Correct umbrella setup

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by SlimPaul, Oct 16, 2009.

  1. SlimPaul

    SlimPaul TPF Noob!

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    Hey,

    I recently bought an umbrella (and a stand) to go with my new SB-900. I read a few articles on Strobist blog but couldn't find the answers to my questions.
    1. How far ahead should the umbrella be extended (from the flash)?
    2. At what angle should it be facing the person?
    3. How high should it be mounted?

    If you have any other tips, please let me know. ;)

    Thanks, Paul
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Ideally, you want the umbrella at a distance from the flash, where the light spread from the flash fills the umbrella but doesn't spill past the edges. It's not an exact science really, just don't put it too close to the flash otherwise you aren't getting the most softening of the light.

    The angle of your light, to your subject...is entirely up to you and depends on the shot that you want. The closer the light is to the camera, the more 'flat' the light will be. The farther (bigger angle) the flash is from the camera, the more 'dramatic' the lighting might be. Think of your subject as the earth and the light is the sun rotating around it (in a pre-Galileo universe).

    The height is also up to you. Some lighting patterns call for overhead lighting (beauty or glamor light for example) while other types might require the light to be just a little above the subject's face (loop or Rembrandt lighting for example).

    Practice, practice practice. Even if the only subject you have is a teddy bear, or a basketball etc.
     
  3. SlimPaul

    SlimPaul TPF Noob!

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    Thanks a lot for your reply Big Mike.
    The umbrella can be placed both in front and behind the camera? The further it's placed from the subject the more softening the light is?

    Edit: I have one more question. Is flash EV and flash power the same thing? I often see people writing, for example "at 1/2 power", does this mean the flash was set to EV 0, and full power would be EV 3?

    Thanks,
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2009
  4. SpeedTrap

    SpeedTrap TPF Noob!

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    Yes it can be anywhere you want that creates the look you want, but the closer the light source the softer the light.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The light can be placed anywhere you want. But of course, if you put it right behind the camera, you might cast a shadow onto your model.
    Typically, the light is closer to the model than the camera though.

    No, the closer the light is, the softer it will be. So if you are going for soft light (which you probably are, if you are using an umbrella) then you want the light to be as close to the model as possible...which is going to be just outside the view of the lens/camera.

    EV just means Exposure Value.
    I think that when someone says the flash was set to EV 0, they mean that the flash is using some sort of auto flash metering (E-TTL) and that there was no compensation dialed in.
    For example, when I'm shooting with the flash on the camera and E-TTL turned on...I might add one stop via FEC (flash exposure compensation)....so you might call that +1 EV.
    When the flash power level is displayed as a fraction...it's just that. A fraction of the flash's full power setting. Each time you cut the power in half (or double it), that's one stop.
     
  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    No, the farther away a flash is from the subject, the harder the light will be. If you put your umbrella really close to a subject, like 3 feet from the person and just out of the camera's view, that will provide a very soft, almost shadowless type of lighting. If you take the same umbrella and move it back to 12 feet, the light will be what is called "harder", meaning it will cast much harder-edged and more-distinct shadows.

    Flash power is often called EV, which is a slight misuse of the term EV or Exposure Value, which is a measure of scene brightness that correlates to a specific aperture, shutter speed, and film/sensor ISO setting. "EV" is strictly a way to describe a specific level of scene brightness, so using "EV" with flash is a corruption of the system. It's common among newbies, who also call f/16 a "large aperture" because it has a high numerical value.

    "Flash EV" in the new sense of the strobist movement ought to be called flash power,or flash output, and at the actual subject plane, it should be called the flash exposure reading, but so many strobists have no flash meters that they use the WAG or wild-ass-guess method for so many things that they probably have little use for the correct terminology on anything.
    And no, an EV value of 1/2 would not be a 0 reading,and full power would not be EV 3--that doesn't make any sense to me. It's a lot easier to simply describe the flash power setting, like Vivitar 285HV set to full, half,quarter, or 1/16th power, or to juts buy a flash meter and describe the flash's output an an actual indicated,measured flash exposure at the subject plane the way it's been done for decades.

    If somebody with formal training in lighting tells you the flash exposure value was lowered to deliver an f/5.6 exposure value,that makes a lot of sense and is simple and direct and meaningful, while the fill light was set to deliver an f/4 exposure level, that makes sense. How that is done, either by moving the flash forward or backward, by adjusting the power level, or by zoming the flash head, or a combination of any of those three things doe not really matter,and so using "flash EV" inthe sesne you inquired about is meaningless as a description of how powerful the flash's light is once it finally gets to a subject. But using "flash EV" as a corollary to the flash power output LED or dial on a flash makes no sense, and is fraught with potential misunderstanding. One ought to smply say, I lowered the flash POWER LEVEL to X or to X/X or X/XX. The actual EXPOSURE LEVEL is measured only at the subject plane.

    With so many self-taught people in the strobist movement, I've gotten used to hearing people say, "I used a larger aperture, like f/16 instead of f/8, to get a less over-exposed shot."
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2009
  7. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    You can also control this to an extent by changing the zoom of the speedlight. An SB-900 can be zoomed from 12 to 200 mm with a DX sensored camera.

    If you have the speedlight set to light a wide angle like for a 12mm lens, the umbrella set can be closer to the speedlight, and still fill the umbrella with light but no spill.

    Conversely, if the speedlight is set to a focal length like 200mm the light projected will be in a narrower beam and the umbrella would need to be further from the speedlight to be filled with light. Most of the time you'll want the speedlight set to a wide angle.

    Many umbrellas are convertable and can also be shot through. That shortens the total light path, delivering more light to your subject (inverse square law) and the umbrella can be much closer to your subject making the light softer still because the light source appears larger.
     
  8. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not to crash the thread, but how do you decide what size umbrella? Let's say for portraits.
     
  9. fiveoboy01

    fiveoboy01 TPF Noob!

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    The larger the light source, the softer the light.

    I've used 45" with good results, I suppose 60" is another option but that's a little too big for some spots.
     
  10. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Are some brands > than other brands. I see white umbrellas for $20 and white umbrellas for $200.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Are some umbrellas better than others?

    DSC_1115_SKE silver left Lastolite right.jpg photo - Derrel photos at pbase.com

    On the left is a cheap eBay umbrella box firing with 200 watt-seconds fired through a Speedotron light head, while on the right is the "original", genuine, $79 Lastolite Umbrella Box on which the cheap, Chinese copy is modeled after.it too is firing at 200 watt-seconds, with the same power pack powering both heads.

    Q:Which do you think is the better umbrella? Answer: It ain't the $29 knock-off on the left. The "original" product is the better quality, better-performing umbrella.
     
  12. SlimPaul

    SlimPaul TPF Noob!

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    I appreciate your help very much :) I currently have a 33' cheap eBay umbrella. Do you think there will be a noticeable difference between let's say a 45' Westcott? Any other recommendations?

    Thanks,
     

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