Softbox or Umbrella?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by kdd, Nov 25, 2008.

  1. kdd

    kdd TPF Noob!

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    What are the differences in one vs. the other? I'm considering a shoot-through umbrella or a softbox. Of course I know softboxes come in different sizes, but in general, is there an obvious difference in the final product?

    I'm using an SB-800 as the light source (and would use softboxes which are designed for this). So I'm just curious as to the difference between using a softbox or a shoot-through umbrella.
     
  2. Big Mike

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

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    The main difference (to me at least) is control of light, especially the spill.

    When shooting with an umbrella, a fair amount of light is spilled out...especially when shooting through, as it will be reflected back out behind the light. If you have walls etc behind you, that light can bounce back to your subject. This might not be an issue for every shoot, but if you are trying for low key type shots, this extra light can be a pain.

    A softbox constrains the light to where you point it. Also, some softboxes have two layers of diffusion material, which can help to avoid bright spots in your light.

    On another note; when using an umbrella, I prefer to bounce, rather than shoot through. If you have a cover on the umbrella, that can really help with light spill, although it's still not as good as a softbox.

    If you are shooting a large group, umbrellas might be better because you can get a wider spread at a closer distance.

    Either way, the rule is that the larger the light source, the softer the light. So bigger is better but you must also consider how convenient it will be.
     
  3. kdd

    kdd TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the speedy response! This gives me more to think about. I appreciate it!
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Just out of curiosity, how large (or small) of a softbox would be recommended for a SB-800 on a 6'-0" light stand before the it becomes ineffective?
     
  5. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The size of the lightboxes cannot be too big. That is an advantage an umbrella will have over a softbox.

    Softboxes over 36" in either diction will give you weird effects with even something like a SB-800. It is simply not powerful enough to drive a larger softbox, yet you can use a 42" umbrella and get more light on a greater area of your subject. This makes umbrellas way more versatile than a softbox unless you are shooting in a very tight space.

    One can also simulate the effect of a 3 foot by 6 foot softbox by using what is called a "clam shell". This is where you place 2 umbrellas, each with a flash, in line with each other... one being just higher above.
    [​IMG]

    As a final note, Mike did mention that umbrellas have spillover from the back. This only happens in shoot-through configurations, but in the real world, this will not be a factor except in very specific and quite rare circumstances. In that case, a simple brolly (cover along the back of the umbrella) can solve that easily enough, or one can just turn the setup around and bounce the flash into the umbrella and the black backing of them will prevent a lot of that spillover nicely enough. Bounce also puts out more light over a larger area than s shoot through situation (I use mostly shoot through lately, but I have used both bounce and shoot through in the past quite successfully).

    Cost of a softbox is a lot higher than an umbrella... I get the $15-$20 umbrellas and they work fantastic. It is hard to find a softbox for much under $80-$100.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2008
  6. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I would agree with everything that JerryPH stated above except the last paragraph and only on the softbox prices. Amovna has some decent softboxes and light gear for decent prices. It's not what I would buy for everyday/all day/365 studio use, but the softboxes I picked up for my strobist kit work well and are 24X32. That is as big as I would go with a strong flash. They have served me well at about $45.00 each when I bought them. I have used them the same way that Jerry depicted as a light bank.
    http://www.amvona.com/?page=shop/flypage&product_id=1913

    Amovna has some good stuff and some that isn't much of a bargin. Their Manfrotto tripod knockoffs are also well thought of and their muslins are good for the price. Their tripod heads seem to be less well thought of.
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nice link, gryphonslair99! Under $60 is a fair price for a softbox of that size.

    Of course, one could also DIY it for about half that if you want them. There are a few places on the net that talk about it. This winter if I get bored on a weekend, I may pick up the parts to make one and just play a little.

    My only concern with any softbox would be in sealing the back hole where the flash is inserted. It would have to be well sealed to do it's best. I also would not want the weight of the softbox to be resting on the flash in any manner. The weakest link on any flash is the foot... and that would be the first thing to go over time, even if the softbox is only something like a couple pounds. Jury rig it so the weight of the softbox is supported by the stand would be the way I want it done. :)
     
  8. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    This works well.

    http://www.photoflex.com/Photoflex_...y_Hardware___Adjustable_Shoe_Mount/index.html

    Funny thing. The quick ring on my Amvona boxes are the same ones as are on the Photoflex products. Same rods as well. My guess is that both are made by the same manufacturer for the two different companies. As for light leak I just drape a small piece of black cloth over the back of the ring and flash to keep light from escaping. This winter I plan on making a couple of sleeves out of black cloth that will attach to the quick rings and have drawstrings to close them around the flash heads.
     

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