Reflective Umbrella Problem

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Jaq, Dec 27, 2008.

  1. Jaq

    Jaq TPF Noob!

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    I'm looking to do a self portrait of my girlfriend and I, so I went out and got a lightstand, umbrella, adapter and an optical slave. However, no matter how I angle or position the umbrella, it gives a weird diagonal slanting light that doesn't make sense. It does diffuse the light a little, but honestly not that much, and I've found that I get more light just bouncing off the wall. However I want that targeted and soft lighting that you see in portraits. Is this possible with a reflective umbrella? Do all reflective umbrellas give such patchy light? Should I just return this and get a shoot through? Help!!!
     
  2. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Just bouncing light off a reflective umbrella won't give you soft light. In fact, it'll look bad. There's a lot of portrait lighting kits out there with bounce umbrellas that aren't worth 20 cents. To get really nice soft lighting for portraits, you need three (yes, 3) layers of diffusion.

    I use two types of lighting arrangements for soft-light portraits. #1: I have a 4x7 foot light panel with translucent diffusion material on it. Behind that, I'll position a strobe head with a 12 inch reflector that also has a diffusion disc on the front of it. And then I'll drape an additional piece of translucent fabric over the panel. Count 'em -- that's 3 layers of diffusion. And none of this stuff is expensive.

    #2: I also use a 36 inch softbox, but I've reversed the strobe head inside to aim to the back of the box, not straight thru the front. So, the light bounces off the rear first, then punches through the diffusion fabric on the front of the box. But wait! That's only two layers (one bounce and one diffusion, which I use for a different type of portrait), but for really soft light I clip a 3rd piece of diffusion material over the front of the box.

    Yes, return your umbrella. You'll never get good lighting and you'll never be happy. But... if you exchange it for a shoot-thru umbrella, keep in mind you're only getting 1 layer. You'll still need to add two more layers of diffusion material. You don't have to spend a fortune on fancy equipment. You can buy a couple of yards of white, or warm white, diffusion material at your local fabric store -- and rig it. A lot in photography, even pro photography, is rigged on the set. This is easy to do at home.

    Here's an example of 3-layer diffusion light from the #1 setup (4x7 light panel) I described above. This is deliberately dark and moody, but I could've just as easily highlighted the background, or the hair, or used a stronger reflector on the opposite side. So, this is just one example. Note how soft it is. In any case, I hope this saves you a lot of trouble and wasted time. Because you'll never get really nice soft light until you use 3 layers of diffusion (or one bounce and two layers). Good luck!

    [​IMG]
     
  3. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    Can you post a sample of this problem? Are you sure the optical slave is not picking up the preflash from your camera?
     

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