This week we are journeying through various tips to wrangle the best possible light out of a single light source off-camera! That’s right, it’s all about shooting off-camera flash! To do this, we are employing the assistance of only a light stand and a shoot through umbrella. As you may recall, on Day 1, we focused (if you’ll pardon the pun) on how to correctly attach the umbrella to the light stand. On Day 2 (yesterday), we shifted gears to demonstrate how adjusting the umbrella’s proximity to the flash can affect the quality of light (think hot light versus diffused light). Today, for session 3 – we are now shifting our attention to the little flaps that come with your camera – the built in reflector and diffuser. The question for today is: Can/do these little flaps make a difference? Well, to really tell, let’s take a look at how the light behaves in each of these sequences:
The bare flash
The results are not atypical of what one would expect. We can see quite a bit more diffusion over a flash fired with no shoot through at all. The light is cast much wider across the umbrella, and a certain amount of diffusion can be noted. However, we can also see a hot spot of light in the top half of our umbrella. Bad? Not necessarily, considering either shooting with no umbrella, or worse – using the flash on camera! But can we make it even better? Let’s try!
An interesting result! We see the light now is carried through more of the umbrella bu looking at the center point as our frame of reference. See the light expanding a little further down past that center point? Cool! But also, look what happened at the top – the reflector took light from the top and bounced it down to the bottom as we clearly have a shadow line going across there. Hmmm, not sure I like that, so let’s try another improvement!
Now we’re talking! Look at that light! It’s clean and even throughout the umbrella! No lines from a reflector, and nowhere near as much spill over the edges of the umbrella itself. This is some nicely diffused light! But wait – can we take it even further? Let’s try one last thing, just to see what happens!
Uh oh, we over-thought it! The light is still pretty evenly diffused and spread across the umbrella, except for that one rectangle area across the top where apparently the reflector blocked the light from getting to – thus creating a shadow. For me, it looks like #3 was the best choice of flash controls. Here – take a look at all four side-by-side-by-side:
I’ve circled the areas that caught my eye in terms of the quality of light – what I like and what I dislike about each – with labels under each setup. As noted above – my preference is for #3. The lesson learned here?
Use the built in diffuser when using a shoot through umbrella for a nice even light source!
As in all things though, it’s not a “my way or the highway” mentality – all thoughts and opinions are welcome! So, which one(s) did you like best? #1? #2? #3? #4? Sound off with your own thoughts in the comments or via email – feedback and discussion is always encouraged!
Contest Reminder: Only a few days left to enter the Image Wizards contest. No fuss, no muss, just enter your image in the Flickr thread for a chance to win a 16×20″ print from them (as judged by yours truly!).
Be sure to stop back in tomorrow for the fourth installment of how to get the most out of a single light setup!