Great Gear: Lastolite Skylite
For all the talk about fancy gear, there are few pieces in my kit that I like more, and rely on more than a simple large diffuser. For learners looking to take their portraits up a notch – it’s hard to beat a good diffuser/reflector panel.
A diffuser softens the light and removes harsh shadows. Placed directly over a subject it allows me to shoot on-location in Africa at high noon. Placed to the side, even without a reflective panel, the diffuser bounces enough to provide some subtle fill. It even makes a great flag when flare is a problem. I’ve used the black panel as an ad hoc background, and the gold panel to bounce back some fill when I’m backlighting a subject with the low evening sun.
When I travel on assignment work I use a large, and now battered, 5 in 1 collapsible reflector disc. When I am at home it’s a Medium Lastolite Skylite. It measures 42″x78″ and If I could take this on every shoot, I would. It breaks down easily for transport, though it’s still rather long when packed, but really well-built and sturdy.
I like my Skylite for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, as a diffuser it makes the light absolutely gorgeous. Gor. Geous. Secondly, it’s really rigid which allows me to mount it on a couple stands, sandbag it, and not have to worry about it flopping all over the place. Thirdly – its changeable panels allows me to have a diffuser, a white panel, silver, gold, or black, relatively quickly
On the field the Skylite is just too big for my uses. It would add one more challenge to packing and transportation that I don’t want to add right now. So I use the collapsible 5-in-1 but I could do away with it and just use the Lastolites.
The downside? Like any piece of good gear they aren’t cheap. I bought my initial kit at B&H for $349 – that includes the frame, the diffusion panel, the white/sunfire panel, a crossbar/handle, and a carrying bag. But for the quality and versatility I get out of it, I’d pay it again in a heartbeat. Lastolite also has small Skylites (42″x42″) and a large one (78″x78″).
If the Lastolite Skylite isn’t in your budget, try a large oval 5-in-1, like this one that sells for $80. Either way, once you’ve played with simple diffusion and bounce lighting you’ll be spoiled. It’s not fancy, and no one is going to ask you what brand of reflector you use – but your images will look fantastic.