Diffusing/bouncing flash - panels, umbrellas or softboxes?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Arkanjel Imaging, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. Arkanjel Imaging

    Arkanjel Imaging No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Im looking to add some spread to my flashes. Im wondering, what do you guys get the most versatility out of? Is there one that you find yourself reaching for time and time again? Size, portability and ease of setup are important. So I like the idea collapsible panels. But the softboxes lose so much less light. And then theres still the bounce/shoot-thru umbrellas.... With so many option Im kind of torn. :confused:
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    A 42" x 72" panel with reflective white fabric as a reflector is a studio staple. It's large enough to actually DO its job. Panels can be pretty portable, and are exceptionally versatile (think Dean Collins videos for examples). Umbrellas light up large areas pretty well,and are very portable, and very affordable also. The Lastolite Umbrella Box is like a softbox, and also an umbrella, and gives beautiful light. It is an enclosed umbrella that doubly diffuses the light,so it's very different from a regular reflecting umbrella. A grid-fitted, recessed face softbox offers a lot of control of beam spread. I think a guy needs to own all three types of modifiers.

    I think shoot-through umbrellas are a poor choice for use with "real" studio flash heads at power levels like 200-1200 watt-seconds--all they do is blast light forward AND backward,and create a lot of ambient spill, and bland lighting with weird-looking effects. They work better with speedlights, but even then....ick.
     
  3. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    What kind of lights are you using?
     
  4. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Like Derrel, I think you ultimately need them all.

    I would start with reflectors, then umbrellas, then softboxes of the type for your lighting.

    I was also wondering if you shoot indoor, outdoor, or both.
     
  5. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    I think you've both jumped the gun and we need to find out what kind of flashes this person is using before we give advice...
     
  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Why? Reflectors and scrims work with ANY kind of lights--monolights, pack and head studio flash,and speedlights, as well as hot lights....

    Umbrellas are quite varied, and will work with speedlight flashes, monoblocs, or pack and head systems.

    We're just giving him general advice--he said he needs diffusion, and asked for guidance. I stand by my comments: shoot-through umbrellas are sucky, scrims and panels are the absolutely most-versatile modifiers, and gridded softboxes offer a lot of control, and it's nice to own all three types of modifiers. No matter what you use--speedlights, monoblocs, or pack and head studio flash.
     
  7. Arkanjel Imaging

    Arkanjel Imaging No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I shoot both out and indoors about equally. My lights right now are two SB-600's and two SB-R200's all controlled from my D300s.

    I totally agree with you guys in that I will eventually need all 3. But until I have the funds and space to work with I need to focus on just one for now. Panels seem like the logical choice but I just loved the couple times I got to work with softboxes. So much more controll. But bulky...
     
  8. Flash Harry

    Flash Harry TPF Noob!

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    My softboxes collapse and fold into my hard light case along with the brollies, the biggest is 42in square, gives great light, I prefer SB's over all other type modifiers. H
     
  9. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    The more I use soft boxes the more I notice their limitations. I do love them to death, but for the most part I find that using either very modestly sized ones or very large ones is the way to go, at least when it comes to shooting people. I feel it is very difficult to sufficiently light a large one with portable flashes unless you remove the interior baffle, and then you take a hit on evenness.
     
  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    For use with speedlights, if you desire soft box-like lighting, the Lastolite Umbrella Box or the Photek SoftLighter are a good compromise between an umbrella and a softbox. These are a reflecting umbrella design, with a translucent cover fabric. The flash is aimed into the umbrella, and then the light hits the curved surface, bounces back,and is then diffused by the white cover. Both of these are high-quality "umbrella boxes"--this is absolutely,positively NOT the same thing as the cheap "brolly box" POS system sold by you know who,out of Florida. Those are merely cheap shoot-through umbrellas with a back cover on them.

    The dg28.com web site was photographed almost exclusively with the Lumedyne portable flash system and one or two Lastolite Umbrella Box enclosed umbrellas, over many years. Annie Liebovitz's work over the past 3-4 years has been done in large part with the Photek Softlighter enclosed umbrellas. This design of umbrella is a hybrid of soft box,and umbrella, and eliminates the evenness of illumination problem with regular rectangular or square softboxes and speedlight flash units, and the light is doubly diffused, so it's pretty soft light for the size of umbrella.

    Panel frames can be made DIY with PVC pipe and joints. Fabrics can be DIY or store-bought. Square or rectangular frames tend to stand up and prop up quite well, while round ones need grip equipment much more readily,and are a PITA if it's windy.
     
  11. Arkanjel Imaging

    Arkanjel Imaging No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the replies. And thanks for those recommendations Derrel. I will look into those.

    As far as DIY Ive been using a car windshield sun-blocker for a cheapy panel. One side is shiny, aluminum-like silver and the other side is a whiteish silver. Works in a pinch but its flimsy as hell.
     
  12. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Frankly, I would just skip the umbrellas. They are the worst things in most home studios, ie a regular size room with regular height ceilings. They'll throw light everywhere, bouncing off everything in sight.

    The Umbrella box that Derrel talks about sounds a lot like a softbox (except you are throwing the light back to have it finally go forward. To me, it means a loss of power if you need it) so why not just get a softbox.

    I do agree with him however that reflectors/diffusers are easy enough to DIY with excellent results. Starting with the stupid sheet of foam core at about $2-3 at the local craft store so long as you don't need to look pro.

    First impressions can be lasting impressions so that you don't want your shooting area to look like it's holding together with duct tape when you are selling yourself.

    I love Annie but I'm not so sure she has been much of an example to follow in the last few years. Sorry. And keep in mind she is getting paid to use the stuff and talk about it.

    Just get yourself a good size softbox (or 2, or 3), make your own reflectors and diffusers, and start learning.
     

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