reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Started Jan 25, 2011 | Discussions
Jam Contributing Member • Posts: 924
reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

I'm new to "flash / strobist" and I tend to see 50% of people saying to use shoot through and 50% say to use reflective.

If, for example, I'm just trying to add light to an area why would I choose either one?

Thanks

John Deerfield Veteran Member • Posts: 3,216
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

The larger the light source in relationship to the subject, the softer the light. Imagine you are doing a headshot; the closer you can get the light source to the subject, the larger the effective light, the softer the light. If you shoot through the umbrella, you can get the umbrella closer to the subject. Closer = larger effective light source = softer light. If you use a reflective umbrella, the umbrella is further from the subject- you have the stove itself between the subject and the light source, but also the length of the umbrella shaft. So that is why you want to shoot through an umbrella. In other cases, you might want to shoot into a reflective umbrella. Maybe you are shooting a group of 4 or 5 people in which case you can't get the umbrella close to the subjects, so now you use a reflective umbrella from more of a distance. The advantage to the reflective umbrella is that there is less light loss than using a shoot through umbrella. With a shoot through, you have a certain % of light going through the umbrella but quite a bit being reflected back the "other" way. Whereas with a reflective umbrella, all of the light is re-directed forward (less light loss). So which one you choose to use depends on how soft of a light you might want, how much power your strobe might have, what type of shot you are taking and so on.

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Jam wrote:

I'm new to "flash / strobist" and I tend to see 50% of people saying to use shoot through and 50% say to use reflective.

If, for example, I'm just trying to add light to an area why would I choose either one?

The shoot-through tends to send more light backwards as a proportion of the total light from the flashhead. Whether or not any of this light comes back to contribute enhanced shadow fill on the subject, or is wasted entirely, depends on how reflective is the decor of the room.

In any event...

Shoot-through can be got closer to the subject without the flash head interposing itself, and this can be a real help in maximising the apparent size of the umbrella... it increases softness of the light. The closeness also compensates for the light lost by going backwards and not bouncing back to help illuminate the subject.
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Winslo Regular Member • Posts: 186
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Hi,

Sometimes you may want use use a "gold" reflective umbrella instead of a silver or white to add a some colour.

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There is a big difference between a photographer and someone who clicks a shutter. One learns his craft and the other looks for a quick fix.

Disclaimer: the comments and views are mine and mine alone, if you do not agree that's okay.

WFulton Senior Member • Posts: 2,697
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference
1

Same thing said another way:

It is easy to meter that about 1/3 of the light goes through the fabric, and 2/3 is reflected from it. So reflected is about one stop stronger WHEN AT THE SAME DISTANCE TO FABRIC.

2/3 of the power going out the rear of a shoot-through is an extreme spill, which can reflect from all the colored room walls, etc. The black cover stops and absorbs the 1/3 back path on reflected, which seems a giant plus.

Set up both shoot-through and reflected side by side, and just look at them. See? The reflected is obviously larger, effectively. It redirects edge light into the subject, where the shoot though is angled back so much, the edges may as well not be there, they are not contributing anything to the subject. So AT THE SAME DISTANCE to fabric, the reflected is noticeably larger, and a softer light. This is very easy to show in the shadows of comparison shots.

HOWEVER, with the light stand out of the way, the shoot-through is normally used much closer, which is the only point of using it... when you need it at 12 to 24 inches, when the reflected cannot be used.

Bottom line, if the setup space allows use of reflected, it will always be better, in every way. If close space does not allow it, then use shoot-through.

Here is some supporting evidence:
http://www.scantips.com/lights/dsc_2270.html

OP Jam Contributing Member • Posts: 924
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Thank you everyone - this is very helpful.

Gene L. Veteran Member • Posts: 3,788
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Jam wrote:

I'm new to "flash / strobist" and I tend to see 50% of people saying to use shoot through and 50% say to use reflective.

If, for example, I'm just trying to add light to an area why would I choose either one?

So far I see several responses concerning differences in efficiency, but none concerning differences in lighting characteristics.

Bounce produces a fairly even light that more or less beams onto the subject with some degree of focus.

Bounce can utilize a black cover to prevent spilling light into the room.

Shoot-through spreads the light all over (forward and backward).

Shoot-through light distribution is feathered toward the edges (because of the convex shape). This can be used to advantage, as light from the edge is not as bright as light from the center. For example, when lighting a group, point the center at the farthest subject and let the edge light the nearest. This will obtain a more even light across the group compared to using a bounce umbrella.

Choose bounce when you need a light source with even distribution of light, when you need to control spill back into the room, or when you need the highest efficiency.

Choose shoot-through when feathered light is required or when you want the light source very close to the subject for faster light falloff.

-Gene L.
http://www.ttl-biz.com
http://www.studiography.blogspot.com

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BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 23,943
Lots of good answers

Remember that most good quality unbrellas have a black removable cover, so you get bothstyles of umbrella when you buy one.

The Paul C. Buff PLM units, that are pretty much umbrellas with another name, come in a version where you can shoot throug, or reflect,or add a black cover to control light going throu when using it as a reflector, and then there's another cover that softens light even more. (Sort of like having a light inside a clam with one translucent shell.)

BAK

calson Veteran Member • Posts: 9,256
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Shoot through are better at providing a broad diffused light but are dependent upon the angle of coverage of the flash head. An umbrella is more directional and can help broaden the coverage angle of a flash head. Both will cost you 1 stop of output from the flash head so cut the GN by half.

OP Jam Contributing Member • Posts: 924
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Thanks again this information has upped my knowledge wonderfully.

Jam

DRode
DRode Senior Member • Posts: 2,815
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

Other posters have covered much of the reasoning.

Given a choice, I prefer my Photek Softlighter over a shoot through umbrella. I can get pretty close for nice soft light but still have good control over light spill. The Softlighter is essentially a bounce umbrella with a diffusion panel covering the open end and it works kind of like like a round softbox.

I use a bounce umbrella when I want to cover a larger area with harder light especially if I want less light fall off. I use a shoot through umbrella or a small, softbox if I want to have very soft light and to get close to get rapid light fall off. Even so, a softbox and a bounce umbrella can give very different results.

Hope that helps.

While a softbox, softlighter, bounce and shoot through umbrella all seem similar at first glance, they each produce distinctly different light.

Jam wrote:

I'm new to "flash / strobist" and I tend to see 50% of people saying to use shoot through and 50% say to use reflective.

If, for example, I'm just trying to add light to an area why would I choose either one?

Thanks

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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: reflective umbrella vs shoot through --- what the difference

calson wrote:

...... Both will cost you 1 stop of output from the flash head so cut the GN by half.

No. Cutting Guide Number by half will increase resultant aperture by two stops, not one.

  • Let's say the standard GN is 110... aperture at 10 feet will be f/11.

  • Halved to a GN of 55... aperture at 10 feet will f/5.5.. (which is f/5.6 near enough.)

  • A GN of 80 is required to increase exposure by one stop... f/8 at 10 feet.

The factor separating GNs one stop apart is square root of two (1.4) same as the difference between whole f-stops, and the same rate at which light drops off with distance from a light source.
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2
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