How we use our favorite MagMod Products!
Hey everyone, we’re Joe and Jenny from JCM Photography! We’re a husband and wife team based out of Asheville, NC & Jackson Hole, WY and we are stoked to be two of MagMod’s newest ambassadors! We’ve been using their products for around 5 years now and the difference it has made in our work, our creativity, and confidence to try new things has been second to none. Between our 3 companies, we tend to be high volume and are blessed to do around 100 weddings & elopements each year. With this, we’re always striving to get it right in camera to keep our workflow efficient and this is another one of the reasons we love MagMod products for our process. With this new platform to reach more photographers, we thought this would be a great opportunity to share a more in-depth post of our favorite MagMod products, how and why we use them in our work, as well as corresponding visuals to show some real world examples of the images you can create using these amazing products. I will preface this by saying, there’s no one right way to go about using these products for your work. Much like photoshop, oftentimes there’s several ways to get to a desired final result and this is just what we like to do for our style. We are constantly learning and inspired by the members of this MagMod community and we’re hopeful this can be helpful to others, especially those just getting into using their products!
All of these modifiers have a place in our workflow but the one we've used more than any other is the MagSphere! We were already using a different brand of diffuser at the time that we discovered MagMod and after seeing the ease of use with this new diffuser and the fact that it had a simple design with magnets, it was a no brainer to make the switch. Before we new it, these replaced our rapid boxes in almost all scenarios. Their compact size, quality light, versatility, and good spread made them highly desirable for a lot of situations for us. Especially dance floor receptions, adventure sessions, lighting ceremonies, and group shots. By far our favorite use of the MagSphere is during sunsets and environmental portraits! Below we’ve included some examples to show how we utilize the MagSphere in the real world. I also, note in the example images if we used a colored gel and for what purpose.
(MagSphere camera left held by second shooter and edited out in post. Joe was holding the flash on a stand raised up above the couple pointed slightly down. We also combined the use of a MagSphere with the MagGel 1/2 CTB. We chose this combo to preserve color and detail in the sky, to make our couple pop from the background, and to create a warm tone for our image.)
(MagSphere Camera right just outside of the frame. For this image, we utilized the MagSphere for it's nice spread to make sure we were lighting our couple from head to toe. For this particular shot we also utilized settings allowing more ambient light and low flash power so we did not overpower the colored lights in the fountain as well as giving minimal shadow cast.)
(MagSphere camera left and right, just outside of the frame, pointed in about 30-45 degrees. We are fortunate enough to live in two beautiful areas where preserving the background and sky detail is a must! Using the MagSphere for these situations helps us do just that, while still staying true to our style. Flash doesn't always have to be dramatic, sometimes a subtle hint of light to clean up the color, or fill eye shadows may be all that's needed.)
(MagSphere camera left and right. Flashes were placed on stands on the outside of the guests at the 2nd row. They were raised up high and feathered in for a cross lighting effect, meaning the light on the left is lighting the subjects on the right, and vice versa. This technique is helpful for wide shots like ceremonies as it helps to spread the light. Utilizing the MagSphere in these situations helps us spread even more light which we love because it helps you light the bridal party as well as the bride and groom. In these situations we sometimes like to use OCF for a handful of shots to really bring out the drama in the sky and background as well as keeping the bride and groom and their bridal parties well lit. This couple was having their ceremony at sunset so we thought it would be a cool opportunity to take some more dramatic sunset shots during the ceremony. We also combined the MagSphere with a 1/2 CTB MagGel. We'll get into it a little more in depth in the MagGel section, but since we use this combo so much, we think it's necessary to let you know we use this gel to help warm up an image in camera and/or in post.)
(MagSphere camera left and right, on stands, raised high pointed slightly down across the dance floor. Our favorite simple set up for dance floor is a MagSphere in 2 opposite corners of the dance floor. Oftentimes we also combine that set up with an on camera flash equipped with the MagBounce and we find it helps get light just about anywhere we need it on any given moment when it comes to capturing the fun during the reception. There are times we'll just use the OCFs and not combine it with an on camera flash, like in the image above. One helpful tip about shooting with this set up, expect some face shadows from time to time from other people's heads in front of the person you're actually shooting. Don't give up, just keep moving your flash stands and adjusting to the dance floor as it takes shape.)
(MagSphere camera right, angled at our couple about 45 degrees, held high on a flash stand by my second shooter, just outside of the frame. It used to be a challenge to shoot some of these locations with OCF due to the amount of wind we get in the mountains. Our soft boxes would blow all over the place. Being more compact, the MagSphere gives us a an option yielding a very similar look without the added headache of worrying about it blowing over, and the size also makes it easier to carry on longer hikes. You don't even need a flash stand in some cases, especially if you have a second shooter, or assistant. They can just hand hold it, making it even more convenient in certain situations.)
The rest of the images are all shot with the MagSphere as well just to give you a few more ideas of how you can use it in your own work.
Heading to the other end of the spectrum, we have the MagGrid! We like to utilize the MagSphere when we need a nice spread of light where as the MagGrid is great for tightening up your light beam so you won't have as much spill and light spread. This is especially true if the light is closer to your subject. One of our favorite uses for the MagGrid is when we have to shoot in a situation where our subjects are backlit with windows. The light coming from the MagGrid is so tight that it's easier to edit out the flash reflection in these situations vs the big spread of light you get from the MagSphere. This is especially true if there is a lot of moisture in the air.
(MagGrid camera left. It was on a flash stand angled right at the groom's face about 2-2.5 feet from his face. It was edited out in post. Taking advantage of the small light spread helps you place the light exactly where you want it. The creative possibilities are endless. This shot was also shot on a tripod making it easier to remove the flash stand in post.)
(MagGrid Camera left and right, both pointed towards the center of the dance floor. Given the windows in the back, we knew editing out the MagSphere in the reflection would be more challenging. We knew the light spread would be tighter, so I took a couple of test shots on my second shooter to make sure we got the light just right. If you're not getting enough light head to toe on your subject, simply back the MagGrid up and that spread will increase as your distance from your subject increases. This means you will lose power, so this approach can be tricky getting the balance just right.)
(MagGrid camera left and right, edited out in post. To preserve the ambience of the couples venue, we knew the MagGrid would help us keep the light spill to a minimum. We also combined it with a 1/2 CTO MagGel so our lights matched the ambient light.)
(MagGrid camera left and right just outside of the frame. Group shots probably aren't the first thing you think of when it comes to the MagGrid. The couple wanted to do some extended family combos during their reception and due to the set up and weather, this spot made the most sense. The windows in the back were reflecting the MagSpheres in a way we knew would be difficult to edit out so we backed the flashes up and used the MagGrid. The smaller light source was much easier to edit out in post and using a cross light technique we were able to enough light on everyone.)
'Wait wait, so the MagSphere spreads, the MagGrid keeps your light more focused, why would you combine both!?' I know, sounds crazy right? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking this the first time I heard about this combo being used, but the results spoke for themselves. Many of the amazing photographs I'd see in the MagMod Community social media group were created using this combo, so I knew leaving this on the table would potentially limit some of our creativity and imagery. For those of you wondering how it looks, or when would be a good situation to utilize this combo vs just a MagSphere or this combo vs just a MagGrid, I'll explain our thought process below on how we decide. Think of this combo as the best of both worlds. You're still getting nice spread but not as much as the MagSphere by itself, and the light is still tight and reducing spill, but it tends to give a bit more coverage than using just the grid alone. If we're using a MagSphere and feel like based on the shot, the vision, the space, etc. that we're getting too much spill (and we've already tried changing the flash position), then usually we'll move to a MagSphere/Grid combo. Conversely, if we're trying to keep our light tight, but it's looking a little too drastic or needs more spread/softening, then we'll usually switch to the combo. Below, we'll show you a few of our favorite images using this combo! One of our favorite times to use this combo is during detail shots for tables and cakes. We find using this combo helps us cover the area we're trying to hit, but the reduced spill helps preserve the ambience of the venues.
(In all of the above examples we utilize the MagSphere/Grid combo in order to well light our details without too much spill affecting the surrounding ambience. All of the above details are also lit from camera left and right pointed in towards the center of the object.)
(The above image was created using the MagSphere/MagGrid/MagGel combo. We weren't getting enough spread with just the grid, so we added the sphere and it gave just enough without affecting the surrounding area. The flash was camera left, just outside of the frame, slightly above the groom and angled down. We also chose the 1/4CTO to match the ambience of the fire and not leave his skin too cool. Shot through a clear glass fireplace using manual focus to nail focus setting and the camera was on a tripod.)
(MagSphere/MagGrid Combo camera left, just outside of the frame. For this shot, we initially tried the MagSphere and we didn't like how much light spill we were getting on the entire rock formation. We tried the Grid and it wasn't fully lighting our couple leaving their feet dark. We used the combo and liked the final look we were getting.)
(MagSphere/MagGrid Combo, camera left and right, pointed in 45 degrees on each side. The flashes were also placed high and angled downward. We went with this combo from the start of the shot as we instinctively thought it would work well for what we were trying to do. This combo helped us light the entire group and moment, while making it easier to conceal the busy background.)
Gels are truly a game changer for us and our photography. It's something I wish we would've discovered much earlier in our photography careers but they are a large part of our shooting now. For those of you who are still new to the concept of gelling flashes, or even for those of you who've started using gels in your work, it's helpful to know 2 of the main reason photographers gel their flashes. 1) For creative purposes and 2) For corrective purposes. Corrective is a pretty easy concept so I will cover that one first. Often times you'll find yourself where the flash color may not match the ambient color of light depending on your surroundings, atmosphere, etc. If the atmosphere is cool, but the light falling on your subjects is warm, you can help to match or correct this issue (if you creatively desire) by using a cooling gel. Our personal favorite is the MagGel 1/2 CTB or "half color temperature blue". We find this gel helps us correct our color and balance out an image well in the above scenario. Another scenario for correcting would be when the opposite situation arises. If you have a warm ambient light situation, but the flash hitting your clients looks very cool, you can help to match this by using a warming gel. Think of a warmly lit modern industrial hotel lobby with edison bulbs. You can warm the light by adding a warming gel to your flash, and this helps to match the ambient creating an arguably more pleasing look. Our favorites for this are the 1/4 CTO and 1/2 CTO MagGels. Creatively you can use gels to create a warmer or cooler look for the skin, or ambient. Depending on the level of colored gel used, this can help to cool or warm an image significantly. Using the MagGels this way can help to make that blah sky turn blue, or turn that overcast evening into a golden sunset. You can also use the colored or "artistic" MagGels by using them to create other colors in your image. This could be anything from lighting a background or object with a different color to attract someones eye into that part of the image, or helping to make your subject pop. Think of this as using a red light, instead of a plain flash colored light if you were setting up a simple silhouette shot for your couple. To make it easier, I'll make that our first example below!
(Red MagGel and MagSphere, camera right handheld by the groom pointed at the wall. Simple light silhouettes are easy and creative way to capture your couple during their wedding day.)
(Backlight handheld by the groom pointed towards the wall with a MagSphere/Grid/Red Gel Combo. The front light lighting the couple was equipped with a MagSphere/Grid/1/4 CTO gel combo. We chose this combo of diffusers for the tight light spread. We used the red gel to pull your eye in towards the couple, and we also utilized a 1/4 cto warming gel on them, to preserve the warmth in their skin matching the ambience of the room.)
(MagBox w/Focus Diffuser and 1/2 CTB Gel camera left. The light was feathered upwards to reduce the spill onto the deck. For this shot, we loved the light we were getting, but we didn't love the tone, so we shifted to 10,000K in camera for our white balance and we utilized a 1/2 CTB gel to match the warmth. We did add a little more warmth and magenta in post but we were very pleased with the warmer look created by this combo of MagMod products)
(8 shot composite, shot on a tripod with a plate shot to make post processing easier. All of the goom's party was lit from the left. Each individual groomsman and the groom, were all lit individually with the MagBox w/focus diffuser and 1/4 CTO combo. We used this warming gel to match the warmth and tone of the room. The flash was held slightly above each groomsman and pointed downward to reduce spill)
(I have included two for this combo since both images were lit the same. Both couples were backlit with a MagSphere and 1/2 CTO gel combo. In both shots the flash is placed about 6-8 feet behind the couples, pointed towards their waists. For the first shot, we like this warming light in these tree tunnel scenes as it helps to draw your eye in on the subject, chizzle out your subject with light, and illuminate the background. For the second shot, we had fog rolling in off the mountains so we decided to take advantage of it and add a little warmth to the romance. This is a simple technique and when combined with the right color, and composition, you can really take an image to another level.)
(Backlight about 6-8ft behind the couple equipped with a MagSphere and 1/2 CTO MagGel.; The front light, lighting the couple was equipped with a MagSphere and 1/4 CTO gel combo. The light was held in close on a flash stand by my second shooter. The light was above the couple and pointed downward. It was also shot on a tripod to easily mask out my second shooter. We used the warming effects of the CTO gels to cool down the atmosphere, making their surroundings cool, but warming them up, drawing your eye in towards the couple.)
(This image was the opposite of the image right before it. In this image we're use cooling gels to warm the atmosphere, in the previous image we were using warming gels to cool down the atmosphere. This one was lit by a flash from camera right with the MagSphere and 1/2 CTB combo. By utilizing the half CTB gel on your subject you can help warm up and balance out the color in an image.)
The rest of the images below are some more of our favorites using MagGels!
MagBox Pro 24 Octa
The MagBox with the focus and fabric diffuser is another one of our favorite MagMod products. For us, we'll switch to shooting the MagBox when we're looking for the softest possible light. The larger light source creates a softer light, and one of the benefits of using the MagBox is it allows you to equip it with up to two speedlights or medium strobes, for those of you who like smaller lights (like us). Being able to get the power of two lights in one light source is helpful in strong backlight situations. I'll explain our reasoning for using the fabric diffuser vs the focus diffuser next. Both of these modifiers are going to diffuse the light, but I'll typically use the Fabric diffuser in situations where I don't mind if there's some spread and spill because it can naturally fill the space like sunlight. I use the focus diffuser when I'm looking for a more controlled or a tighter light. We also love how easy the MagBox is to use compared to some of the other brands we've used in the past. It seems like there's never enough time as a wedding and portrait photographer and having the built in integrations with the entire system as well as a convenient box to carry it all in makes life so much easier when it comes to using softboxes on the go like we do! Below are a lot of our favorite images using the MagBox with the fabric and focus diffusers.
(Couple lit by the MagBox, Focus Diffuser, and 1/2 CTB Combo. The flash was camera right just outside of the frame, and also feathered up to reduce spill, and give off a softer light.)
(MagBox w/fabric diffuser camera left, just outside of the frame. The light was also feathered upward to reduce spill and create a softer light)
(MagBox with Fabric Diffuser camera right and angled at the center of the group. The flash was just outside of the frame and raised just a bit higher than the group.)
(MagBox with focus diffuser and 1/2 CTB gel camera right just outside of the frame, angled slightly downward towards the couple.)
The following are some more of our favorite shots we've captured with the MagBox!
One of our favorite modifiers and one that I think is under appreciated, is the MagBounce. We like the MagBounce for a few specific situations. We do a few different dance floor set ups but our favorite includes cross lighting the dance floor from opposite sides and using a MagBounce on camera. We also like it in situations where you just need some light on your subject and you can't use traditional bounce flash method. Think of a backlit recessional at a wedding, or if there's a situation at a wedding that requires some light but has tall dark ceilings, and no room in the layout for OCF. We also like it for sparkler exits to get a nice clean light on our couples as well. The MagBounce is something we use at every wedding and a modifier that will continue to help us capture fun moments throughout a reception!
There you have it my friends! We hope you enjoyed and picked up a few ideas for next time you shoot! For those of you new to MagMod, these are just a few examples of some of the images you can create using their products. For more inspiration, definitely check out the MagMod Community Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/magnetmod
For any questions relative to any of the shots above, feel free to reach out to us directly on Instagram @jcmphotographyasheville or @jcmphotographyjacksonhole. We'd love to connect!
Joe & Jenny