Got a stand and umbrella but...

Started Feb 1, 2013 | Discussions thread
Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 11,540
Re: Got a stand and umbrella but...

Your post isn't clear about what kind of shadow you were seeing but since you seem to have eliminated it by using the flash pop-up diffuser I would guess that you were using the umbrella in the reflective mode and have the flash too close to the umbrella, this the shadow you are seeing is from the flash itself.

Where you position the flash on the umbrella stem is very important.  You want it far enough out that the flash, usually without the pop-up diffuser, will illuminate the umbrella but light won't spill over the edges.

If the umbrella is a white one the easy way to find the right position for the flash is to take pictures of the far side of the umbrella.  If you start with the flash about 1/2 the way out the stem it will be too close to the umbrella but that will let you adjust the exposure until you can clearly see what area is illuminated and what isn't.  Slowly move the flash out while taking shots until the well illuminated area almost reaches the edge of the umbrella.  Mark the position and use it in the future.

A side note is that you will see that the area illuminated is a fuzzy rectangle, all round umbrella is not lit. The normal positioning of the umbrella mount will give you a horizontal rectangle of light which is best for shooting in the horizontal mode.

If you are shooting in portrait mode it is best to flip the umbrella mount to the side so that the flash head is on its side so that the area illuminated is a vertical rectangle.  This will provide lighting over the greatest length of the subject.

The reference on portrait lighting names is a good one.  One thing to keep in mind is that you do want shadows on the subject.  Light illuminates but shadows define.  The shadows are what will give your flat 2D images a 3D look.

You usually want to use your umbrella at 1 to 2 times the measured diameter of the open umbrella to give you a good combination of softness and a highlight to shadow ratio.  Learn to modify the highlight/shadow ratio by feathering the umbrella.

A 4'x6' reflector is actually the easiest to hold since you can usually place one end on the ground/floor and tuck the other end under your elbow against your chest, leaving both hands free to hold the camera.

A stand is a great way to hold a "small" reflector.  If you don't have a stand then you need to learn Da Grip of Joe McNally.  His one-handed camera holding technique leaves your other hand free to hold a flash or a reflector.

Joe McNally - Da Grip - YouTube

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