Umbrella or Light Box?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by RedSun, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    I have a hard time choosing either umbrella or light box for my indoor studio. Just on the mechanical side of it:

    1. Do the light boxes require more lighting power? I see most umbrellas use just one bulb, but light boxes use multiple.
    2. Is is easy to set the umbrella than to set the light boxes? Also umbrella is easy to pack and transport.

    This is mainly for small portrait projects, not a permanent commercial studio. I need to set up the background and get two or three of the new lights. I also have two old lights that I plan to keep and replace the blue light bulbs with the new spiral type studio bulbs.
     
  2. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Light boxes and umbrellas have different looking light. Umbrellas look softer than light boxes to me. Both just as portable, but softboxes require some assembly on location if you collapse them after use. Soft boxes are hard to use with hot lights because of cooling. You'll just have to experiment to see what look works for you.
     
  3. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    The light system will only be used about a couple of times a week. So the umbrella and backdrops will be packed when not in used to avoid dust accumulation. So easy packing is clearly a major consideration.

    It seem umbrellas are the way to go. I'll look into a light kit with backdrop and 2-3 umbrella lights. There are plenty for sale now, many to choose.

    For general portraits, how large a bulb do I need, say for a 33" umbrella? Are 45mm photo spiral type bulbs large enough?
     
  4. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Probably not the size of the bulb

    I would check on the wattage instead of how big it is.
     
  5. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Light boxes are what you view slides and negatives on, you mean soft box.
     
  6. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    Yes, soft box... lol
     
  7. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    You can turn the umbrella around and shoot through it to get a bit more of a soft box look. You can adjust how close the umbrella is to the light shining through it.
    The good thing about a soft box is that you can keep the light off the background better.
    Of course with an umbrella you can always put a large card up on a stand to block the light from going to the background.
    I will often use a soft box to light the subject and an umbrella to light the background, but then you need to deal with the light spilling from the umbrella onto the subject.. which can also be used to your advantage.
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    You're correct Sir

    I haven't used my Chimere softbox in years. I forgot what they're called. I did sharpen up my softbox setup skill by going camping this summer by setting up my tent. :wink:

    My product photography days are long over.
     
  9. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    To help answer your question, may I ask what subjects you will be photographing?
     
  10. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Only through a white bumbershoot, the silver/gold type are opaque.
    Some hot lights don't have a way of taking an umbrella so they have to be clamped onto a stand, other lamps may come with a bracket allowing you to align the lamp & light to be aligned.
     
  11. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    As I said early, mainly indoor portrait, fashion and product.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    what you want to get is some larson soff boxes ... or strips
    the old ones sell on eboink from time to time, they are worth their weight in GOLD
    larson has sales every week ( get on their email list ) sometimes buy one get the 2nd FREE ..
    the thing is any diffusion / modifier eats light, sometimes a stop, sometimes more or less.
    umbrellas are OK but depending on what skin is on the umbrella it can be contrasty or not enough
    boxes give nice soft faux north light ... and larsons last forever.
    i have a few old ( like 30 year old ) larson boxes and a chimera ... the chimera is junk by comparison

    if you have hot lights, be careful, a lot of boxes can't take the heat, so you might be stuck with using
    umbrellas whether you want to or not ...

    - john
     
  13. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    If you are doing portraits every week, bite the bullet and save up for strobes. If they are at the studio, then super light and portable is not a big concern

    Older less glamorous set ups, by current day standard can be found, and are entirely workable. I waited and watched, and found what I feel was a deal. I bought a Speedotron 2400w pack, with three heads and a flight case for the heads, three caps, three 7" reflectors, and 2-11" reflectors for $1200. The down side of this rig is the pack is heavy. Smaller more portable ones are available. The stuff is built to last though. I later bought three used soft boxes ( 12x18, 24x30 and 36x48 ) with compatible speed rings for $300. Wescott. Good brand, lightly used.

    If you are doing portraits, a lot of the time the look you are likely to want will vary from wide open to more serious amounts of depth of field. Sometimes I think you might be hinting at the 'new' photo florescent lamps.

    Continuous lights will have you working wide open all of the time. Use strobes unless you are doing video as well. Video guys in it seriously usually hate hot lights as well, and have good CRI rated multi-tube floros that have a look of a soft box. Co-Flos is the industry term I believe.

    Umbrellas have a nice look, but the light goes everywhere.

    Soft boxes make great key (main) lights and smaller ones or strip lights - a longer and skinner soft box make nice hair/accent lights.

    Fill light is fine with an umbrella. Usually a background light can be direct, but sometimes a shoot though diffusing white umbrella works well also.

    High key shots can be pulled off with umbrellas.

    I am not trying to scare you off. I started with hot lights, and stuck with them for a few years.

    Then I moved to rigs with a bunch of hot shoe flashes on stands with umbrellas. Better than hot lights, but this was pre-radio sync, and the cords and batteries (pre NiMh) were a hassle as well. This is where I learned that umbrellas spilled everywhere, unless you spend all day hanging flags from the bunch of extra and tall light stands that you don't have at this stage of the game.

    The heat of hot lights was not compatible with a nice sitting experience, and is even hard on still life stuff. The new cfl continuous source ones I don't see putting out enough lumens to cut it for portraits, but may work for product stuff,where shutter speeds can be stretched , and the LED ones are not quite bright enough yet, particularly when sometimes you are aiming for a point source effect.
     
  14. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    Yes with my advice I was thinking strobes.
     
  15. RedSun

    RedSun Member

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    At this time, it is the cost. I do not stay a lot of time indoors. Still spend more time outdoors. So it is used less often.
     
  16. Andrew K

    Andrew K Subscriber

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    I have hot and cold lights...plus LED's..

    I prefer flash - I have several studio monoblocks I've bought for $100 or less each, and mostly bounce them (or shoot through) white umbrellas.

    Really nice light for not much money..
     
  17. Quinten

    Quinten Member

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    In a small studio reflective umbrellas are hard to work with. It's tricky to control the light. But it can be done, and they have a great character.

    If the studio is small you will end up with your key light source(s) close to your subject.
    You don't usually want to light the model and the background with the same light. (Looks crap in most situations.) So you put the light close to the model and place the model as far away from the wall as possible. This way the light lost most of its energy once it reaches the wall, this goes quick! If you put the light further away the model and background will be more evenly lit.

    You can also create some angle with the key sources, this will put more contrast in on the models, you can control this with a second umbrella on the other side, but this is two lights already. Than you can always add a different light for the backgrond.

    In a small studio you will enjoy the softbox most since you want to reduce spilling. If you have to light bigger spaces go for the umbrella or more lights. But hey their characters are a lot different so this is just the easy way not the only one.
     
  18. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    The main problem with softboxes is their size - get them far away enough to light a figure and they become more like a point-light source.

    I often "build" a softbox with a strip of translucent fabric draped over a boom, and sometimes will mask the sides with black duvatyne or felt. Sometimes I end up with a Box made from three or four c-stands. For low-key stuff, I really like a 6' high strip light, maybe a foot or two wide. Panel systems can be really helpful for these kinds of setups.

    If your room is small and you're using umbrellas, get a few yards of wide black felt (it's lightweight and cheap). It goes a long way in helping you control all the dang light bouncing around the room when you need a little more contrast or drama. Cover a problem wall with it using blue painter's tape - super handy, and you can cut down problem windows with it, too.

    In this shot, you can see the "strip light" reflected in her shades. A Speedo head behind a strip of diffusion, maybe 6' high by 12" with 2' of black duvatyne on each side, sewn by a sewing-grandma-lady (find 'em at the fabric store, ladies who make draperies and curtains can make photo scrims in their sleep) , and a grid head on the background.

    silver_big.jpg