Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?

Started Nov 7, 2012 | Discussions
jag64551
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Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
Nov 7, 2012

I have a few weddings coming up and am thinking of slightly changing up how I do the sanctuary portraits (mainly group/family shots). Currently I use two Canon Speedlites (580 ex ii), synced with Cybersyncs, on light stands with small white shoot-thru umbrellas. The coverage isn't always the greatest, and the light isn't very soft. I typically have the stands setup offset from the middle, on either side of the stage, pointing in - usually standing up in between church pews.

*Due to budget, I need to make the speedlite plan work for now. Would love to upgrade to some more powerful strobes down the road.

I'm wondering if nicer/larger umbrellas would be a better solution? I was looking at either a 45" or 60" Westcott or Photoflex, with black backing/silver or white lining (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/42512-REG/Photoflex_UM_RUT60_Convertible_Umbrella_60.html). Is that going to be too soft for what I'm trying to do? Does a larger umbrella typically provide more coverage.

As you can tell, I am not an expert when it comes to this type of lighting. Any help would be appreciated. If anyone has any examples of setups that could be referenced, that would be even better.

Thanks,

Jamie

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
In reply to jag64551, Nov 8, 2012

Larger light sources provide light over a larger area but at the cost of reduced light levels.  Larger light sources also provide softer light, light that is more flattering.

The Photek Softlighter II, 7mm Shaft - 46" would be one good choice for use with a single hot-shoe flash.  By adding another flash with an optical slave trigger (rubber band the two flashes together) you can use the Photek Softlighter II, 7mm Shaft - 60".  Look at picking up a couple of low cost manual power control optical slave hot-shoe flash units like these.

Speedlights.net | Yongnuo Speedlite YN 460-II Flash Review (Manual Flash)

Product Review: Neewer TT520 Speedlite Flash - Sam Rosenthal Photography | Blog:

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ScratchDisk
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Re: Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
In reply to jag64551, Nov 8, 2012

Hi,

With Speedlites, an option that I would not rush into, would be Silver brollies without front diffusion. (So, I agree, Softlighters can be fine. And White, black-backed can be more forgiving, though less efficient.) The light throw from a Speedlite does not suit Silver brollies the way a Studio strobe can – it’s easy to get ugly penumbra that way. Once you add the necessary diffusion, you are knocking the power down very considerably.

The softness depends on the apparent size of the modifier face, as subtended at the subject position. So first, are you filling your existing shoot-through brollies optimally – and, could you get them closer to the primary subject?

Consider external packs so that you can use higher power levels without the re-cycling times getting out of hand. I’ve been lucky with Pixel brand packs.

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John Deerfield
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Re: Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
In reply to jag64551, Nov 8, 2012

The umbrella you linked to will be about as good as you can do with a speedlight. Even then, I am not so sure how much a single speedlight will be able to "fill" a 60" umbrella. To make things easier, I might just go down to something in the 40 - 45" range. As mentioned, it is the size of the light source in relationship to the subject that determines softness. Technically, when lighting a group, you aren't going to get soft light unless the size of the light source is larger than the group... unlikely at a wedding. So, the difference between a large 60" umbrella vs a smaller 45" umbrella isn't going to be all that noticeable and I might imagine the smaller umbrella will make your speedlight a bit more efficient. BTW, ditch the shoot through umbrellas for shooting groups. You are wasting half your light for absolutely no reason. For the record, my favorite modifier for shooting groups at a wedding is a 60" Softlighter, but I can't imagine a single speedlight being able to do the trick. What you really want to learn is how to control the contrast. Once you do this, you can pull off a variety of lighting techniques. In todays economy, I might be working without an assistant. In those cases, I put a single strobe on a stand with a diffusion sock and then another flash on camera to control the contrast. If the main light meters f/8, I want the on-camera to fall at about f/5.6 to prevent too much contrast.

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jag64551
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Re: Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
In reply to jag64551, Nov 9, 2012

Thank you for all of the suggestions and details. I really appreciate! I'll probably go with the smaller suggestion and find a couple of quality 45" umbrellas, and see where that takes me. Thanks again.

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Quantum Help
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Re: Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
In reply to jag64551, Nov 9, 2012

Using your Speedlights, bouncing out of umbrellas, will put a lot of strain on them.  Until you get enough money to get decent monoblocs to handle the umbrellas, you should stick to using the speedlight on stands, aimed directly toward the subject.

The reason that I say this is that it would cost you more and take you longer to get the better lighting setup if you have to pay for repairs on both speedlight because you burned them out.

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Sailor Blue
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Re: Umbrella/Speedlite Setup for Wedding Group shots in Church Sanctuary?
In reply to jag64551, Nov 10, 2012

jag64551 wrote:

Thank you for all of the suggestions and details. I really appreciate! I'll probably go with the smaller suggestion and find a couple of quality 45" umbrellas, and see where that takes me. Thanks again.

One way of using umbrellas is to butt the two umbrellas up against each other to simulate a larger light source.  Of course the catchlight looks a bit strange but you can fix that in post.

Don't worry about burning out the 580EX IIs, just raise the ISO to 400 or 800 and they won't be working all that hard.  The noise you get at those ISO values should be easy enough to clean up in post processing.  Using my Nissin Di866 as a fill light with a 43" umbrella I rarely get it above 1/2 power even in sunlight.

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