Shoot Thru Umbrella and Bounce Umbrella – a Comparison

Shot-Thru and Bounce Umbrella on same shot. A comparison.

There is so much talk on some forums about the ‘softness’ of shoot-thru umbrellas and how much it works to provide a soft light. And there is certainly some truth to that statement… especially with umbrellas at a distance.

But finessed lighting that is done close to the subject finds that the shoot-thru umbrella has no ‘wrap’ to it, instead it scatters the light from the source instead of focusing the light. And those of you who know me, know that I don’t usually run in a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ mode on lighting. I only want the lighting to be what you want it to be… and learning lighting from someone who tells you to always do ‘a’ to get ‘b’ will do you no good.

You must get out and work with the tools, see the results, tweak and repeat. And repeat. Learn what the light does, then reconstruct it to provide the light you want.

We are going to examine a couple of shots we did with both in the same light. I also shot the setup so you can see how simple it is, and what I am referring to with the light.

NOW: Workshop News.
We are so excited about the workshops coming up. Please let me know if there are places you want to see Lighting Essentials Workshops. I am looking to book July and August now. And, of course we have all the workshop signups working so you can get signed up and ready for the workshops in your area… from San Diego to Montana to Washington DC… even Nashville!

I hope you are aware of our new Lighting Diagram tool. It is awesome and really can help with sharing the diagrams with friends. Treat the grid as 1 foot square and be precise about placement.

Now, let’s go look at some shots with shoot-thru and bounce umbrellas.


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Tech Sheet: Beating the Sun with Small Flash

Using a small strobe to 'beat the sun' on Lighting Essentials

Our Tech Sheet on using a meter will be next time, we decided for a variety of reasons to bring you this Tech Sheet on beating the sun for effect instead. Explanation could come soon on why, but I wouldn’t wait for it… heh. It just happens when you are a one man publishing mogul. LOL

OK, there are times when you want to be able to beat the sun, that is, provide light that is equal to or brighter than the sun. When using small strobes it becomes even more tricky because there is a limit to the speedlight’s power. And to beat the sun we do need some power.

We are going to take this in two parts, the first being this tech sheet with small speedlights, and later this year with some large strobes. We will be using one and two lights for this exercise, so it should be something most will be able to do easily.

Before we get going, I want to say how cool it is that people are calling from all over the country asking me to bring the Lighting Workshop to their town. We have added Montana, Omaha, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, and they are filling up pretty fast. I have decided to lower the attendee count a bit because of how well they have done with a few less photogs. We would like to keep it at 12 with an assistant.

Now, let’s get on with the Tech Sheet for the end of February, how to beat the sun with small strobes.


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Using a Speedlight for Environmental Images that Pop

Shooting The Natural Environment with Speedlights

I have been working on a personal project, shooting some of the old mining towns in Eastern/Central Arizona. Sometimes I shoot natural light and sometimes I like to pull out my speedlights for a little drama.

Let’s take a look at some easy ways to add a sense of lighting drama with a single speedlight. I use a 430EZ on a tethered hotshoe cord. I could use wireless remotes, and sometimes do, but the tether keeps me working within a set of limits that I like for this kind of shoot.

The tether means it fires every time, and there isn’t a bunch of things hanging off of the strobe or extending it. Anyway, if it wasn’t actually attached to my camera I would probably lose it.

We are shooting the towns of Superior, Miami and Hayden which are just east of Phoenix about an hour or so. They are very damaged towns, and I want to document where they are, because I really don’t know if they will make it or not.

We are working on Friday’s tech sheet now, and it will be really cool so check back.

Now, on to some fun, and easy ways to use your flash to pop the natural landscape and make some cool shots. If you want to try some shots like this, all you need is a camera and a flash that can be fired off camera… not on the hotshoe, but from another place. I handhold mine a lot.


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Real Simple Headshots on Location

Using very simple tools to create a soft and gentle headshot

Occasionally you may have a situation where you have to do a lot of images in a very short amount of time. These kinds of gigs can be a little disconcerting if you over think them and get caught in a web of setting up and production as time slips ever so quickly by.

I was asked by a local dance company to photograph all the dancer’s headshots. I had 20 minutes to set up, one hour to shoot, and 20 minutes to vacate for another group coming in. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for setting up studio gear and the times were pretty well carved in stone. There were 28 dancers.

The images were going to be used rather small, about 2.5 inches in a brochure and the Company Director asked if they could also be made into 8×10′s for use in lobby posters.

I decided to shoot with a wide light source and fill card. Keep it really simple. My soft box was not going on this trip as the setup time prevented it, so I took my trusty shower curtain (Target, $12.99) and a few stands.

I also decided to use speedlights as I could be in, and out as fast as possible. I took the usual 550EX and 430EX as they are always in my bag. I use radio triggers whenever possible.

Our workshop site is new and has a lot of fun things… take a look at it here.

On to the simple headshot shoot.


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ON LOCATION: with Jerry OConnor, Jim Vigileos and Christina

Photographers in Phoenix like dramatic skies. We get so many days in a row of bright, blue that when it gets dark and moody up there some of us grab cameras. My friends Jim Vigileos and Jerry OConnor did that recently and along the way they grabbed Christina to add to the mix.

Both shooters use small strobes a lot for their work. Moving fast with speedlights, they shoot everything from classic pinups to glamour to portraits both on location and in the studio. Today was big light day… Jim with his AB’s and Jerry with his Elinchrome Ranger and beauty dish.

The day started with me having a ton of work to do and sitting in front of the computer getting ready to do it. A text comes in from Jerry saying he and Jim were working with Christina, did I want to come down and hang and have lunch with them. Pile of work versus hanging with a couple of fun guys and Christina… no brainer. It takes me about 25 minutes to get to Maricopa, a tiny, but growing, town south of Phoenix.

The day had started with lots of bluster and the skies were threatening rain. Perfect. We had lunch and headed over to a site Jim had scouted earlier… an old grain elevator on the tracks there in Maricopa. I was happy to go along to photograph them making pictures.

Before we continue, be sure to check the 2009 Workshop Schedule. I have been working on the new workshop daily, with workbook and shooting with Briana for it… It will be a truly amazing two days and the amount of lighting we will cover will be staggering. The workbook and supersecret DVD for only the workshop attendees will make the experience even more valuable.

Let’s see these guys in action.


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Shooting on the Beach with Two Speedlights and the Sun

This is a simple shoot that can have some very nice nuance as you work two speedlights into a shot with the sun as back/side light. Using two sources a bit apart can cause multiple shadows, so you have to be very careful to make sure they are not a problem.

For this shot we used the sun as a bright side/slightly back light. I added the light from two flashes to smooth out the light, seemingly creating a wider side light. I love shadows, and the shadow cast on the little building was very nice.

I had to find a way to attach the strobes quickly on this trip, and hit on a unique, fun and easy way to securely attach the strobes. After the link, I will show you how we did it.

But first a question for the readers. I have been wondering if this Blog setup is working as well as a web site would. Currently we are using WordPress, but I have been thinking about working with a web site with CMS so it could grow laterally as well as vertically. The site under current configuration seems a little less than user friendly. Your thoughts please.


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