I’m one to do a ton a research before investing in equipment.  I want to make sure my cash goes as far as it possibly can when purchasing new equipment.  To that end, I attempt to squeeze every ounce DeVaan45of performance from the equipment I currently own.  This holds true for computer parts I’ve bought, musical recording equipment, and of course photography.

There’s one piece of equipment in particular that I feel is starting to limit my ability to accurately control my light.   From the tittle of this post I’m sure you’ve already guessed that it’s my umbrellas.  They are, without a doubt, one of the easiest modifiers to, both, setup and use.  Pop it open just like any normal umbrella you might use in the rain (I’m from Seattle, and last I checked true Seattleites don’t use these things).  Push the shaft through my light stand adapter and away we go, easy peasy!

Umbrellas light quite efficiently in both bounce and shoot through form, albeit using as bounce (how I have been lately) I have definitely noticed some increases in specular highlights and hotspots on my subjects faces. A perfect example of shoot through vs bounce umbrella light can be found here. These can, of course be fixed in post, but as we all know, if you can fix it before it goes into the camera it will save you time and headaches!  Now for the bad…. these things spill light EVERYWHERE!

Lighting is all about control of that power.  You have to really understand how it reacts and reflects to understand how to use it properly.  I see time and time again people buying expensive and powerful strobes before they actually have learned how to harness the power of the lights.  Your light needs direction and a purpose.  This is why I urge any who  are just getting into off camera lighting to purchase an umbrella a light stand and small speedlite to start.  It doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.  Just good old manual control of its power.  The Nikon sb-28 is a great place to start.  I shoot all my photographs with these small speedlites.  Back to the point at hand here.  Once you have learned to use your umbrellas you will realize their inherent flaw.  They send light everywhere (which can be a good thing depending on the situation).

DeVaan66 I recently shot two sisters in a covered area since the weather was not cooperating (rainy day in Seattle surprise, surprise).  This was done on concrete with a similar wall as a background.  I have been experimenting with gels and really wanted to add some color to the wall.  I set my key, fill, and hair light as I normally do for these types of shots but this time I place another light with a blue gel behind the subject pointing to the wall she was in front of.  I began to shoot only to notice the blue was not showing up at all!  I couldn’t figure it out and this was not the time to be playing around with new ideas!  I turned the gel flash up and down to no avail.  I changed the ambient and still nothing.  Then I started to think about distance.  I was too close the wall!  The lights that were lighting my subject were spilling onto the wall behind her undoing my attempts to light with the blue gel pointed directly at the wall.  Thankfully I was outside and was able to scoot further back until much less of my light was spilling onto the wall, however I ran out of room and some light inevitably would reach the wall.  Even so I was able to come away with some pretty sweet shots.  But this lack of control with umbrellas is starting to get on my nerves!

The Catch 22 is that if I use, say, a nice big softbox, this modifier will eat up my already not very powerful light.  As I understand it, the flash bounces of the back of the softbox and then passes through not one but two defusers before reaching the subject.  This is great for nice soft light if you have the power to push it but I don’t think my little speedlites have enough to light outdoors the way I like to.  So if I get a softbox, I will more than likely need more powerful lights, which means I will need a battery to power these more powerful lights.  Powerful lights come with a price of poundage which means I will need a sturdier light stand to support the heavier light and softbox.  This in turn means I will need more counter weights to keep the light stand from tipping over!  Starting to see how expensive this can become very quickly?  I think I will just learn wield my machete like a Samurai sword for now!

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Comments
  1. Brandon Hill says:

    Get an alien bee and vagabond, do it. 🙂 If i ever use a speedlite again I’ll lose my mind. The consistency and lack of power just overrules its portability. But that’s me.

    • nakean says:

      I want, so badly to get the paul c buff Einstein and Vagabon Mini Lithium Battery! Silver 86″PLM with White cover when I need it. I would be the happiest man alive. Until, of course I decided I needed another strobe because even my bare bulb speedlites won’t show up! at f18 1/250 in a sunny day @ 10m 🙂 Do you use the bees? would I be better off just grabbin one ab800 and one ab400 rather than one Einstein? My financial advisor (she who shall not be named) won’t easy release these kind of funds 🙂 I took a look at your site. Whoa!!!! You do amazing and inspiring work! Do you do a lot of composite for the backgrounds? Can’t tell but you say you do very little shooting outdoors in the sun and your portfolio tells a different story! My mouth was open all through your portfolio btw!

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