Okay… If you are a regular listener to Portrait Sessions or the Improve Photography podcasts (which you SHOULD be!!!) then you have heard about MagMod modifiers. In case you haven't, basically they are a set of modifiers that attach to your speedlight(s). There is a silicone device called a MagGrip, that holds two powerful magnets on either side of your speed light. I purchased my basic MagMod Kit several months ago, and installed the MagGrip on my primary speedlight, and have never taken it off since that day.
When I had the idea of writing an article to feature the creativity of MagMod modifiers, I reached out to them, and they were kind enough to send me a basic kit, as well as a MagSphere for the article. So, basically the extent of my MagMod set-up right now is two speed lights equipped with MagGrips, the contents of two “basic kits” and one MagSphere. Without a doubt I will be expanding my inventory of MagMod items, because this stuff is just AWESOME!!!!
Once the grip is placed on your speed light, all you need to do in order to place the modifier on your flash is just to hold it up and let the magnets connect! The devices are all silicone, so they seal completely, and eliminate any challenges as far as light bleed, or “leaks.” In many cases (the filter holder and the MagGrid,) the magnet extends clear through so that you can stack additional modifiers on top of each other.
Just by the very nature of how MagMod items work, and what they let you do, there is a virtually limitless number of options to allow you to get very creative with your lighting. I'm going to highlight a few ideas, but this truly just barely scratches the surface. I'll start with the items in my set-up, and then I'll move to the items on my wish list.
The MagGrid is exactly what it sounds like. It is a silicone grid that attaches to your MagGrip. The purpose of the grid is to focus the light that is coming off of your speedlight. Normally there is a certain angle of dispersion from your flash, designed to spread out in a pattern to light X amount of space. The grid simply narrows that down.
The photo above was taken at a wedding reception with a MagGrid. I was using bounce flash for the majority of the reception, but at times, I could take the MagGrid (which I can very comfortably just keep in my pocket,) pull down the power of the flash a bit, and use direct flash on the dance floor, etc.
The basic kit comes with a gel holder, and a very nice assortment of basic lighting gels. I have found these to be incredibly fun to experiment with, especially when altering a flash that I am using for backlighting or rim light. This is as good of a place as any to point out that I am FAR from a lighting expert. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I'm currently really focusing on learning off camera flash, and developing that skill. But there is no way to learn it without practice. I do know from studying and reading, however, that the color gels are not just for creating effects. The “real” use for them is to balance skin tones when working with various set-ups. I will come clean and admit that I am not quite there yet. But for me, adding color in incredibly fun!
In the photo above, the full orange gel is applied behind my two models. This photo was taken at almost exactly 12:00 noon, with the sun directly overhead, but the orange light from behind gives the image a completely different effect. It was EXTREMELY easy to set up. The speedlight equipped with the orange gel was placed on a light stand, directly behind the young ladies.
The MagSphere is the first item that I will be discussing that does NOT come in the basic kit. The sphere attaches and covers the entire speedlight, and it transforms the quality of light that comes off of your flash. This can be used both off-camera, and on! It can be used as a diffuser to shoot directly, or in combination with bounce. A side note about this device – since it's silicone, it's virtually indestructible! I keep it in my bag 100% of the time, sort of “squeezed” between two lens compartments. Not only does it fit perfectly in there, but I really feel that the soft silicone padding can only help with the protection of my lenses, too! Just a side note – This photo was taken with no color gel in the Sphere. But, the MagSphere has a built-in slot where you can insert any of the color gels. Here again is a massive opportunity for creativity, just waiting to be explored.
The photo above uses two MagMod equipped speed lights – the key light is using a MagSphere, and the second is a fill flash on the side, which uses a diffuser gel. The photo below was taken with just a single off-camera flash, equipped with a MagSphere. I want to thank fellow photography Karen Littlewood for volunteering to model for the next several photos.
4. Combine the MagSphere in front, with MagGel as rim/back lighting
For the next series of shots, we first established a good location for the fill-flash using the MagSphere in front:I was happy with the fill in front, but wanted to create better separation between her and the shadows behind her head. So, I placed a second speedlight behind her, and experimented with the modifiers needed to create the look I wanted. The first one was using just a MagGrid.
The Grid certainly kept the spill to a minimum, but I decided to experiment with an orange gel, and while adding the gel, I took away the grid.
It's easy to see how much the Grid was limiting the spill – the shot above has a good amount of light framing the model, hitting the rock both above her head, and off to the right of the frame.
And this last image utilizes both the grid to keep the spill to a minimum, but also the gel, to give the light a very warm glow. As I mentioned above – I am not an expert in lighting. But each of these changes in set-up took less than 5 seconds! It's literally a matter of snapping the modifier on and off, and your ready to go for the next shot!
This is an item that is currently on my wish list. I have VASTLY more experience with bounce flash than I do with off-camera flash. Perhaps it's a good thing for my development and learning, that I do NOT have the MagBounce. Because if I did, I think I would default to it way too often. Essentially it's a vastly superior version of the white card that everyone likes to tape to their flash.
Something absolutely has to be said about a modifier that both looks and sounds like a Muppet! The MagSnoot allows you to focus down your light to a very narrow beam. Just like the MagSphere, this modifier allows you to add up to two of the MagGels without any additional equipment necessary.
The basic kit comes with some very standard gels for color correction. In addition to that, they have an artistic gel set, and a creative gel set. In time, both of these tools will find their way into my bag! With each of the gel holders being capable of holding any two of these gels, there is an almost unlimited number of variations!
Keep in mind, these gels can be used alone in the gel holder, in combination with a grid, or in the sphere, or in the snoot, or in conjunction with the Bounce… the more you think about it, the more you realize that this would give you absolutely astounding options for creative lighting!
I reached out to MagMod a few weeks back, to try to get my hands on one of these bad boys for this article. I found out that only six of these were made available for reviews, and our own Erica Coffman was one of those six!! So, since the Improve Photography crew was already getting one, I wasn't able to get my hands on one to test it out. But I will certainly be getting one shortly. This device projects patterns of light in a wide array of different shapes. The basic package is just over $100.00, and then there are a couple of add-on sets of additional shapes that are about $35 per set. Combining these with the creative gels and artistic gels you an create absolutely crazy effects! If you haven't gone and checked out MagMod's website yet, I would highly encourage you to do so. You can click on each of the different masks to see the patterns that they create in the light. I can very easily imagine this being used to create fantastic backgrounds for any type of photo. These could also very easily be incorporated as a main element in any photo, not just a background effect. Here again – limitless possibilities!
There is a portion of MagMod's website that features stunning photography from photographers that use MagMod modifiers. This is an absolutely amazing resource! There are so many stunning looks to aspire to emulate, or use as an influence!
10. MagMod Community
There is a closed Facebook group for MagMod users. Once you are a MagMod user, I highly recommend participating in that community! Much like the various Improved Photography Podcast groups, it is a highly supportive, informative and motivating group to follow. Often photographers will share out their most exciting results, their set-ups, and other information about creativity with MagMod products. It is a positive place that doesn't tolerate the negativity that can so frequently creep into even well-meaning groups. There is ALWAYS something to learn, and someone to learn it from.