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Old 11-06-2008   #11
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

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Originally Posted by Eero Makela View Post
So a 46" Softliter should be large enough, I was thinking of getting a 60" version as Dave B uses that size for full length shots. I currently have a 46" umbrella and 2 smaller ones for my studio lights.
I think what these people are talking about is portrait photography (fully clothed subjects). For glamour and full length glamour (Dave B is a glamour photographer), you would definitely need the larger umbrellas. Try lighting a full length glamour image with one 30 inch umbrella and the lower half of the model will likely be horribly underexposed.
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Old 11-06-2008   #12
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

Not if you light it correctly. And, you can use more than one, to get the correct lighting on each part of the subject.
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Old 11-06-2008   #13
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Ok- Troth- Perhaps I have coined that word- don’t know? It goes back a lot of years when Photogenic, a major manufacturer of photographic lighting gear since the 1920s, manufactured a broad electronic lighting source lighting called the Skylighter. It consisted of a very large “troth” shaped (as in a farm animal feeding troth) crafted of matt finished aluminum in which was installed a linear flash tube and a long fluorescent modeling light. With a maximum power input of 800 watt/seconds, this device could deliver an extremely even fill light to a goodly sized camera room. Many photographers have fashioned their own version of this type of lighting unit using a shell made of Foamcor™ or Cor-Plast™ board and adding a skin of crushed and re-stretched aluminum foil or Rosco™ reflective material (Roscoflex) to the interior of the unit. A couple of standard flash heads aimed into the “troth” will do the trick. This would be a fixed fill light placed in back of the camera about 12 to 15 feet from the background at the junction of the floor and the ceiling.

Other issues- There are a lot of misconceptions as to the size of an umbrella, soft box or even a raw direct flash. I can do a full length bridal portrait with tremendous detail with a simple flash on the camera and a second light both being ordinary portable flash units that are used for wedding and even coverage with no fall off of light- even with a wide angle lens. It is not necessary to use giant sized light modifiers to do a good full length fashion shot, a glamour image or a nude. It all depends on how you place, feather and aim your lights. There is a difference between direct raw and modified light but the main difference will be in softness, that is, the transition of highlights into shadows.

Lets say we are doing a full length nude study with a giant 8’ soft box but the lighting is not brought in from an angle that will emphasize the contours and textures if the figure- we have a flat uninteresting picture of a naked person. I would probably be able to do a better job with a raw light and an 8 inch metallic parabolic reflector properly placed and feathered.

Successful lighting with viewer impact is not always based on coverage of the light source but the angle of incidence and the direction from which the main light is coming from. Of course there are the size and distance issues but there are practical usages of equipment to be considered as well. If we wanted to do a full length fashion shot and decided to use an 8’ soft box at 9 degrees to bring out the texture in corduroy suit. We need to have an animated look to the shot so we are going to have our model move around on the set within the limits of a 10 foot wide cyclorama. We have to keep our giant soft box at a distance; otherwise the darn thing is going to get in the way and show up at the edge of our image. If we have 5 feet of space for the model to move around in on each side the main light needs to be about 10 feet away from the subject and the lighting will not be all that soft. I we don’t mind little more contrast or edge to the shot, a smaller or more manageable smaller light can be used and still enable head to toe coverage. In that case, with a large soft box, unlike an umbrella, it is not a bad idea to raise the light a bit higher and tilt it down slightly to insure depth of lighting.

Big modifies are handy when you have lots of space but if you have to work at tight locations or have a small camera room you have to be able to improvise with the lights you have.

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Old 11-06-2008   #14
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

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Not if you light it correctly. And, you can use more than one, to get the correct lighting on each part of the subject.
But the key here is to do it all with one light only and full length model 5' 5" to 5'9" or even more with heels on.
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Old 11-06-2008   #15
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

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Originally Posted by Ed Shapiro View Post
Ok- Troth- Perhaps I have coined that word- don’t know? It goes back a lot of years when Photogenic, a major manufacturer of photographic lighting gear since the 1920s, manufactured a broad electronic lighting source lighting called the Skylighter. It consisted of a very large “troth” shaped (as in a farm animal feeding troth) crafted of matt finished aluminum in which was installed a linear flash tube and a long fluorescent modeling light.
Ed
Thanks, Ed!! I was going to ask if you meant "trough" instead of "troth", but for all I knew, "troth" was some kind of arcane photo term. I had thought trough could make sense in some photographic way (as in bouncing light into some V shaped foamcore), but I just didn't know what you meant. Maybe you have alternate spellings of this word up there in Canada, and perhaps both spellings are correct(?).
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Old 11-06-2008   #16
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

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We have to keep our giant soft box at a distance; otherwise the darn thing is going to get in the way and show up at the edge of our image. If we have 5 feet of space for the model to move around in on each side the main light needs to be about 10 feet away from the subject and the lighting will not be all that soft. I we don’t mind little more contrast or edge to the shot, a smaller or more manageable smaller light can be used and still enable head to toe coverage. In that case, with a large soft box, unlike an umbrella, it is not a bad idea to raise the light a bit higher and tilt it down slightly to insure depth of lighting.
Ed
I've seen you mention this before as well. Why is it such a bad idea to raise an umbrella and tilt it downward a bit?

I've been "attempting" glamour photography almost solely for one reason - because of a fairly well known glamour photographer from the 50's, 60's and 70's (and beyond) - Peter Gowland. I love his photographs from the 50's and 60's especially and I have most of his books and a couple of videos about him. He has about 70 years of experience in photography and you can check out his website at Peter Gowland Glamour Photography and Cameras He will be 93 years old in early April of next year.

In many cases he used a 72 inch silver umbrella as his main light and had it on a pulley system where he could easily move it around his model, move it up, down, etc.. I believe he usually had that umbrella between 6 and 8 feet from the model, but more often around 8 feet. He would also use two 36" square Larson Reflectasols, one directly above the other (for a 6 foot tall bounce light), sometimes for sidelighting his subjects and other times as a main light from the front. In this way, he was easily able to illuminate his subject evenly from head to toe (of course, he's used soft boxes too, when they came into existence). When I started off doing shoots, I basically wanted to get the same kind of look that he got in his photos, so I started off experimenting with a single 36" Larson Reflectasol. All it did was light the top half of the model. The light fall off from this single "super silver" reflector was pretty dramatic and it was my first lesson in bounce lighting. It wouldn't have been so bad if the model was wearing a lot of clothes, or was in a compact pose, but in only a bikini (and standing), the legs go pretty dark. To me, skin looks absolutely horrid when it is seriously underexposed, while clothing just looks a bit darker and is no problem at all (therefore not such a problem in full length portraits). I seriously don't see how one can light an entire body evenly (talking about skin here) with a 30 inch umbrella (while keeping it fairly close to the subject so the light remains somewhat soft) when one cannot even do it with a single 36" square Reflectasol (especially when you say it's a bad idea to tilt umbrellas and similar reflectors downward). Anyway, the larger the light source (given that it's fairly close to the subject, of course), the softer the light, so I just don't see why photographers would want to attempt to use small umbrellas when it comes to full length glamour. You can use bare bulbs (hard light) and it would probably give a bit more even coverage than bounce light (I don't have much experience using hard light, other than on camera flashes), but then you don't get the softer light and gradual transition in the shadows.

BTW, Peter Gowland is also a bit of an inventor - he built a 4x5 camera he named the Gowlandflex, he built his own ring light, and many other light modifiers on his own. He was always experimenting with his lighting. I guess when it comes to glamour, "the proof is in the pudding" when I look at his photographs.

Mike
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Old 11-07-2008   #17
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

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Originally Posted by Eero Makela View Post
But the key here is to do it all with one light only and full length model 5' 5" to 5'9" or even more with heels on.
I wasn't clear, evidently. You can light a full size model (e.g. Charles Barkley) with a single, small brolly.

When I spoke of multiple brollys, I was referring to the old way, where we "surrounded" the model with light, using large metal reflectors/floodlamps/parabolics. You can do the exact same thing with small brollys, as they give nearly the same quality of light.
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Old 11-07-2008   #18
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RE: Peter Gowland

I know him well- I have 2 of this cameras and have gone down to see him regarding his 8x10 Gowlandflex! He is, without doubt, a great photographer.

Heres the point of this post: Every photographer has his or her own way of working. In some cases, the size and construction of the studio and even the color of the wall influenced the final results. Peter's studio is very large and can easily accommodate large umbrellas. In my old studio, I work with 4'x8' reflectors, cut in half and hinged together forming a V configuration. I bounced 2 lights in vertical orientation and was able to light a full length figure or fashion shot with perfectly even lighting. In my present studio I just can not work with those reflectors because of limited space.

I have read all of Peter's books and guides, over the years and used many of his methods successfully. The main thing to understand is that the images you see in his and other great books is that the results you see are mainly a result of the photographers know how and and talent and not solely based on the equipment that is used.

The best thing to do if you want to tray a lighting technique based on equipment usage, you need to get the equipment and do some hands on shooting. Let's say you have a 72" umbrella the lighting forms will change as a result of:
  • The finish (reflectivity) of the inside surface of the fabric
  • The distance form the primary light source to the umbrella surface
  • The degree of feathering
  • The angle of incidence of the light from the camera/subject axis
  • The distance from the entire umbrella unit to the subject
  • Not all umbrellas a re created equally, there are different sizes, shapes and constructions. A flatter umbrella will create a lighting that is different than one that is very deep.
Depending on how I mix and match all of the aforementioned variables, I can produce a rang of effects going from a spot light to a totally soft ethereal image- all with the same lighting equipment.

My point is that in many cases, one can make perfectly good images without having dozens of light modifiers by understanding the physics of light and is willing to experiment, improvise and innovate.

Yes, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting but to confirm and master a technique you have to be the cook, discover the variables and use them to your advantage.

Large umbrellas and soft boxes are great tools because they have more tolerance and cut photographers a little slack. If you make a lighting mistake with raw light it cam be pretty catastrophic to any given image. With softer light sources the errors may still be there but the are not as noticeable.

The most important thing to remember that photographic lighting is the most open ended aspect of serious photography- it is virtually endless in terms of variations and discovery of different techniques all the time- it is advantageous to keep an open mind. As you may recall, I named this thread "My Thoughts on Umbrella Lighting"- not "The only way to do umbrella lighting"

Ed
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Old 11-07-2008   #19
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

For MJP-

I went back to your post and read it more carefully- I was remiss in not addressing some of your points.

OK- The Reflectasol (flats) are not parabolic reflectors- they are flats on an umbrella frame and will not necessarily give you even lighting. When you study the the effects of a true umbrella lighting modifier you will find that it has many different angles of incidence issues because the beams of light are bouncing off different aspects or facets of the umbrella surface. When you raise the umbrella very high and tilt it down certain of the reflected beams can overly light various aspects of the subject, In classical portraiture, especially in head and shoulders and 3/4 views, many experienced photographers prefer a natural fall off of light toward the bottom of the composition. Also- if you trace the beams of light bouncing off the peripheral area at the edge of an umbrellas you will find that theses beams are responsible for the "blowing out" of detail in bridal gowns. That's why I am suggesting that better results can be achieved where the umbrella is kept in a vertical, not tilted, orientation. I never said it is a bad idea especially where depth of lighting is a major issue.

With on simple 30 inch white umbrella one can create a broad spectrum of effects. Lighting can be even or made to fall off, you can shoot through the umbrella fabric as yet another alternative. If the umbrella has a black backing, it will not emit as much unseen secondary light as an uncovered umbrella- that can cause variations in coverage as can the nature of your fill light system. A larger umbrella has advantages as well; even if it is kept in a totally vertical orientation the is enough of a reflective surface where the face of a subject can be properly lighted in a portrait-like manner and still evenly illuminate the rest of the figure.

Many years ago, when I came out of the army, I used my GI-bill money to attend 2 months of courses at the Winnona School of Professional Photography- the educational wing of the P.P.of A. In the first 3 weeks there were 3 courses; basic portraiture, advanced portraiture, and new trends in portraiture. All the teachers were accomplished masters. The first teacher used as many as a dozen spotlights to make a simple and elegant full length bridal portraiture in addition to a bank of bounce lights to furnish the fill.
The second teacher did everything with 2 umbrellas and the last teacher in that series did all of his work with natural lighting.

It's up to you to learn and combine different lighting configurations and come up with your own methodologies. That takes study, experience and practice. All of this can NOT be found in the pages of one book. What ever you adopt as your basic method is dependent of your capability of SEEING LIGHT.

I hope this helps and I appreciate your questions. Discussion and questioning yield learning. Ed Thanks!
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Old 11-09-2008   #20
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Default Re: Umbrella Lighting- My thoughts

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Originally Posted by Ed Shapiro View Post

The most important thing to remember that photographic lighting is the most open ended aspect of serious photography- it is virtually endless in terms of variations and discovery of different techniques all the time- it is advantageous to keep an open mind. As you may recall, I named this thread "My Thoughts on Umbrella Lighting"- not "The only way to do umbrella lighting"
Ed
Thanks Ed! That's really cool that you've met Peter! I certainly don't have the room for a 72" umbrella either, but I have been experimenting with a 60" silver umbrella (which is actually 50" in diameter - it only measures 60" along the outside arc. I've been wondering if all companies measure/name their umbrellas like that), along with a couple of Reflectasols. With every shoot, I'm learning something new. I'm actually pretty limited by the funds I have available for lighting equipment, so I have to learn with what I have and then move up as I can afford it. Thanks also for the information in the other post about why you keep umbrellas parallel to the light stand!

Mike


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