Umbrellas, Softboxes...What should I buy?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by LeeLeeMelis, Dec 22, 2006.

  1. LeeLeeMelis

    LeeLeeMelis TPF Noob!

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    Hi there everyone! I'm used to doing on location natural light photography but I'm now doing some inside work. I need to know what specific things I should be looking for when comparing umbrellas and softboxes, strobes and flashes. Can someone help me? I looked at the other posts about stuff but I want to know what kind of power level I need as well as cables and power sources. Thanks so much!

    LeeLeeMelis:wink:
     
  2. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Let me be the first because alot of people on here are big proponents of them and I plan on them being my starter studio kit.

    http://http://www.alienbees.com/
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    Welcome to the forum.

    I also recommend Alienbees, I have one and plan to get more. Very good lights. You will see stuff that is a lot cheaper (on EBay etc) but you get what you pay for. As far as studio lights go...Alienbees are actually pretty affordable.

    The big difference between softboxes and umbrellas is control...mostly spill control. With a softbox, the light goes where you point it. With an umbrella, you are softening the light...but it still goes pretty much everywhere. Umbrellas are cheap though...softboxes, not so much.
     
  4. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Umbrellas reflect light to enlarge the light source while soft boxes enlarge the light source directly. Light boxes are more precise, efficient and more expensive, as Mike says. They require a lot less flash power. Umbrellas have the characteristic of allowing you to place them further from the subject for an equivalent light source enlargement but require a lot more flash power. Most studios use both.

    If you are planning to use low power monolights like the Alien Bees, I would opt for soft boxes before umbrellas.
     
  5. LeeLeeMelis

    LeeLeeMelis TPF Noob!

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    Thanks so much, I'm very happy I found this site!!
     
  6. LeeLeeMelis

    LeeLeeMelis TPF Noob!

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    I just checked Alien Bees, what about those things they offer called "Brolly Boxes" Are they any good? OH yeah, I meant to ask. I am mainly buying lighting so I can shoot sports portraits on location at gymnasiums with their horribly yellow lighting. Will I be ok with only one umbrella or softbox?
     
  7. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you don't have a second light for fill, then you will want to carry a large white reflector. I don't know what a brolly box is, sorry. For portraits, get a 4' softbox. Most people like the effect it will produce.
     
  8. Mad_Gnome

    Mad_Gnome TPF Noob!

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    A brolly box would be horribly inefficient for the type of portrait you're talking about. A softbox will direct the light from the strobe more efficiently toward the group, whereas the brolly box will attempt to illuminate the rest of the gym. Basically, take a shoot-through umbrella and stretch an opaque, reflective sheet over the back.

    For your intended application, I'd recommend at least one Alien Bees B1600 strobe with a large softbox and a large white reflector, as fmw suggested. Anything smaller would probably be woefully underpowered for shooting large groups, especially in that kind of setting.
     
  9. Big Mike

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

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    If you are shooting one person, or a small team...then one light and a large reflector should be enough...but if you are shooting more than 5 or six people, the reflector would have to be huge...so a 2nd light would probably be the best way to go about it.

    Also, softboxes are great for controlling the light...but if you are shooting a large team, a softbox may be limiting because of the area it can cover...in which case, a simple umbrella may be a better option.
     
  10. LeeLeeMelis

    LeeLeeMelis TPF Noob!

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    Heres a dumb question... Can I buy a strobe, an umbrella and a softbox and use the umbrella and softbox interchangably on one strobe depending on where I'm photographing? Also, how much power should I be looking for in a strobe?
     
  11. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yes you can. The most important feature of a strobe is power. You can dial it down if you don't need all the power but you can't add power that isn't there. Serviceability is also important. How and where do you get it fixed if it breaks? How expensive are replacement flash tubes and where do you buy them? Also you will likely be stuck with the manufacturer's accessories, how expensive are snoots, honeycombs etc. and how extensive is the line? There is no standard "mount" for mounting these accessories. Something to consider.

    I've used the Calumet Travelites for years and years. They are made by Bowens of the UK for Calumet. They are powerful, very reliable, serviceable and have the most extensive line of accessories I'm aware of. They aren't the least expensive but you would have a hard time finding anything more reliable. My units have hundreds of thousands of successful firings on them and I've only replaced one tube in the past 5 years. I can still buy flash tubes for the first ones I bought back in 1993. I have 5 travelites and have never needed a repair. Calumet sells more professional studio lighting equipment than any other company on the planet.

    Reliability is really the keystone for professionsl equipment. When you get on site, things need to work or you're out of business. Amateur equipment is fine for amateurs but, if you're paid to deliver the goods, you'd better deliver them.
     
  12. kulakova

    kulakova TPF Noob!

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    my genious photo teacher told me to use umbrellas. =) with some filters for it if needed.
     

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