David:

I live in Northern California and if you are close by I'd be happy to show you. If not email me at blansky@aol.com and I'll critique whatever you like. The catch lights in the eyes will tell you a lot about the lights and where they are placed. The closer the light the less defined it is in the catchlight. It's like the difference between the effect of the harsh sunlight, which is pinpoint and a cloudy day which is diffused light.

Way back, when someone came up with the idea to diffuse the light they came up with using an umbrella. It was and still is a great light. However the light tends to head off in too many directions. So someone came up with the softbox to control it better. Both have a great quality of light but the softbox enables you to control the light direction better and to feather the light. It can keep the light from striking the lens and as well keep it off the background, if that is what you want.

A classic setup is to put the umbrella behind the camera as a fill light. Then use the softbox as your mainlight up close at about a 45 degree angle. Set the umbrella at F5.6 and the mainlight at F8 and you have a 3:1 lighting ratio. When using negs set the camera at F5.6 and shoot away. Move the mainlight for different lighting patterns. Keep the light so the catchlights are at about 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock in the eyes. A nice soft effect is to have the light so there is a nice triangle of highlight just below the closest eye.(this is caused by the nose blocking the light). Anyway play around with light and you'll see it.

Later,

Michael McBlane