweb! I am excited to see the blog post on grip, and the Xrite color management. Thanks again for taking the time for teaching guys like me who don’t want to go back to college and get another degree in photography…Guys like you make it possible for me to learn on my own and experiment and grow.

  • Luciana said on June 17, 2010

    I never got so much out of $79 bucks like I did with this seminar! talk about some quality information! You’re da bomb!!!

  • IKUVisual said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, thanks for the fun and the knowledge, more valuable than the real price.
    Greetings from Spain.

  • Kevin Pepin said on June 17, 2010

    Thanks again for the class and the post of all the modifiers. Also, thanks to the model for being so patient while you changed setups over and over.

  • Darryl said on June 17, 2010

    You know….each modifier makes great photos…it depends on how you plan on using the image…

  • Nasir said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, your thoroughness is inspirational. Thanks so much for all of the work you’ve put in before the 3 day event, during and now after.

    I’ll be sure to do lots of thorough testing when my new Profoto D1 Air heads arrive next week. Hmmm, which to try first, the magnum reflector or the new standard reflector? :-)

    All bought with cold, hard earned cash.


  • David Le said on June 17, 2010

    You are so inspiring to me. I hope to one day reach your caliber. You are the top pro that I follow along with most out of every pro out there.

  • Aubry Canales said on June 17, 2010

    Wow Zack! Thank you SO MUCH for this! It is so much more than I thought you would do! Such awesome information here.

    Thank you sir! Aubry

  • Tim Matsui said on June 17, 2010

    Awesome, Zack. Nice to see this up–not only because it’s my sweetie, but having a guide like this online is a great thing for the community.


  • Michael O said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, This may sound a bit stupid, but how far is the first tile board from the background? Or how far do you have the model from the background?

    BTW, you are just an awesome educator, thank you for everything, from the writings on this blog to the free tutorials on the web. I don’t know of anyone that shares this much.

  • zack said on June 17, 2010

    Michael. The tile board is starting about 8 feet or so from the BG.

  • jim atyeo said on June 17, 2010

    What a great weekend for all of us. Watching it live was almost as good as being there. (almost). Thank goodness you all got home safely. Thanks a bunch, Zack.

  • David said on June 17, 2010

    Zack, I echo everybody’s thanks and appreciation for your generosity and willingness to share your hard-earned knowledge. You are one of a kind.

    Question: when you convert to B&W for your tests, do you just simply move the saturation slider to zero in Lightroom or do you use a more involved (multi-step) procedure? I’d love to test out my modifiers in a similar manner but I’m daunted by how to go about converting to B&W in a pleasing but painless manner.


  • zack said on June 17, 2010

    David- Grab a pen. Here we go.

    Desat to zero.


    Ok. If I’m doing it for print or there is a very strong color in the shot then I use the greyscale option and tweak individual tones until satisfied. Other than that, I desaturate and typically boost shadows and exposure for more contrast but I left that alone got the modifier images.



  • Allison Jones said on June 17, 2010

    Have I told you lately that I love you?
    OK, seriously can you please put a PAYPAL button on your blog so that those who love and appreciate you and are willing to DONATE to the cause can do so? (The cause of Feed The Arias Children While Their Dad Works for Free Giving Away The Farm To The, Largely, Undeserving Photography World) ;)xo

  • Tristan Fewings said on June 18, 2010

    Zack, cheers for putting so much time and effort into creating this post as a follow up to your workshop, you have inspired me so much!!! Thankyou.

    Have you considered coming over to London to do a workshop? Plenty of brown oat sodas to be had over here!

  • Greg said on June 18, 2010

    Thanks for all the effort you put into this and your continued effort. I enjoyed the webcast.

  • Joey said on June 18, 2010

    Zackieboy -Taking the emotion out of it for a moment, I think with your pals at creativeLive you are molding the future of education. Simple, clear and effective – the technology becomes transparent the passion for sharing is the key – more of the same please.

    P.S. What’s it like to one of the new Creative Rockstars?

    ‘The Bono of the SoftBox’,
    the ‘Marilyn Manson of the Modifier’
    ‘Billy Gibbons of the GoBo’

    or my favorite the ‘Strummer of the Seamless’

    Sorry wee man hope this doesn’t start a run – love and kisses from a p*ssin wet Glasgow. and thank you so much for your time last weekend.

  • Peter said on June 18, 2010


    Thanks so much for this, great resource for the future when we’re trying to plan out a look we want with shoots. book marked for sure.


  • William Cohea said on June 18, 2010

    Thank you!
    I two have a long story about my love of photography.but right now i am taking care of my father inlaw who has alzheimer’s and i did enroll in the creative live class and all i can say about what you are doing is THANK YOU for being you!!!
    William Cohea

  • GregK said on June 18, 2010

    So awesome, thanks you!

  • Eric Ferguson said on June 18, 2010

    Hey Zach, great tests, next time though, throw another camera on the remote a few feet back and automatically snap a setup photo, and then put that in the corner. That will give us a good sense of what “moved closer” means and how big these modifiers are relative to the subject.

  • zack said on June 18, 2010

    Eric – GREAT idea! Will do that next time.


  • Nina said on June 18, 2010

    Yep, I’m ‘gettin my nerd on’…..the lighting geek flag is flying in the wind today. LOVE this. I was glued to the computer all weekend and now have this fantastic breakdown, as well. (As a result of all this I’m making the leap and buying white seamless this weekend.) Thanks, Zack, not just for the time and effort but for your generosity of spirit and passion to help photographers further their craft. Kuddos.

  • Jeroen Berkenbosch said on June 18, 2010


    Wanted to thank you and the creativeLIVE crew for the workshop last week. It did take a few years off my life due to the lack of sleep, but it was worth it :)

  • Stephanie Moore said on June 18, 2010

    Excellent info. It’s great to be able to sit and look at what each modifier does, especially the way it affects the background. But you’re right, there’s no better way to really see what a modifier can do than to get out and shoot with it.


  • T/D said on June 18, 2010

    There’s just one problem. You’re not any good! Just kidding. You are to good. And I’m not.
    Thanks for this post.
    I’m going to go drink a New Castle right now. What does that do for you? That blow your mind? THAT JUST HAPPENED!

  • Dan said on June 18, 2010

    You mentioned in passing that you use a cart from Grainger that fits into a backpack or camera case. Does that mean it folds? Could you possibly provide something specific to allow locating it on the Grainger site? Thanks for a great 3 days. It was the best training session on studio photography I’ve ever seen.

  • zack said on June 18, 2010

    Dan – Sorry if that came across wrong. We have a Grainger cart that my ThinkTank Airport Security bag fits perfectly on. I roll my bag in, plop it on the cart, open it up and all of my gear is at my fingertips. I’ll show it when we do the studio tour video next week.


  • Henry Yong said on June 19, 2010

    Zack you are a LEGEND! I’m looking forward to rewatching the 3 days workshop.. for the 3rd time!

  • AndyL said on June 19, 2010

    this whole thing has blown me away, its awesome, thank you, thank you, thank you… I have bought the video stream and have bene watching it constantly… my question… a nice long USB to mini-b cable to tether the camera… where and how much, all I can find here is 1.8metres…

  • Dan said on June 19, 2010

    @AndyL. These cables are available. For example, here is a 15 ft one:

  • Dan said on June 19, 2010

    @AndyL: Forgot to mention that USB specification limits the length of the cable to 5 meters. For longer distances, you would need to use hubs connected together with 5 meter cables (not very practical).

  • Jason said on June 20, 2010

    Zack, this post is great for those of us without the money to run through all these modifiers… right now. Thanks!

  • Huggs said on June 20, 2010

    Best class ever. I loved the part about debt and credit cards. Very inspirational. Thanks!

  • Debbi said on June 20, 2010

    Anyway to find out how many of those 7′ octa’s Westcott sold since your fabulous workshop last week?
    I bet over 100
    Thanks Zack!

  • Denver Photographer said on June 21, 2010

    I really love the westcot strip with grid moved close, the lighting looks amazing! Great work.

  • Wilfredo said on June 22, 2010


    I swear you and my wife are on the same page – in terms of this being a sleeper blog post for you both!

    But for me it’s candy!



  • Gary Martin said on June 24, 2010

    Just went back over the live class and cracked up when you were talking about the gear you had when you began your career, you said you had a 50mm and an 85mm that were in not the greatest of condition but you said
    ” They were held together with gaffa tape and the holy spirit”
    I cracked up! Feckin hilarious!
    Keep up the great work Zack,Love it!

  • Linda Abbott said on June 24, 2010

    This was the best and most useful part of the class for me. To be able to see the modifiers right next to each other so we could see the difference probably saved me thousands of dollars I don’t have. You are an incredible instructor and phenominally generous. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a tragedy it would have been for all of us if you had given up the first time.

  • L. said on June 29, 2010

    You will do the mini video on how to set/use the Passport color card as promised? I know we never got to it that weekend, but I’d love to see it in action before buying one!



  • Rehan said on July 1, 2010

    Thanks Zack it’s awesome.
    Did discussed about Guide Nos ? or i missed it.

  • charlie said on July 6, 2010

    zack, awesome man!!! thats all i can say..and thank you.

  • Brian said on July 8, 2010

    Excellent post, I always love seeing the small subtle changes each modifier makes, sometimes I’m surprised just how similar they look given their sometimes big differences.

    Thanks for sharing the hard work!

  • Naor Gamliel said on July 22, 2010

    after watching more then 20 different lessons about practical light, you definitely get the highest score. you made it as clear as possible, to the point and on a budget.
    thank for putting years of experience into a 3 day workshop.

  • David Charles said on July 28, 2010


    That was an intersting post. It is always useful to see the results of an objective test by a working photographer.


  • Mike Sweeney said on August 11, 2010

    Zack – I bought the three day seminar from CreativeLive and it was a bargain at the price. I’ve picked alot of solid information and not just lighting. Kudos for a well done seminar and I hope you can CL partner again for more of a biz angle.

  • David Samuel Azariya said on September 9, 2010

    This resource is grate one ,Thanks for make this free.

  • stephane said on September 19, 2010

    Thank you so much for this long, clear and helpful explanations. Thanks for your generosity and work!

  • Benn Clemence said on October 20, 2010

    Zack – Thanks so much for this information has really helped me understand more about my modifiers. Creativelive was awesome. Can’t wait to see the studio tour and the color management blog.

  • Eddiellano said on November 19, 2010

    just thank you for your excellent course, you are a great guy and you have that think called “angel” Congrats bro!

    Regards from Mexico!!
    Eduardo Montellano

  • Peter said on November 19, 2010

    Thanks for this Zack!

  • andria fontenot said on November 29, 2010

    the gear link doesn’t work anymore :(

  • Bradley Chun said on March 1, 2011

    The gear link on this post doesn’t work anymore. This looks like the new link from creativelive:

  • sven said on April 29, 2011

    dude, thanx so much for this…
    these pix have become one of my favourite working tools when letting clients choosing their favourite styles.
    can’t say it often enough: THANX!
    cheers from switzerland

  • chris said on May 30, 2011

    Love it!!! Now I get a better idea how the light will look with a certain modifier without having to buy it first.

  • Redskull said on August 15, 2011

    Thank’s to share this experience with us.
    We really can feel the difference between the modifiers.

  • Delano said on March 27, 2013

    This is probably an odd question, and on a fairly old blog post, but I just re-watched this workshop and I’d like to find out where you got the stool you used to seat Lou. I can only seem to find cold metal stools that adjust or stationary wooden stools. I love the look of that stool and was wondering where to get one.

    Love all of your information and have been following for years. Thanks!

  • Zack said on March 27, 2013

    Bought that at an antique shop in Seattle.

  • rbfigueira said on February 11, 2014

    Hi Zack,

    Please fix the broken link “”

    Many thanks!!

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