Soft Box vs Umbrella
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Old 10-16-2009   #1
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Default Soft Box vs Umbrella

I'm using a 36in and 42in umbrella at the moment but have been told that a soft box with give me a more natural look. Would a 24x32x17.5in be big enough for a full body shot or should I spend the extra money for the 36x48x24? My main problem is my studio space is only an 8x16 room.


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Old 10-23-2009   #2
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

Bottom line the light source needs to be as large (tall) as the subject being lit

I use a 5' Softlighter II

Also a softbox is more directional and hence does not spread as much as an umbrella light does
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Old 10-24-2009   #3
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

A softbox will NOT give you a more natural looking light. A huge source will NOT give you a more natural light. They are merely tools, and each gives a different quality of light, depending on its location. A brolly can be as soft or softer than a softbox. After more than 25 years as a portrait photographer, I have yet to buy a softbox, nor do I have the urge or need to do so. I don't like light from a softbox, so I don't use them. Softboxes can be easier to use, but with as small as your area is, they may not be, unless they are gridded well.

The point is, there is no inherent advantage to any light modifier, each has a purpose and a use. Use the right tool for the right job.
Learn the tools you have, then add more.
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Old 10-24-2009   #4
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

Comparing soft-boxes with umbrellas is like comparing apple and oranges and in some cases like comparing apples and oranges to roast beef. In essence, soft-boxes are portable widow light or north light sources that can be accessed at any time of day or night and regardless of the weather. The can produce a soft or slightly harder directional effect when compared to raw unmodified light. Umbrellas are very large parabolic reflectors that can produce softer lighting than their counterparts- the soft-boxes. This is the basic difference at a rudimentary level.

At a more advanced or sophisticated level, technique supersedes equipment choices. I can get an umbrella or a soft-box looking like a spot light, depending on such factors as size and distance relationships between the light source and the subject. Other factors are angle of incidence, the distance between the primary light source and the reflective surface of the light modifier. There are many different sizes and shapes of umbrellas whit all kinds of reflective surfaces. Soft-boxes come in dozens of sizes, configurations and construction. There are some where the flash tube is oriented vertically and some where the tube is oriented horizontally to the reflective surface and still others that bounce off the sides of the soft-box enclosure and some light goes out straight out through the diffuser panel at the front of the unit- some have more than one layer of diffusion material. Each particular design has its own lighting properties.

Check out the Internet for “Plum” lighting equipment. They have a low profile soft-box that is very slim, front to back and has a very ample light spread for use in small quarters.

Oftentimes, very large modifiers are just too big for the space they are to be employed in and do not have enough natural fall off of light, which is desirable in many kinds of classical portraiture. In commercial catalog work, more evenness of light may be needed for certain assignments. Overhead soft-boxes seem to be the gear of choice for commercial table top work and is oftentimes mixed with hard light to bring out textures and more oomph to your images.

If you can, post a few images that you have made in our studio and I may be able to make more definite recommendations for you set up.

Ed


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Old 10-27-2009   #5
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

Looks as if you are a little squeezed for room there" Long narrow Room if I see correctly.
It limits you popping your lights more to the sides. I am not sure what you distance is if you where to set it up acroos the Room and have more of a wider area so as to spread your Studio Lights out more. As is" It looks very restrictive in that regard. I have a room similar to yours. I knew I would need to use the wide area to spread my studio equipment and still have just enough distance. Because Umbrellas generaly spread the light out either ways, controll is not the same as with Soft Boxes. Sure! As pointed out there are ways aroound it. But" lets keep it simple...
I would opt for the Soft Boxes in your situation and more directional light set up...
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Old 10-27-2009   #6
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

its a tight fit for sure but i'm now looking for a wider area. the pics with the black and the white backdrops were shoot in studio. - Models - a set on Flickr
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Old 10-27-2009   #7
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

This is exactly how wide my soon to be studio is. Good to know I'm not the only one with cramped working environments! lol
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Old 10-28-2009   #8
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

A good option for a narrow room is strip light, a long, narrow soft box.. They come in various sizes, with one about one foot wide and five feet long. That size works pretty well in a small room, giving a spread of light which pretty well matches a standing person. They can be flipped sideways for prone torso. They go a good job and fit well in a narrow room.
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Old 10-29-2009   #9
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

Strip lights with louvers can be used as a hair light in group photographs or as a kicker light, however, as a main light, they become problematic in that the cause vertical linear catch-lights in the eyes. Theses catch-lights add a strange feeling to the subject's eyes and need to be modified in post production- not the easiest or most time efficient way of doing things. Given their a narrow beam, the are not conducive in creating the wrap around effect of broader light sources, furthermore, they are not suitable for feathering. The width is less than most umbrellas and soft boxes but their depth can prove to be just as unwieldy as larger modifiers in close quarters.

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Old 10-29-2009   #10
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Default Re: Soft Box vs Umbrella

Then don;t use louvers, I don't. As for the catch lights, curators of the galleries in which I've exhibited have not complained about rectangular catch lights. Neither have the collectors who purchased prints. The narrow width is what causes them to be a good choice in a small studio. I found the depth (height) to not be a problem, while the narrow width saves 2 to 4 feet of working space. Yes, getting the light to wrap around can be problematic, but with some care I've found it can work. Look at it this way, in a narrow studio, something has to give. A 4 ft wide softbox or umbrella would take up half of the working space.

One of the fun things about lighting techniques is the variety of choices available to us. For example, while some love the 'beauty dish', I hate the results and find it awkward to work with. The variety of tools available to us is part of what makes photography interesting.


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