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Umbrellas vs Soft boxes

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Studio Gentry says:

When used with a speed light, is there a noticeable difference between using a shoot through umbrella or a soft box (of relatively same size)?

I've only ever used my in studio Alien Bee w/ soft box for broad light diffusion. I plan on shooting outside more soon and want to use my speed light in a similar way (as any good strobist would) :-) I've found a few options, but could use some advice and experienced opinions.

Should I get the 33" shoot though umbrella? Or the 24" x 24" soft box? Or does it even matter in practical application?

Thank you for your time and input. :-)
Originally posted at 11:19PM, 2 May 2010 PDT (permalink)
Studio Gentry edited this topic 99 months ago.

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ShutterCraze (NUEL) is a group administrator ShutterCraze (NUEL) says:

@FAS Studios- I wonder of the comparison too. I missed the First Wednesday's evening mini-meets on the subject a few months back because of work. Would you be interested in an experiement? I would like to get together with you and we can make the comparison with your gear (softboxes with heads) and my gear (speedlights with umbrellas). We would shoot various scenarios of light modifiers with the gear into a wall/backdrop at a set distance and compare the light output. It would be nice to report back to everyone here. I'm sure someone else would appreciate the comparison with the photo's to prove our theories.

-ShutterCraze.
99 months ago (permalink)

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ShutterCraze (NUEL) is a group administrator ShutterCraze (NUEL) says:

After the Snowbist2010 shoot I want a stripbox. I think it can control the light in a narrow and long lengthwise direction, something a plain umbrella can't. This would help my style both indoors and outdoors.
Originally posted 99 months ago. (permalink)
ShutterCraze (NUEL) (a group admin) edited this topic 99 months ago.

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OregonVelo is a group administrator OregonVelo says:

I LOVE my stripbox. Although I have never really used a softbox (square), I would take my stripbox any day of the week over my umbrella.
99 months ago (permalink)

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Studio Gentry says:

@Shuttercraze - I'd be down for that. Half the fun for me is trial & error of experimenting with various gadgets and set-ups.

@All - I've heard of umbrellas being converted into softbox/stripbox units. Some with gaffer tape, other with thick cloth. I'd prefer cloth since it wouldn't mar the umbrella for future use.

What I'm questioning is, does the curve of the umbrella have a noticeable effect on the light? Or, at mid-ranges (say 6-12 feet), could you even tell?

If there is no great difference in the light, then the deciding factor is the $$$. An umbrella runs under $20 (depending on size and features) where as a similar size softbox (with speedlight mount) costs upwards of $200.
99 months ago (permalink)

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MisterSqueeze - (tyson robichaud) says:

I don't have scientific test results, but my guess (and assumption based on my results) is that a SB will provide a more directional soft light (akin to a diffused window light) and an umbrella, when shot through, is more indiscriminate (akin to diffusing a lamp, or multidirectional light source) as it doesn't really direct the light the same way. If bounced, an umbrella is more directed, but still fairly uncontrolled as to the spill and falloff by comparison to a soft box. That said, I think that they can be used to very similar effect, if you adjust the positioning, distance and power in relation to your subject.
99 months ago (permalink)

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OregonVelo is a group administrator OregonVelo says:

FAS, if money is an issue, go with a large umbrella for the time. There are light differences, but the farther it is away from the subject, the less the differences. though I could be wrong.
99 months ago (permalink)

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Studio Gentry says:

@OregonVelo - Money wasn't a big issue until my car died the other night. Now I have to choose very wisely.

I think you and MisterSqueeze are correct that with enough distance the differeance would be neglegable. And since I can't be too picky, I will just go umbrella.

@ShutterCraze - I'd still like to get together to compare the various set-ups and configurations to figure out what kind of difference there is in the final product.
Originally posted 99 months ago. (permalink)
Studio Gentry edited this topic 99 months ago.

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dath1974 says:

I have a few observations. First, I should qualify that I have mostly used shoot through umbrellas. That is in part due to cost and in large part due to convenience. Umbrellas are very portable, cheap, and very easy to setup. Softboxes are none of those things (well, foldables are easy to setup).

One hopefully obvious difference is that any direct reflections (such as catch lights) will take on the shape of your modifier. So catches with a square softbox will be square (unless you use shaped inserts). Catches with an umbrella will be round and will generally show the umbrella tines. Pretty basic.

A somewhat less obvious, but very important thing, is that while shooting indoors, shoot through umbrellas will throw light everywhere. The light will then bounce off of those things all over and back onto your subject. Maybe this isn't a huge deal if you're in a large space with high ceilings, but if you're in a small space, it can really make controlling your light more difficult.

Softboxes are more directional and you can grid a softbox to further narrow the output.

Perhaps they will become similar as you move the light source back, but I don't really think that is the point with a soft light source. As you move them back, the light will become increasingly hard and at some distance, virtually indistinguishable from each other, or for that matter from a smaller point source.

Just my $0.02;-> I'd be happy to help demonstrate the differences. I can tell you that I have been very frustrated with shoot through umbrellas indoors a couple of times. Most of the time they're great, but once in a while with colored walls/ceilings, or when trying to tightly control the spill I've become pretty frustrated.

-Dan
99 months ago (permalink)

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John Keel / Photos by JK says:

I'll put in $0.01 since I'm here. You can get a great small octadome from Photoflex that's easy to transport and gives you a great round catchlight but, due to it's small size, doesn't give you a lot of coverage close to the subject where you mostly want it. It's great for head-and shoulder-ish portraits, though.

Also, on my 45" convertible umbrella, I take the black cover and attach it to the back of the umbrella so it hangs down over my flash and blocks the light bouncing back out of the umbrella so it doesn't spill everywhere in the way that Dan mentioned.

Personally, I'm in love with my beauty dish and trying to see if there's a way I can strap it on my back and carry it around instead of an umbrella! I do want a stripbox pretty badly, though, too.

I'm out - JK
Originally posted 99 months ago. (permalink)
John Keel / Photos by JK edited this topic 99 months ago.

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ShutterCraze (NUEL) is a group administrator ShutterCraze (NUEL) says:

I like the portability/flexibility of my Canon Speedlights with umbrellas and I don't think my skills are ready yet for big boy lights like some of you here have. I sure wished at times I had more power(while outdoors) or more light shaping tools (while indoors) though than my normal setup.

So I'm thinking of adding this: www.creativelight.com/content/speedrings

And adding this: www.creativelight.com/content/softbox-ff-strip

And this: www.creativelight.com/content/softbox-rf-square

Any thoughts or experiences with the stuff above WITH CANON/NIKON SPEEDLIGHTS? It would be a minimal investment compared to going big boy right?
Originally posted 99 months ago. (permalink)
ShutterCraze (NUEL) (a group admin) edited this topic 99 months ago.

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ShutterCraze (NUEL) is a group administrator ShutterCraze (NUEL) says:

@Oregon Velo- Could we do another light modifier mini-meetup but not on a first wednesday? Pretty Please?

@FAS Studios- Let me know when you can meet up for our experiment and we can even report back to the group.
Originally posted 99 months ago. (permalink)
ShutterCraze (NUEL) (a group admin) edited this topic 99 months ago.

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OregonVelo is a group administrator OregonVelo says:

Shuttercraze - I love the Creative light stripbox. Unless you have a good reason don't get the FF, you can't use modifiers on it.

I want to have another modifier meet, but my life has been so crazy. I actually want to see if I can get someone from Creative Light to talk about softboxes and their products.
99 months ago (permalink)

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dath1974 says:

@ShutterCraze - The "big boy lights" are just as easy to use as speedlights. There is nothing to fear, really! Of course they aren't as portable one-for-one, but many produce a heck of a lot more output which is nice when shooting outdoors, or with modifiers, or in a whole host of other situations;-> Don't get me wrong, I love speedlights (I wouldn't be in this group if I didn't!), but there are times where larger lights are nice to have.
99 months ago (permalink)

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Studio Gentry says:

@dath1974 - Great info. I hadn't even thought about catchlights. My thoughts were more towards fall off due to the curve of the umbrella.

@heyheyjk - That's agreat idea using the black cover to help control spill during shoot through.

@ShutterCraze - It'll be a few weeks while I deal with my car issue. Once that gets settled I'll Flickr mail you.

Thank you all for your input and help.
99 months ago (permalink)

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Strober says:

Here is two more cents: For studio portrait work, many photographers use a box or strip light and specifically don't point the box at the person, but just fether the edge of the light on the face, so the box actually points across in front of the person, not at them and most light is second bounce off the inside of the box wall. This gives a very soft gentle light which enhances the facial shape shadows. Since umbrella's don't have this same edge control, the light is just a little more compromised, perhaps harsher.

Also as mentioned above the umbrella will put light all over the room raising the ambient light which makes environment just a little less able to control the subject and background lighting for depth and contrast.

So I think its a tradeoff, umbrella is great for mobility and you can get good results, the box provides a little more light control for optimal lighting effects.
99 months ago (permalink)

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