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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Location Shoot

Sophisticated light-shaping tools give you complete control over the image while using portable strobes and speedlights

This Article Features Photo Zoom

When To Use A Silver Umbrella

Use it when you need greater contrast or for a more efficient throw of light from a powered-down strobe head. However, keep in mind that the silver may add a blue colorcast. For this reason, avoid using a mix of white and silver umbrellas on the same subject, such as a large group portrait.
So-called “parabolic” umbrellas are deeper than conventional umbrellas and create more contrast, and they may be one ticket to developing a signature style. Of course, when it comes to portability, one of the few parabolic umbrellas that makes practical sense is Hensel’s 32-inch Parabolic White. On a larger scale, Paul C. Buff offers the versatile PLM v.2 Parabolic Light Modification System (in sizes from 51 to 86 inches—although anything more than 51 inches may be too much to handle outside the studio, and even that might be a stretch in tight spaces).

Another pet peeve: The ribs are visible in the catchlights in the eyes or other reflections. If you don’t want your umbrella to be too obvious, the choice falls to my personal favorite, the Photogenic Eclipse—the only umbrella I know that prevents your lighting from taking a ribbing.

Photek Softlighter II
Many manufacturers also offer convertible white umbrellas: Remove the black outer layer on the white umbrella, move it closer to the subject, and you effectively have a shoot-through diffuser (still with considerable spill). The white Eclipse offers this option.

Photoflex has an interesting twist on the umbrella theme: a mighty-morphing umbrella. Seriously, you can alter the shape of the ADH Adjustable Silver Umbrella and the ADW Adjustable White Umbrella from round to oval or square, plus they have a peel-off black outer layer. Another neat twist is Lastolite’s 8-in-1 Umbrella, with enough configurations to help you reinvent your lighting style.

How To Stretch A Small Bank

Softboxes, like umbrellas, are optimized to provide their best light within a few feet of the subject. Within limits, you can use a smaller softbox to light a larger area if you position it at a greater distance. However, keep in mind that the resultant light becomes harsher with increasing distance, while increasing the demands on the flash unit. Also, angling the box from a greater height feathers light toward the bottom, which can be compensated with bounce panels, if needed. If you have to move too far back, it may be prudent to switch to an umbrella.
Softboxes, Banks And Strip Lights. These light banks generally offer one distinct advantage over the umbrella: a more even throw of light, particularly when an internal baffle is employed. Some even come with a circular or oval mask geared toward highlighting a portrait subject.

Banks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but I doubt a starting location photographer is going to want to deal with a five-foot bank. A more realistic approach would be something in the neighborhood of a 2x2-foot box. However, to be practical, this size is best suited as a keylight for head-and-shoulders portraits or as a fill light.

FourSquare mount
Softbox Umbrellas And Umbrella-Like And Collapsible Softboxes. Softbox umbrellas provide a simple and inexpensive, if seemingly inelegant, alternative to the typical softbox. To further soften the light, this modified umbrella uses a front-mounted diffuser, which is either optionally added or comes as part of the finished product. White-surfaced umbrellas usually work best. Unlike a light bank, the typical configuration directs the flash head back into the reflecting umbrella surface, with the light bouncing back out through the diffuser. There are also softboxes that are collapsible, opening and folding down neatly, or that pop open like an umbrella—both do away with those annoyingly cumbersome rods.

One example of a foldaway bank is the Lastolite Ezybox Softbox (with a wide choice in speed rings; a speed-light version also is available). Other cozy options come from Westcott—and don’t require adapter rings—the umbrella-like round Halo and the rectangular Apollo (the latter also is available in a speedlight kit), and Photek’s Softlighter II, a softbox umbrella that can be adapted for use with studio strobe or speedlight.


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