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Archive 2013 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?
  
 
prashant
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p.1 #1 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


hello all,
I may get a chance to upgrade my current SB26x2, umbrellas/stand to something 'better'. I do not intend to spend more than 500-700$, any recommendations? or better stay where am now?

Some of my work with current set up can be here - http://www.prashanteju.de/galleries/03_People/002_Studio/
thanks,



Mar 03, 2013 at 08:00 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #2 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


The only really problem with umbrellas is control of where the light doesn't go. The footprint of your key and fill sources bouncing off the ceiling and walls in a small room add a "spill fill" factor which can be good if you want low ratio lighting, but can be problematically if wanting moody high ratio lighting on dark / black backgrounds.

What softboxes do vs. umbrellas is provide a more uniform footprint (without the characteristic brighter center an umbrella has) with a footprint which can be controlled better to prevent the "spill fill" variable when it is not desired. For example when shooting on dark backgrounds I use a medium 24 x 36 SB with a 20" circle mask; making it a uniform 20" source that lights the subject's face more than the lower body and doesn't bounce excessive light around the room.

Another commonly used modifer, a dish with plate in the middle, creates a "dead" spot in the middle when used close to the face. It's ideal for centered full face patterns because the darker spot aimed at the nearer forehead winds up making the overall lighting of the head brightest aroung the eyes and mouth when the darker center is aimed at the forehead.

You can also get a variety of lighting effects with just a standard modifer or direct flash by "feathering" it the same way. Don't aim the "key" light at the nose, aim it in front or behind the head so only the softer edge hits the face. That's how photographers back in the days of Fresnel sources and direct flash with small refectors used them. But the evolution of modifiers from umbrellas to softboxes has made that skill a "lost" art because today people never even try it.

So there is a lot you can do with what you already have you may not have explored yet. Essentially what you should do is start with the goal for the mood of the lighting, then define the strategies needed to meet that goal, then pick the modifier needed. Thus the more different modifers you master the more different strategies you can accomplish successfully.

For your budget you should look at the Alien Bee line. The 160 W/S AB400 runs about $230 ea, the 320 W/S AB800 about $280. That plus small and medium SB, in addition to the umbrellas you have should help you expand your strategy options within your budget. I'd recommend the AB800s because you'll find the AB400 underpowered in some situations. I have four AB800s myself.

See: http://photo.nova.org/#Equipment/



Mar 03, 2013 at 11:58 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #3 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


duplicate deleted

Edited on Mar 11, 2013 at 11:12 PM · View previous versions



Mar 03, 2013 at 11:58 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #4 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


prashant wrote:
...I may get a chance to upgrade my current SB26x2, umbrellas/stand to something 'better'. I do not intend to spend more than 500-700$, any recommendations? or better stay where am now?


I still use an umbrella sometimes, but more often I prefer modifiers with more control over direction/spread of the light. Also, having just two lights can limit your options; having three or more really opens up opportunities for more-stylistic setups with hair lights or rim lights, background lights, etc.

Since you already have two Speedlights that are working for you, I'd just add one or two more Speedlights, but spend most of your allocated budget on more-specific modifiers: a soft box or two and a beauty dish would be a good start. Even the least-expensive monolights, like the Alien Bees or the Elinchrom D-Lites, could break your budget if you want more than two of them along with good modifiers.

So, what modifiers do I like? I use a Westcott Medium Apollo, which is a 28-inch soft box designed for use with Speedlights (but it can also work with monolights or pack-and-head strobes if you go that route now or in the future). I also have two RPS Studio BeautiDishes; one is a 20-inch beauty dish designed for Speedlights, and the other is a similar 12-inch model that I use as a hair/accent light. Finally, I have the aforementioned umbrella, a 60-inch Photofelx Convertible. (See photos below.)


















Edited on Mar 11, 2013 at 07:40 PM · View previous versions



Mar 11, 2013 at 01:57 AM
 

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BrianO
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p.1 #5 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


BTW, here's a video on how the Westcott Apollo works. It's an old video; the newest model of the Apollo has a removeable diffusion panel compared to the sewn-on one shown here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GknBFouk2-Y



Mar 11, 2013 at 09:15 AM
erichard
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p.1 #6 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


The Apollo has become more useful now that Canon has radio controlled flashes (because the flash is buried within the softbox), and the second notable aspect is that it is easier to gang up two or more speedlites in one box (vs. from behind a softbox or beauty dish). That being said, the radio controlled flashes are very expensive, and they are Canon, not Nikon...so far. I bought a cheap Apollo eBay knock off that comes with a grid. Seems adequate to me. Those knock off's are cheap enough that they need not be a deciding factor in where you go. The issue is the strobe.

I agree with Chuck that the Alien Bees are the best bang for the buck, but maybe not the deutsche mark/euro? I hear they are pretty expensive over there. Maybe a used one off eBay would be the way to go. That's what I did.

The next question is remote triggering. If you're really on a budget, use the optical slave. If you do get Buff's remote triggers, definitely get the CSR+ (or CSRB+ if you go outside the studio), because eventually you'll want to graduate up to the Cybercommander and potentially the Einstein level of strobes. The CSR+ module is not much more than the CSR one. I don't know how compatible it all is with European plugs etc.; could be just fine, though.

One other fun fact that is often brought up is that Annie Leibovitz often is found using the "Softlighter II" umbrella softbox by Photek. That's simple, cheap, and portable. If it works for her.... There may be improved versions out there, and what I think you need to look for in the newer types is one that comes with a grid, so you have more ways to customize the light. The Chinese knockoffs now often come with a grid, which is new for the last year I believe.

Used to be hard to get gridded softboxes without paying big bucks. In fact, the grids used to cost more than the entire softboxes, including that Softlighter II, which to my knowledge can't be gridded.

The other very cost effecient and weight efficient accessory is a reflector, which you may already have. The collapsible ones are widely available. With one or two lights and a reflector, much can be done. I just last night ordered a white foamcore board from B+H. I've seen great results from something like that and just one AB strobe:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/241997-REG/General_Brand_CC3240_3_Foam_Core_Board.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYGCOyiVERE

Joel Grimes (in that video) uses Buff gear. Nice thing about buying a used Alien Bee is you can sell it for not much less than you pay for it. Their value holds very nicely through the years.



Mar 11, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #7 · upgrade from 'flashes+umbrella' to?


You might also consider the Lastolite 8-in-1 umbrella. Eight different ways to use it and very elegantly designed. Everything from typical reflective umbrella to shoot-through, to octa-like, to small soft box. I like mine a lot. I also have and use the Softlighter.


Mar 12, 2013 at 06:06 PM





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