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Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?
  
 
amacal1
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p.1 #1 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


There isn't much info on this, and maybe that's because there isn't much info to be had. So, please excuse me if this sounds silly.

Does anyone have any recommendations on efficiently filling an umbrella with light from a speedlight? I generally use the flip-down diffuser and my last flash was a fixed 50mm flash head. My new flash has a variable zoom flash head. Should I just set it wide (24, 35, etc.) without a diffuser? Should I use the diffuser with any specific zoom setting? Are there diffusers that would do a better job (I'm thinking of something like a dome or reflector that I see on monolights)? I believe I have been putting my light too far away from the umbrella, because I see photos of other setups where the light is tucked way up into the umbrella. Anyone have any recommendations? Or, am I over thinking this?



Jun 24, 2013 at 04:59 PM
jasoncallen
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p.1 #2 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


I use my SB-900 at 24mm to cover the whole surface of my 36" shoot-through umbrella (18" from front of flash to the middle of the umbrella). By the numbers, that's about an 84 degree angle of coverage... I don't use the flip-down diffuser as it eats up some of my light output, with little gain in coverage.

Your mileage may vary... when in doubt, take a picture of the umbrella to see what pattern your flash is throwing!



Jun 24, 2013 at 06:30 PM
alohadave
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p.1 #3 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


amacal1 wrote:
I believe I have been putting my light too far away from the umbrella, because I see photos of other setups where the light is tucked way up into the umbrella. Anyone have any recommendations? Or, am I over thinking this?


Are those from monolights? If so, it's normal to choke up to fill up the umbrella.

With a speedlight, move the flash as far away from the face as you can so it can fill the umbrella.

If they were using a speedlight choked up into an umbrella, it's because they wanted to use a smaller portion of the umbrella.



Jun 24, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #4 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


24mm and a horizontal bracket that holds the flash near the shaft


Jun 24, 2013 at 09:38 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #5 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


You have the gear so when in doubt experiment.

The flash outputs the same number of photons regardless of the zoom setting. How the zoom settings fill the umbrella will affect the footprint of the light it creates and how even the light is across the pattern.

Due to the fact umbrellas are flatter near the shaft and the source is closer to the center an umbrella will have brighter spot in the middle of it's footprint. You will see this if you aim it at a large enough wall outdoors at night. That hot spot and feathered edge gradient can be used creatively by aiming the pattern on the subject edge first.

How much the flash fills the umbrella will affect the evenness of the footprint but the only way to visualize how is to use a standard test set-up like the wall where you can see the footprint and change just that varible.

Efficiency is a matter of how many of the finite number of photons spread by the umbrella wind up on things in the photograph and how much of the light is wasted. But it will not be totally wasted if used indoors because the parts of the footprint bouncing off ceiling and walls contribute "spill fill". The problem with spill fill is it can't be independently control. That's one of the reason to use a spot box instead. They control spill and concentrate the light on what in in the photo better.



Jun 24, 2013 at 10:41 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #6 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


amacal1 wrote:
...Should I just set it wide (24, 35, etc.) without a diffuser? Should I use the diffuser with any specific zoom setting? Are there diffusers that would do a better job (I'm thinking of something like a dome or reflector that I see on monolights)? I believe I have been putting my light too far away from the umbrella, because I see photos of other setups where the light is tucked way up into the umbrella.


It depends somewhat on whether you're using a reflecting umbrella or a shoot-through umbrella, as well as exactly what effect you want from it.

As suggested, the best bet is probably to set aside some time to experiment with your umbrella and your flash under the conditions at which you'll be using it.



Jun 25, 2013 at 12:32 AM
brett maxwell
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p.1 #7 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


24mm works great, don't overthink it


Jun 25, 2013 at 07:23 PM
stebesplace
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p.1 #8 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


I worked around 24mm, and created a modified bracket to bring the flash head closer to the base of my umbrella rod. Worked like a charm for really filling it up. I held the flash on with velcro straps from REI (orange ones). If I had it all still, I'd take a picture, but I've since sold it.


Jul 02, 2013 at 05:25 PM
amacal1
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p.1 #9 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


I did some tests. 24mm seemed to fill it just fine and there wasn't as much spill around the edges as I suspected.

Using the flip-down diffuser, however, made the light MUCH more even. No scientific measurements, or anything, but you could see it eating some of the light. I think for most cases I'll have plenty enough light, so I can probably afford to use the diffuser to even it out.

I spent some time with all of my stuff mounted on stands and my camera on a tripod to take matching photos showing all settings. I had 3 series - One showing fill directly; one showing fill, spill, and light quality on wall; and one showing head on to see diffusion in the umbrella. I wanted to post the results here, but I didn't have time then lost interest. This is why I don't blog. Sorry, everyone.



Jul 04, 2013 at 12:47 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #10 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


The flip down diffusion lens increases the footprint from covering the FOV of a 24mm lens to covering the FOV of a 14mm. So it's not so much a case of the lens absorbing (i.e., "eating") the light, more like speading the same about of butter over a bigger piece of bread. If the flash at 24mm was filling the umbrella I'd expect with the diffuser it some would spill out unless the flash was moved in more.

It's good you experimented. If you aim the umbrella at a white wall and stop down to the point you can see the gradient in the footprint the center should be a bit brighter than the edges due to the fact the center of the umbrella is flatter and closer to the source.

When lighting a subject instead of just pointing the center of the light at the nose try swinging the light completely in front or behind them then work the more diffuse feathered edge back in. By aiming the light that way from the front or back you can create a gradient over the subject and control how much of the key light spills onto the background. That "feathered edge" gradient effect is one of the advantages of an umbrella vs. a SB.



Jul 05, 2013 at 11:22 AM
 

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amacal1
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p.1 #11 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


Thanks for all of your tips and advice. The friendly, helpful attitude is something that keeps me coming back to these forums over and over again.


Jul 05, 2013 at 07:54 PM
frugivore
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p.1 #12 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


I like the results that a parabolic umbrella with a diffusion cover gives when used with a monolight. I wanted to use my speedlights with these umbrellas for an even lighter and mobile setup, so I calculated the throw off light when the flash is zoomed to 24mm with the diffusion plastic cover to take it to 14mm. I found that it didn't come near to filling my 51" PLM umbrella. So I bought some brackets to use two speedlights together and lined up close to the umbrella shaft. I angled the flash heads at about 45 from the shaft and this almost filled the umbrella. You must remember that a speedlight's throw is rectangular so two together make it roughly square. This means it'll never perfectly match the circular umbrella the way a moonlight will, but it is close enough.

Here is a test shoot of my daughter using this configuration:




Jul 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #13 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


Nice results with the PLM, particularly the "dreamy" looking big catchlight in the eyes.

FWIW, a characteristic of a parabola is that if you put a point light source at the focal point all the light rays come out the front parallel, which also makes the pattern more even over the footprint. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parabolic_reflector for a diagram. Because of the incident / reflected angle geometry an enclosed flash tube isn't the ideal illuminant for a PLM. The PLM is a modifier ideal for tasks like team photos when you need to place a light a long distance away to keep the stand out of the shot, but also don't want to waste photons on parts of the scene that don't wind up in the photo. The PLM by concentrating the light on a smaller footprint is more efficient.

I don't have a PLM but selected my Photoflex Multidome Q39 SBs for use with my AB800s in part for their deep parabolic shape which creates smaller more even footprint than a larger flatter box would. That helps limit spill which is a problem in my small studio space.







I use an Buff 22" dish with diffuser sock for fill because it's shallow and has a big footprint that spills the fill off the wall and ceiling to create a "wrap-around" fill effect like skylight. The black drape on the right is covering a big mirror installed in the room by the previous owner who used the space for his pool table. When I want to avoid spill from the key light on the left wall I'll also hang a black drape over it (black king-size flat sheets from Walmart are an inexpensive source of black draping / backgrounds).

I also bought the Multidomes because they have interchangable white, silver and gold liners. Using the SB with the silver liner but no diffusion panels is ideal for creating specular sparkle and the illusion of soft 3D texture in fur and feathers. The softer the object the "harder" (more collimated) you need the light to be to create the illusion of 3D on the individual hair and feathers facets via specular reflections off the higher parts.

Also under the heading of general advice for those starting out and selecting modifiers for use at home is to take ceiling height limitations into account. I bought a 3' x 4' Multidome when getting my ABs but then discovered I didn't have enough ceiling height to use it effectively for portraits.

As a rule of thumb I keep my key light above the eyeline at 45 to mimic the angle of mid-day natural light modeling which nicely casts the nose shadow down and to the side at 45 placing it over 1/2 the nose and modeling it's 3D shape ideally. Put the key light any lower and the nose shadow starts hanging out sideways on to the cheek and far eye becoming a distraction. Any higher and the brow begins to shade the eye sockets. So for a 6' standing subject and 8' ceilings it's impossilble to get a big modifier up to the ideal 45 angle to the eye line.

The self-portrait on the wall in the wide view is from the first session I did with my ABs after getting them. I was actually sitting very low to the ground on a step stool to take in because I was shooting from a tripod and that was the only way to get the camera above my eye line (which hides the nose holes)..







There's plenty of clearance for the Med. SB when seated and it's small parabolic footprint minimizes spill, but for standing subjects it is up near the celing creating more spill fill than I'd like. I could eliminate spill fill by painting the ceiling black, but the wife vetoed that idea..







Jul 12, 2013 at 02:18 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #14 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


cgardner wrote:
...There's plenty of clearance for the Med. SB when seated and it's [sic] small parabolic footprint minimizes spill, but for standing subjects it is up near the celing creating more spill fill than I'd like. I could eliminate spill fill by painting the ceiling black, but the wife vetoed that idea.


In one of my low-height spaces I made a portable black ceiling using four light-weight light stands supporting a canopy of black Duvateen. Maybe she'd be okay with something similar.



Jul 12, 2013 at 03:34 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #15 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


cgardner wrote:
Nice results with the PLM, particularly the "dreamy" looking big catchlight in the eyes.



+1



Jul 12, 2013 at 07:55 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #16 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


amacal1 wrote:
...Does anyone have any recommendations on efficiently filling an umbrella with light from a speedlight? ...I believe I have been putting my light too far away from the umbrella, because I see photos of other setups where the light is tucked way up into the umbrella.


I took some comparison shots for another thread, but since they apply directly to this topic I thought I'd post them here as well.

The first one is with no umbrella, and the second is an extreme example of tucking the Speedlite too close to the umbrella. There's not much difference in the results between the two. The third shot is with the umbrella as far from the Speedlite as the shaft length will allow. The final, side-by-side, image shows the effect of the various setups on the quality of light.






















Jul 17, 2013 at 06:43 AM
jeremy_clay
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p.1 #17 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


cgardner wrote:
...



What does this have to do at all with OP's question?



Jul 19, 2013 at 12:04 PM
amacal1
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p.1 #18 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


I can see the relevance. The positioning of the umbrella is, presumably, the same. The difference between the shots is how the flash was positioned to fill the umbrella.


Jul 19, 2013 at 01:33 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #19 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


cgardner wrote:
...


jeremy_clay wrote:
What does this have to do at all with OP's question?


amacal1 wrote:
I can see the relevance. The positioning of the umbrella is, presumably, the same. The difference between the shots is how the flash was positioned to fill the umbrella.


It was I who took and posted the different umbrella shots, not Chuck Gardner. Jeremy was commenting on Chuck's post, not mine.



Jul 19, 2013 at 03:28 PM
amacal1
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p.1 #20 · Filling Umbrella with Speedlight?


Oh, my bad. I misread that.


Jul 19, 2013 at 05:32 PM
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