Today on the Slanted Lens we will discuss how to use umbrellas on set. Umbrellas are a great modifier and the one that most people start with. They’re inexpensive compared to soft boxes and octodomes making them very attractive. They collapse and fold away making them very simple to transport and carry with you. They are the first step in controlling light to achieve your photographic vision. We will discuss the materials the umbrellas are made of and how these materials affect the light. To test our umbrellas we will set up a target that will allow us to see how the light spreads. Then we will use the umbrellas to shape light on a person’s face.
1. Our Triton Flash is placed 8 feet from the center of the target. The camera is placed right next to the center of the umbrella. We will make the exposure equal 11.5 on the light meter for each set up. We will keep this consistent to let you know what the light loss or gain is for each umbrella.
2. Our first umbrella is a 30-inch white umbrella with a black backing, Photoflex ADW 30” Adjustable White. I start with this series of umbrellas because they are about in the middle of the scale for exposure. You don’t get as much light as a silver umbrella but more than a shoot through. This umbrella has a solid area that it covers. From the center to 3 feet on each side it only loses about a quarter of a stop. When you go out to 6 feet from the center on each side its losing about 1/2 of a stop. It has a very broad area of coverage with little fall off. It’s a broad source. The black cover keeps the light more controlled so you are not lighting the ceiling and your talent. It’s more controlled than a shoot through.
3. Let's now go to an ADW 45” Adjustable White. We get a very simpler area of coverage as the 30-inch. We lose about a quarter of a stop at 3 feet out and 1/2 a stop at 6 feet.
4. Let's now go to the silver 30-inch umbrella the ADH 30” Adjustable Silver. We gain 1 stop in light with this umbrella. It’s silver and kicks the light out. This is a much more focused light. At 3 feet on either side we lose 3/10’s of a stop. At 6 feet out we lose 3/4 to a stop. It falls off very fast. This umbrella, when moved closer, will be a very focused light source.
5. Let's now go to the silver 45-inch umbrella the ADH 45” Adjustable Silver. We gain the same 1 stop in light with this umbrella but the area of coverage is a bit broader. At 3 feet out we get the same 3/10’s fall off but at 6 feet we get 1/2 stop fall off. It falls off very fast after 6 feet.
6. This is a 72-inch parabolic umbrella. With this umbrella we get a stop and a half more light than the white black umbrella. It’s the silver lining and the parabolic shape that focuses the light. This is a very focused light source. The light fell off 1/2 stop at 3 feet and 1 and 1/2 stops at 6 feet. Very narrow area of coverage.
7. Let's now look at a 30-inch shoot-through umbrella, the Photoflex RUD 30” White Shoot-Through. We are bouncing light, not shooting through the umbrella. With this umbrella we did not lose any light value as compared to the version with the black cover. The light fall off has the very same pattern as the version with the black cover. We lose 1/4 of a stop at 3 feet and 1/2 at 6 feet. You can shoot through this series of umbrellas, which makes them into two different light sources, one very soft and one very directional. The disadvantage is that they throw light everywhere. It’s harder to control.
8. Let's now look at a 45 inch shoot-through umbrella, the Photoflex RUD 45” White Shoot-Through. We are bouncing light not shooting through the umbrella. It has the same light pattern as the 30-inch. It has a 1/4 stop fall of at 3 feet and a 1/2 stop at 6 feet.
9. Now let us look at my favorite umbrella, the 72-inch shoot-through. This is a very soft light and a joy to work with. The area of coverage is very similar to the 45 and 30 inch. At 3 feet we lose about 1/4th and at 6 feet we lose about 3/4. It’s falling off faster. More than likely its’ the parabolic shape that narrows the light pattern.
10. Let's shoot through a 30-inch shoot-through umbrella. It makes the light more narrow. At 3 feet we lose 1/4 a stop but at 6 feet we lose almost a stop.
11. The 45-inch umbrella shooting through gives me the same result.
12. The 72-inch umbrella shooting through gives me the same result. We lost about a stop of light shooting through when we were on set but showed no light loss when we tested them later. It’s inconclusive as to the power loss. I don’t think you lose power by shooting through.
13. Let's look quick at the different light quality on a person’s face. We placed different umbrellas 5 feet away from Tatum’s face to test the light. This first 30-inch white with a black backing shows a pretty strong shadow on the wall and deep shadows on her face.
14. When we go to the 45-inch white with a black backing we see that the shadow on her nose starts to open up and the shadow on the wall softens. It’s a larger source so the umbrella is seeing more of her face.
15. Here is the 30-inch silver. The shadow on the wall is very defined and specular on her face.
16. When we go to the 45-inch silver the shadow becomes less defined. It is still specular on her face.
17. The 72-inch silver wraps around her face and eats into the shadow on the wall but is very bright on her face. This is a very pretty look.
18. When we go to the 30-inch shoot-through and bounce light it looks very similar to the 30 inch white black.
19. The 45-inch shoot-through looks very similar to the 45 white black.
20. The 72-inch shoot-through is very soft and the shadow on the wall and on her face is very open. It’s creating a key light and a fill light with the same source.
21. When we shoot through a 30-inch shoot-through umbrella we get more open shadows. Bouncing is a harder light and shooting through is a softer light. It's still a 30 inch umbrella so the shadow on the wall will still be very defined but the shadow on her face has more fill light.
22. The same is true of the 45-inch shoot-through when we shoot through it. The shadows are softer then when you turn it around and bounce light.
23. The 72-inch shoot-through umbrella is very soft and the shadows are opening up very nicely. It’s a very pretty light. This is one of my favorite ways to use an umbrella. A soft light when you shoot through a 72-inch umbrella.
24. Let's now look at lighting set ups using umbrellas and how to apply what we just learned. For our first set up we placed the 72-inch umbrella slightly behind the subject and let that soft light wrap forward. It’s a great placement. I dialed the power down on the Triton flash and opened up to f3.5 at 200mm lens. This threw the background out of focus. This is a very soft source but with the right placement it looks very moody. The strobe head shoots through the umbrella and lights her face and the bounce opens up the background.
25. We now moved the umbrella behind her and from the right side. This opens up the background more and rims her hair. We will now add a 39-inch LitePanel to become the key on her face. Keep those cameras rolling and keep on clickn'.
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