Definition: Barn doors (light modifier)

Definition: Barn doors (light modifier) | Glossary entry

Barn doors (light modifier)

Barn doors are light modifiers that shape and direct light.

Barn doors are light modifiers that shape and direct light. They are flexible to use and can create focused light. They also make a variety of shapes.

Barn doors are fixed onto the front of studio or theatre lights. They have four hinged doors around the light source. That set up, seen right, can be changed so you can control the light shape.

Barn doors come in a huge variety of sizes, suited to a wide range of lights. However, the fitting is usually adapted for a brand of lights. If buying a set of barn doors be careful to select one that has appropriate fittings for your light.

Barn doors tend to be used to shape light. They do not affect the hardness or softness of the light very much. Hard light or soft light is created by the size and type of light source. If you need to close the barn doors down tight to narrow the beam of the light a lot you are probably using the wrong light source.

Softness of light is generally controlled by screens in front of the light or the lights’ size. The barn door fitting is used to create a shape for the light. It tends not to screen it and is not an effective controller of size.

The barn doors positions changes the nature of the light shape. Two side flaps close together might produces a slim light-shape like light passing through a partially open door. All four doors close together will produce a square focussed beam of light. The variations of the light shapes are quite wide and experience with this type of light fitting is essential to mastering its flexible use.

The shape of the doors on the a barn door light modifier tends to make the light beam straight or rectangular. This is a disadvantage in some situations. It creates a straight sided shadow on the ground. This is ugly when, for example, you are using the light to pick out an individual. For this situation it is better to use a round beam. Then the shape on the ground will be rounded – less angular. The squarish shape on the ground can be very useful too. Barn doors are often used to simulate light from a window for example.

The use of barn doors is very much dependent on the situation. To completely match a scene with the light you have to think of all the ways the light will affect the scene and also what you want to achieve.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us


Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has also run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Contribute A Definition?

Send us a definition of a photographic word or phrase...

Send us a definition for our list of photographic words and phrases. Simply write a clear definition and send it in. Include an original picture if you wish. Give us your name and a link to your website and we will credit your work.