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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 10 Feb 2012 (Friday) 18:48
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Speedlites and Umbrellas

 
NavyShrink
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Feb 10, 2012 18:48 |  #1

Would someone be kind enough to explain a few things about using umbrellas:

1. What is the difference in quality of light in bouncing vs. shooting through?
2. When bouncing, how does the distance from flash to umbrella affect the light?
3. When using E-TTL in this setting (flashes off camera), are the flash heads still zooming based on the focal length? If so, is this a problem? When using umbrellas, how does the zoom of flash affect the light?

Thanks!


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JeffreyG
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Feb 10, 2012 19:29 |  #2

1. Shooting through allows the modifier to be positioned much closer to the subject. This can make the light softer, and it can create a much stronger falloff in the scene. Imagine trying to take one of those shots where the background is pure black. Getting the modifier very close to the subject (with a shoot through) is one approach. There are other applications as well.

2. The further the modifier is from the subject, the harder the light (smaller apparent size of the light source). A closer light will also make the light softer and will make a stronger gradient of light with distance from the flash.

3. Most wireless flash triggers do not transmit focal length info to the flash heads. So they will shoot at the widest zoom setting unless you manually change them. My Phottix Odin allows me to adjust the zoom setting from the wireless controller, but this is still a manual operation.


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NavyShrink
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Feb 10, 2012 19:32 |  #3

Thank you, JeffreyG!

Real quick: when bouncing off umbrella, does the distance from the flash to the umbrella matter?


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JeffreyG
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Feb 10, 2012 19:37 |  #4

NavyShrink wrote in post #13865255 (external link)
Real quick: when bouncing off umbrella, does the distance from the flash to the umbrella matter?

You need the flash to be far enough away that it strikes the entire surface. Otherwise the effect will be like using a smaller umbrella.

Note that with any modifier, the light source in the scene is the surface of the modifier that is hit by the flash, it isn't the flash itself.

Also note that umbrellas spill a lot of light compared to softboxes. This is their main disadvantage. If you want a little fill light creeping into the shadows, this spill is fine. But the absolute best control is had with softboxes which will put the light only where you want it and which otherwise function like shoot-throughs.

I'll admit that a lot of the time, one umbrella is quick and dirty because you get enough spill to do the job that would require a second flash on low ratio with softboxes.


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rh18
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Feb 10, 2012 19:57 |  #5

JeffreyG wrote in post #13865246 (external link)
1. Shooting through allows the modifier to be positioned much closer to the subject. This can make the light softer, and it can create a much stronger falloff in the scene. ...

2. The closer the modifier is to the subject, the harder the light (smaller apparent size of the light source). A closer light will also make the gradient of light with distance from the flash more apparent in the shot.

Wha.....??? OK, I'm obviously reading something wrong. I keep seeing statements like this everywhere and it's really confusing. Does positioning the light close make the light soft or hard?


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JeffreyG
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Feb 10, 2012 20:00 |  #6

rh18 wrote in post #13865361 (external link)
Wha.....??? OK, I'm obviously reading something wrong. I keep seeing statements like this everywhere and it's really confusing. Does positioning the light close make the light soft or hard?

Whoops, you caught me saying something backwards. I'll fix that in the original. I should have said, the further the modifier is from the subject, the harder the light.

Try this. The sun is a really, really huge light source. But it is also something like 90 million miles away. So as anyone who has shot in the direct sun can attest, the sun makes for a very hard light.

Big light far away = hard. Even if the light is as big as the sun, so long as it is also really far away.


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rh18
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Feb 10, 2012 20:09 |  #7

There's a good post about this on the strobist blog (external link). In fact, he uses the same sun example. For some reason, I've had a hard time wrapping my head around this concept. The part about closer light = softer light seems counter-intuitive to me. Anyway, thanks for the clarification!


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JeffreyG
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Feb 10, 2012 20:40 |  #8

Think about the light from the viewpoint of the subject. The bigger the light looks to the subject, the softer it is.


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PacAce
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Feb 11, 2012 08:13 |  #9

rh18 wrote in post #13865411 (external link)
There's a good post about this on the strobist blog (external link). In fact, he uses the same sun example. For some reason, I've had a hard time wrapping my head around this concept. The part about closer light = softer light seems counter-intuitive to me. Anyway, thanks for the clarification!

Are you equating softness of light with brightness? If so, that may explain why you're having a hard time with the concept. Instead of brightness, you should equate softness with the type of shadows produced by the light. The closer the light source is, the larger its apparent size and the less contrasty the shadow generally is. The farther it is, the smaller its apparent size and the harsher the shadow becomes. An example of a small light source, as used previously, is the sun on a clear day which casts very harsh shadows. An example of a very large light source is an overcast sky which casts very soft shadows.

The reason the shadows cast by large light sources are soft is because light is coming from a wider range of angles. Light from a small light source comes from one or a very narrow range of angles and hence casts harsh shadows.

For a given size of a light source, the closer it is to the subject, the larger it appears relative to the subject being light by that light. And the farther it is, the smaller it appears.


...Leo

  
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rh18
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Feb 11, 2012 13:06 |  #10

PacAce wrote in post #13867609 (external link)
Are you equating softness of light with brightness?
...
The reason the shadows cast by large light sources are soft is because light is coming from a wider range of angles. Light from a small light source comes from one or a very narrow range of angles and hence casts harsh shadows.

I pretty much equate softness with the shadows. You explanation makes a lot of sense to me though, I guess I really just hadn't thought of it in that way. Maybe in my mind I'm thinking that if you pull the light back a little (like few feet in the studio - not anything as extreme as the sun), it would scatter more producing softer light. I'm new to off camera lighting though, so lots to learn.

I think I'm clear on it now - thanks all for the great explanations. And sorry for hijacking the thread!!


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