softening flash

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by redtippmann, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. redtippmann

    redtippmann TPF Noob!

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    Well a little but ago I got a lighting kit that JerryPH recomended. It works great, It came with:
    Vivitar 285HV
    Light stand
    cactus V2
    STO-FEN diffuser
    gels
    swivel head

    Now this wednesday I am going to shoot for 2 of my friends at a lake/beach. We did this before but one of them were late so it was rather dark and I was working with slow shutter speeds and with hardly any luck. But now I have my light rig and can use that. I was debating a few things,

    1 shoot on or of camera, I would like off camera but I would be the one with all the stuff and its in not so great part of town and the less fancy I look the better.

    2 the main question, how should I diffuse and soften the light? I do have an umbrella that works great but it can get rather windy and the umbrella is like a windsock. But I also have a sto-fen diffuser. This works sometimes, but it seems to have a mind of its own. It either doesn't want to let ant light through or it hardly softens the light.

    3 how do you shoot in windy conditions?

    Thanks for your help!
     
  2. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    Sandbags. Lots of sandbags. :)
     
  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The Sto-Fen and other similar "cap" diffusers are really NOT much larger than the flash panel itself; beyond about 10 feet, the Sto-Fen style of diffuser does not really do much to soften the light. The farther away a light is from the subject it is illuminating, the harder the shadow the light produces. The smaller a light is in relation to the subject's size, the "harder" the light, and the more-distinct the shadows are.

    On a bright, blue-sky day, the very large SUN, acts as a point light source because the sun is very SMALL and very far, in a relative sense, to our planet Earth. However, if a puffy white cloud 5,000 feet above the Earth's surface,and two miles long happens to diffuse the sun's ray's, we have a 1) relatively close and 2)relatively large source of light,and the shadows are fairly soft. THis is the type of lighting we get on a day called "partly cloudy".

    On flash shots where the Sto-Fen is more than about 10 feet from a human subject, you might just as well take off the diffuser,since it adds basically NO size to the flash's own diffuser panel...look at it...basically the same size. if you need to diffuse flash outdoors, shoot them into V-cards or use umbrellas, but realize that unless the umbrellas or diffuser cards are LARGE in relation to your subject, the flash will look quite hard.

    You do not "need" to diffuse flash outdoors in bright sunlight,and with many cameras it's difficult to overpower the sun due to X-synch and ISO limitatons and the low power of a shoe-mount speedlight; if you have 400-1200 watt seconds of power and a good parabolic reflector, then you can easily overpower the sun and even use umbrellas to diffuse the light outdoors.
     
  4. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    As Derrel so correctly points out, size matters.

    Its not the physical size that matters, but its the angular size as seen from the subjects position. The greater the distance to the diffuser the smaller it appears and thus the harsher the light.

    The Sto-fen relies heavily on having walls nearby. It is small and doesn't provide much softening on its own. The only thing it softens are specular highlights (reflections on shiny surfaces). It doesn't make the small shadows cast by surface textures any softer unless there are walls or ceilings nearby to reflect back the light the Sto-fen throws to the side.

    My neighbor shoots weddings and events for a living. Key West being Key West (tropical island, warn all year, ...) most of what he shoots is outdoors. He shoots alone (no crew to manage big reflectors, ...) and relies rather successfully on a Gary Fong diffuser. These are reasonably large flash attachments and provide decent diffusion.
     
  5. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It is more challenging to know how to use a lightstand with an umbrella but the results are so worth it. Sandbags help. You can make them yourself for about 8 bucks each (I have 2 bags of 25lbs each and use them often, I love them!).

    [​IMG]


    I also use a large bounce card and it works wonderfully, especially in placed like a tight dance floor, when an umbrella is just impossible to maneuver with.

    [​IMG]
     

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