Earlier this week, I started the series with a demonstration of how to correctly mount your umbrella to a light stand.  The clue was “up for luck” as a mnemonic.  Today, we’re going to add another nitty-gritty detail about your umbrella.  This isn’t so much a “tip” as it is a demonstration because neither here is right or wrong – it’s more about showing you the behavior of light, so you know how to position an umbrella, relative to the flash.

In my earlier post, I showed how light can spill over an improperly mounted umbrella. I got a few emails noting that light does seem to still spill over the top of even a properly mounted one.  While that’s right, there’s a couple things to keep in mind.  First off, the flash is mounted to a trigger, not to the light stand directly.  This does raise the flash a tad (about an inch), and while that may not sound like much, it can increase the spill.  Now there are some triggers that are extremely low profile or that can rotate to lower the height of the flash by angling it forward, but there are downsides here too.  If you think about the idea of moving the head of the flash closer to the umbrella, you are essentially decreasing the amount of fill that your shoot thru will get.  The light will be more concentrated, (a.k.a. hotter) the closer it gets to the umbrella.  Conversely, the further away from the umbrella, the more diffused it will be.  Take a look:

Light Positioned Close to and Far from a Light standNow, again, the terms “wrong” and “right” are subjective, because you may want a hotter light from your shoot thru.  The only thing I would say to that though, is that if you want a hotter light – why use the umbrella in the first place?  A shoot thru is designed to reduce the “hot” factor of the light and make it more even and diffused.  You can best accomplish this by positioning the light as far back on the umbrella as possible.  How far?  I usually leave about a quarter of an inch to an inch just so I can grab the umbrella if needed from the back side.  You can position yours where ever you like – just remember the “hot factor”!

Don’t forget to come back for Part 3!  I bet this is one a lot of you will likely say “Now, that is cool!”  In the meantime, keep sharing your own ideas, tips and tricks for getting the most out of your lighting gear!


If you’re liking these flash tips, consider the 49 Photo Tips, Vols 1 & 2 for only $10!

4 thoughts on “5 Tips for Shooting Off-Camera Flash, Pt. 2

  1. Nice series of posts! I’ve been MIA and just got caught up on all of your posts. I really like some of the more advanced stuff that you are covering. And boy did I miss that Adobe post. What’s going on?!?!??!

    Looking forward to your new tip tomorrow!

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