Zoom f/ Speedlight using softbox / umbrella

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by GFruge, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. GFruge

    GFruge TPF Noob!

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    I'm trying to start shooting onsite with my SB900. I have a shoot-through umbrella and a softbox setup, but wanting to get advice or opinions.

    Which zoom do you guys us for such a setup? I've been using 50mm not to be too much of a hotspot. I've also been using the softbox and umbrella with the diffuser attached to the front of my light.

    Suggestions please.
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Well, 50mm sounds about right for most smaller umbrellas like 45 inch and smaller. If you had say, a 60 inch umbrella, the 50mm setting might give a central hot spot,and a very strong fall-off at the edges.

    Using the slip-on diffuser or any diffuser with a shoot-through umbrella doesn't make a lot of sense to me, since the diffuser tends to spread some light out,and prevents it from going through the umbrella. Shoot-through umbrellas can be used with the flash's zoom head set to a very tight,telephoto beam setting like 105mm; it changes the way the light hits and goes through the shoot-through umbrella. It's not necessarily "wrong", but it is different, to use a speedlight set at a tight beam spread or with the speedlight positioned really,really close to the umbrella, with the flash very close to the umbrella ribs.

    (I want to say it clearly: I am not a fan of shoot-through umbrellas for use with larger studio lights or monolights. I learned with shoot-through umbrellas,and do NOT like their lighting quality, which with more powerful lights produces a huge amount of light scattered all around the entire shooting area, creating a lot of what is called ambient spill or ambient fill. I still think shoot-through umbrellas have some issues with light control,and work better for simply elevating the light levels upwardly,and providing soft, low-ratio, kind of flat, dull lighting that lacks much direction. For creating a main light source that is large, and for creating a low-level fill light from the spilled light kicked back off the umbrella, a shoot-through umbrella serves as a main light,and a fill light,all in one,and I think the effect looks very bad when done in small rooms. Others disagree, or have shot only shoot-thru brollies, and they might happen to like the look. As always. YMMV)

    One place where I have seen some AWESOME results was when people used a speedlight flash with a reflecting umbrella, and the flash was fitted with a Sto-Fen type diffuser cap. That light is called "double diffused"; the Sto-Fen diffuses the light hitting the umbrella, from something like 25 inches away on the umbrella shaft, the light is quite diffused, and then it is reflected back to the subject,and the overall result is very soft light, for even a smallish umbrella like a 30-incher. This is a fairly new idea people have just begun doing, using an umbrella with speedlight + diffuser.

    I like the Photoflex brand's RUT convertible reflecting umbrella for speedlight use, in both the 30 inch and the larger 42 inch model I think they call it...I call them "small" and "medium".
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009
  3. RONDAL

    RONDAL TPF Noob!

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    i set mine to 24mm and let it fill the umbrella. i dont get any spill, but if i go to 14mm i will
     
  4. GFruge

    GFruge TPF Noob!

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    What about this diffuser thing? I read that Derrel recommends not using a diffuser. This is ultimately what I'm trying to achieve:

    I'd like to shoot prebridals onsite (church / ourdoors) and still get that soft light like I achieve with my studio softboxes. I've seen a professional use an SB900 speedlight with a shoot-through umbrella and get the most fascinating photo. I've tried, but still getting somewhat flat results.

    I've got the umbrella positioned approx 5' from the subject coming in from my left. The light is positioned about 45 deg from the subject and slightly higher than the subject itself.

    I haven't been able to shoot recently due to me being away from home at work. I used the 50mm zoom setting, but will try something a little wider. I'll also try both with the diffuser and without the diffuser.

    I'm shooting with a photogenic 45" shoot-through umbrella.

    Opinions please? Which is better for this type of lighting, 45" shoot-through umbrella or 24"x24" softbox? This is only for shooting bust-shots mostly.


    Regards,
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Well, using a shoot through umbrella, you are losing a substantial portion of your light...maybe 60 percent goes through to the subject,and the other 40 percent is reflected back into the air,away from the subject. If you had a reflecting umbrella positioned at 5 feet from the subject, you would be losing basically almost no light out the off-subject side...

    I think the 24mm setting is maybe one click too wide on a 40-42 inch umbrella,and I usually use 35mm or 50mm myself.

    If you want crisper-looking results, I think going to a white-interior umbrella with an opaque backing on it will help your results look much better. Shoot-through umbrellas produce soft,smooth, kind of dull-looking lighting in my opinion. If you want a really crisp umbrella, try something like Speedotron's Super Silver umbrella, which has a silver, metallized interior. What I suspect is happening is your shoot-through + SB 900 is so close to daylight that you're getting a flash + daylight effect, with one of these sources acting as a main light and the other acting as a fill light, and the lighting looks less-crisp than you want it to look because the two sources are fairly close in intensity.

    In your specific case, I would try the 24x24 softbox, since it will waste less light and act as a smaller light source, which makes the light source harder, and crisper and you are having issues with what you describe as, "somewhat flat results". If the results are somewhat flat, can you post process to build contrast and snap? Or are we talking about flat lighting ratios where there really "are" no shadows??
     
  6. GFruge

    GFruge TPF Noob!

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    When I finally get home, I'll shoot a few photos and post them here to get opinions.

    I'll give all of the particulars, outside light meter reading, both from the camera and light meter. I'll list all of the additional info as well, such as lens length, ISO, aperature, shutter speed, flash settings, distance from subject, etc.

    Thanks again, I'll try the settings and look for this ambiant light vs. flash.
     

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