Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Started Dec 11, 2017 | Questions
Ellis Vener
MOD Ellis Vener Forum Pro • Posts: 13,913
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Sailor Blue wrote:

Nice explanation of what is and what isn't a parabolic light source MayaTlab0.

I agree.

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Ellis Vener
MOD Ellis Vener Forum Pro • Posts: 13,913
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

“...and the point of parabolic umbrellas is the harder/more specular light but much less spill.”

Combined with being a larger light source than any rigid reflector anyone would want to carry around or even permanently have set up in a studio.

Sort of like the two umbrellas facing each other with a trash can inbetween them setup Francisco Scavullo created for lighting  all of the “Cosmo” magazines covers he photogrsphed.

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

threw the lens wrote:

This thread set me thinking and nosing around a few articles.

Seemed to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, that a translucent white umbrella has the most diffuse and uncontrolled spill, and the softbox with diffuser had more controlled spill especially with honeycomb grid. The reflector umbrellas create harder/more specular light but spill, and the point of parabolic umbrellas is the harder/more specular light but much less spill. Beauty dish light is also quite hard and with a honeycomb grid the direction is also tightly controlled.

Mmm things vary.

Just to give you an example, grids for softboxes have a wide range of beam angles, from very narrow (usually they're easy to spot, they're very expensive :D), to very wide. Heck, some softbox grids manufacturer even make white one ! So the question is : which grid are we talking about ?

Another example : I don't think that I understand particularly well exactly what matters when it comes to specularity, but I've already found out that again, the usual catchphrases, such as "silver umbrellas are more specular than white ones", aren't superbly accurate. For example, below - a comparison with three umbrellas all at the same distance from the mannequin (really) - you can see that the PLM soft silver's specular reflections aren't that different from the white umbrella... when configured in a certain way (the photo is more contrasty but that's for another reason). Change how it's used and you can get something that's quite different :D. So it isn't just the modifier you use that matters, but how you use it.

The Cotswoldphoto is like the Cactus, a less well designed and manufactured version of the PLM extreme silver.

The only difference between the two PLM soft silver setups is the position of the head relative to the umbrella (BTW less than 15cm between the two positions). This goes back full circle to my first post (the ping pong ball thing) : in the second setup only the centre of the umbrella was oriented so that it could bounce back the light coming from the strobe towards te subject, hence the harder light. Light hitting the outer part of the umbrella went elsewhere in the room.

I liked the extensive single-light modifier comparisons on this polish page with the gorgeous face.

In the end it's always better when there is a human subject in the picture rather than a stupid mannequin :D.

threw the lens
threw the lens Senior Member • Posts: 2,760
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

It's quite an interesting area, type v. implementation. I've been circling around the internet chancing upon interesting looking things. But I am skeptical that some of the umbrellas I have seen will be erected nice and tight so they don't sag and have a messy pattern. Though it seems this only makes a difference if you're going to use the light without a diffuser. If you have diffuser panels then the light bounces back to the umbrella and out again so diffused is diffused, what does it matter.

Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 15,527
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

MayaTlab0 wrote:

threw the lens wrote:

This thread set me thinking and nosing around a few articles.

Seemed to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, that a translucent white umbrella has the most diffuse and uncontrolled spill, and the softbox with diffuser had more controlled spill especially with honeycomb grid. The reflector umbrellas create harder/more specular light but spill, and the point of parabolic umbrellas is the harder/more specular light but much less spill. Beauty dish light is also quite hard and with a honeycomb grid the direction is also tightly controlled.

Mmm things vary.

Just to give you an example, grids for softboxes have a wide range of beam angles, from very narrow (usually they're easy to spot, they're very expensive :D), to very wide. Heck, some softbox grids manufacturer even make white one ! So the question is : which grid are we talking about ?

Another example : I don't think that I understand particularly well exactly what matters when it comes to specularity, but I've already found out that again, the usual catchphrases, such as "silver umbrellas are more specular than white ones", aren't superbly accurate. For example, below - a comparison with three umbrellas all at the same distance from the mannequin (really) - you can see that the PLM soft silver's specular reflections aren't that different from the white umbrella... when configured in a certain way (the photo is more contrasty but that's for another reason). Change how it's used and you can get something that's quite different :D. So it isn't just the modifier you use that matters, but how you use it.

Yes!

Change the fabric, change the softness/specularity.

Change the distance, change the softness/specularity.

Add a diffuser, change the softness/specularity.

Change the feathering, change the softness/specularity.

The Cotswoldphoto is like the Cactus, a less well designed and manufactured version of the PLM extreme silver.

The only difference between the two PLM soft silver setups is the position of the head relative to the umbrella (BTW less than 15cm between the two positions).

Change the angle of incidence, change the softness/speculairty.

MayaTlab0, I didn't mention angle of incidence or feathering in my earlier post so thank you for including that.

This goes back full circle to my first post (the ping pong ball thing) : in the second setup only the centre of the umbrella was oriented so that it could bounce back the light coming from the strobe towards te subject, hence the harder light. Light hitting the outer part of the umbrella went elsewhere in the room.

I liked the extensive single-light modifier comparisons on this polish page with the gorgeous face.

In the end it's always better when there is a human subject in the picture rather than a stupid mannequin :D.

Be careful what you say.  You just might hurt Patience's feelings.

Window side light. (the catchlights are painted on in this image) .

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Sailor Blue wrote:

The only difference between the two PLM soft silver setups is the position of the head relative to the umbrella (BTW less than 15cm between the two positions).

Change the angle of incidence, change the softness/speculairty.

Just to make it clear : by "head", I meant the strobe, not the mannequin.

Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 7,008
Thank you, MayaTlab0 -- good stuff

Great explanations all the way through. I need to bookmark this thread.

I worked with some near-parabolic hard reflectors on old-school studio flashes back in my younger days. Beautiful when you got it right, but could go really nasty if you screwed up -- and with film you might not know till it came back from the lab. We shot a lot of Polaroid.

I didn't know much about lighting back then, but thanks to a very cool junior high science teacher I did know about parabolic reflectors and had some idea what was going on.

As you say, the real key is to test and experiment to figure how to make the gear work to your vision.

Gato

Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 15,527
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Sailor Blue wrote:

The only difference between the two PLM soft silver setups is the position of the head relative to the umbrella (BTW less than 15cm between the two positions).

Change the angle of incidence, change the softness/speculairty.

Just to make it clear : by "head", I meant the strobe, not the mannequin.

Okay. Not feathering, so you have added another variable.

The position of the light strongly effects how the light exits a true parabolic reflector.  If it is at the center of focus you get parallel rays of light out.  If it is in front of or behind that center of focus you get converging or diverging rays of light.

Umbrella reflectors aren't perfect parabolas, as you showed, so you always get some non-parallel rays even with the light at the center of focus.

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Serjojeee Senior Member • Posts: 1,335
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

I think that the only way to find that out is to use something like profoto deep silver m. Baught a copy of that umbrella and I'm playing with it for couple of weeks. That's a strange thing - the light looks hard, but there are almost no shadows if you stay between the modifier and the wall in modelling light.

After I found a video about the light properties of true parabolic reflector on youtube I don't think that true parapolic reflector is really a perfect light source - the hotspot is harsh. I think that profoto idea is better - looks more like a beauty dish. The hotspot is not so hard, when it's focused. And when defocused it's basically a small umbrella, very hard light. And everything in between.

Take your time

Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 15,527
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?
1

Serjojeee wrote:

I think that the only way to find that out is to use something like profoto deep silver m. Baught a copy of that umbrella and I'm playing with it for couple of weeks. That's a strange thing - the light looks hard, but there are almost no shadows if you stay between the modifier and the wall in modelling light.

To understand this go to this Wikapedia page and look at the diagram (shown below) showing light entering a parabolic deflector and focusing to a point.

Put a light source at the center of focus and reverse the arrows showing what direction the light is going and you have a parabolic reflector light source.

Wikipedia - Parabolic reflector

You get shadows when light strikes the subject from the side at an angle. With light striking the subject normal to the subject, i.e. at an angle of 0°,and all around the subject you won't get any shadows.

After I found a video about the light properties of true parabolic reflector on youtube I don't think that true parapolic reflector is really a perfect light source - the hotspot is harsh. I think that profoto idea is better - looks more like a beauty dish. The hotspot is not so hard, when it's focused. And when defocused it's basically a small umbrella, very hard light. And everything in between.

Take your time

There is no perfect light source for photography.  There are many different ones and only by studying and experimenting, experimenting, and then experimenting some more will you be able to learn what the right one to use for a particular job.

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?
1

Serjojeee wrote:

I think that the only way to find that out is to use something like profoto deep silver m.

That's pretty much the worst way possible to know what a parabolic modifier behaves like since current deep umbrellas don't have the right profile, at all.

When Profoto asserts that "All of Profoto’s deep umbrellas have a deeper parabolic shape compared with the average umbrella", that's just complete BS :

If in France it's considered fair game by judges to exaggerate a bit in terms of marketing, this could actually fall under misleading marketing and I'd advise Profoto's teams to suppress the parabolic term from their marketing efforts. Elinchrom's marketing is cleverer and exposes them less to potential legal action (not that anyone will probably ever bother :D).

That said, if one manages to strike the centre (and only the centre) of the umbrella with light, from a specific position along the shaft (usually quite far inside, but not completely so), then that central part can act reasonably well as a parabolic reflector. This is by default the way Profoto's recessed flash tube lights behave. But in that situation you're basically carrying useless weight and fabric.

Baught a copy of that umbrella and I'm playing with it for couple of weeks. That's a strange thing - the light looks hard, but there are almost no shadows if you stay between the modifier and the wall in modelling light.

After I found a video about the light properties of true parabolic reflector on youtube I don't think that true parapolic reflector is really a perfect light source - the hotspot is harsh. I think that profoto idea is better - looks more like a beauty dish. The hotspot is not so hard, when it's focused. And when defocused it's basically a small umbrella, very hard light. And everything in between.

It doesn't make much sense to talk about "focused" or "defocused" with current deep silver umbrellas since they don't have a single focal point.

Many of the touted advantages of deep silver umbrellas are demonstrably false. In general they fall under the idea that they "control" the light better. "Control" doesn't mean anything particularly precise, but usually it means :

a) either that they can send light at a tight beam angle. As you can see in my first post, a deep silver umbrella isn't needed for that. A shallow Paul buff PLM extreme silver can do that even better.

b) or that they have less "spill". Since most of the people who claim that don't even know what an umbrella or spill kill reflector is, it's no surprise that this is what they think. Again, my first post should make it abundantly clear that a shallow umbrella can be setup without bare flash tube spill.

If you use your umbrella like this, please refrain from having an opinion on how much this or that umbrella spills, thank you very much.

c) or that you can adjust the beam angle by sliding the umbrella relative to the light source. That is one area where I think deep silver umbrellas have a moderate advantage over, let’s say, a Paul Buff PLM (with which you can also adjust the beam angle). But that’s precisely because they aren’t shaped like a paraboloid that their range of beam angle adjustment is wider ! And, more importantly, the opportunity cost to get there is pretty significant :

- Because of how they’re shaped it’s unusual to be in a situation where the outer area of the umbrella can effectively bounce light back towards the subject. As a result most of the time deep silver umbrellas are in practice smaller modifiers than a similarly sized, shallower, pseudo-parabolic silver umbrella (Paul Buff PLM for example). A 110cm Paul Buff PLM can only be matched by a 165cm deep silver umbrella in terms of softness at most distances. From the subject’s point of view, a lot of fabric and weight is useless. Just yesterday I took a quick portrait in a super tight space. That's exactly the sort of space where a 110cm Paul Buff PLM fits and a 165cm deep silver umbrella doesn't.

That was taken in a 1,8m x 2,5m room in a 10+10+10 minutes session (setup - shoot - packing up) with a 110cm soft silver PLM. How am I going to make a 160cm deep silver umbrella fit in there ? I don't pretend that it's an amazing result, but a simple to setup versatile umbrella that's small and allows me to use its full physical size to soften the light was pretty useful to me I think.

- For any beam angle that’s as tight as a shallower Paul Buff PLM extreme silver, you have to block light from reaching the outer area of the umbrella. Result ? Wasted fabric again.

- They’re a PITA to find the appropriate umbrella / spill kill reflector for various positions of the strobe relative to the umbrella, except if you use Profoto’s mount, or intends not to use the outer area of the umbrella when pushing the light inside. Please note that if you haven’t killed bare flash tube spill, you aren’t really adjusting the umbrella’s beam angle anyway, you’re just adjusting how the umbrella’s rim flags the spill from the flash tube.

- when using the front diffuser, you’re forced to position the light at the opening rim, which is non optimal to create an even illumination and results in a strong hotspot - again reducing the effective size of the modifier.

So ask yourself the question : do you absolutely NEED the slightly larger range of beam angle adjustment that a deep silver umbrella can give you over a Paul Buff PLM for example, and just as importantly can you make the most of it (by having the right tools to kill bare flash tube spill) ?

IMO deep silver umbrellas should be a niche product for those who need just that. Most people would be better off buying other silver umbrellas.

Don89 Senior Member • Posts: 1,612
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

So I extend the logic:  Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens...   or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

...something for everyone under heaven.

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Don89 wrote:

So I extend the logic: Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens... or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Pretty much yep. Except that if it's significant, you also get fill from the room. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes not.

And quite importantly : it's a waste of power. If you're on batteries you're basically shortening your battery life for no reason.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

blablablablablabla. Cue the next trope "it's the photographer, not the gear", etc.

Don89 Senior Member • Posts: 1,612
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

So I extend the logic: Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens... or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Pretty much yep. Except that if it's significant, you also get fill from the room. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes not.

And quite importantly : it's a waste of power. If you're on batteries you're basically shortening your battery life for no reason.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

blablablablablabla. Cue the next trope "it's the photographer, not the gear", etc.

QED It’s always the photographer Umbrellas spill are its nature A gridded snoots lack of spill is its nature.

Its up The the fotog to choose the appropriate tool. You can not blame the wrong tool, it’s the fotog

The car does not get the speeding ticket, the driver does

”spill shortens battery life...”?????   Taking 20 shots of the same thing wastes batteries lots more.    Spill?   Funny

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Don89 wrote:

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

So I extend the logic: Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens... or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Pretty much yep. Except that if it's significant, you also get fill from the room. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes not.

And quite importantly : it's a waste of power. If you're on batteries you're basically shortening your battery life for no reason.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

blablablablablabla. Cue the next trope "it's the photographer, not the gear", etc.

QED It’s always the photographer Umbrellas spill are its nature A gridded snoots lack of spill is its nature.

I don't know how many more times I'll have to show this comparison :

Cactus 105cm silver PLM vs 20° OCF grid

What was it again about the nature of umbrellas vs grids ?

Don89 Senior Member • Posts: 1,612
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

So I extend the logic: Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens... or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Pretty much yep. Except that if it's significant, you also get fill from the room. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes not.

And quite importantly : it's a waste of power. If you're on batteries you're basically shortening your battery life for no reason.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

blablablablablabla. Cue the next trope "it's the photographer, not the gear", etc.

QED It’s always the photographer Umbrellas spill are its nature A gridded snoots lack of spill is its nature.

I don't know how many more times I'll have to show this comparison :

Cactus 105cm silver PLM vs 20° OCF grid

What was it again about the nature of umbrellas vs grids ?

As you state and I quote “Spill wastes batteries”

as for this pic? Underexposed to show a central illumination. Exposed properly will show extent of spill

In the case of the lowly umbrella you’re much better off discussing umbra and penumbra capabilities and techniques to feather an umbrella, taking full advantage of the “battery wasting spill” to achieve a far superior image.

Wish folks Wouldnt get so caught up in the marketing of it all and enjoy your photography

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Don89 wrote:

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

So I extend the logic: Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens... or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Pretty much yep. Except that if it's significant, you also get fill from the room. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes not.

And quite importantly : it's a waste of power. If you're on batteries you're basically shortening your battery life for no reason.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

blablablablablabla. Cue the next trope "it's the photographer, not the gear", etc.

QED It’s always the photographer Umbrellas spill are its nature A gridded snoots lack of spill is its nature.

I don't know how many more times I'll have to show this comparison :

Cactus 105cm silver PLM vs 20° OCF grid

What was it again about the nature of umbrellas vs grids ?

As you state and I quote “Spill wastes batteries”

Light that's sent towards the room from the bare bulb isn't being reflected back by the umbrella towards your subject. So yep, if the extent of the spill is significant you'll have to use more power to get the same quantity of light on your subject most of the time. A well designed umbrella / spill kill reflector maximises the amount of light that goes into the umbrella to be reflected back towards the subject.

as for this pic? Underexposed to show a central illumination. Exposed peoperly will show extent of spill

*Sigh*

This comparison isn't underexposed. The lit area (which isn't really "central" in the case of these modifiers : it's basically mostly the only area where they really send light towards) is at 240 on the black / white grey scale. That's what is going to fall on your subject. Contrast wasn't added. It's Capture One default tone curve.

In the case of the lowly umbrella you’re much better off discussing umbra and penumbra capabilities and techniques to feather an umbrella

Please be my guest and open a new thread, it's an interesting discussion as well.

Serjojeee Senior Member • Posts: 1,335
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

I can understand the wrap around effect of 0 shade from the subject only if the light is not 100% parabolic. This way the light from the side of the reflector is filling the shade ehile the light from the center is lighting the subject. Otherwise there sill be shade exactly the same size as the subject (not bigger, as we see it with the small light source.

And the profoto deep is something like 2 defferent focus point paraboloids in one - one is near the center with the focus point far away, the other is the outside part with the focus point as close as you can get the strobe to the ribs. That way it looks like a gigantic beauty dish from far away. And in between there are positions for focusing the hotspot closer (the middle part start to work there). That umbrella is an enteresting multiparaboloid )))

Don89 Senior Member • Posts: 1,612
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Don89 wrote:

So I extend the logic: Spill is only wasted unless one uses a wide angle lens... or uses a grid to the exact size of the lens at that distance.

Pretty much yep. Except that if it's significant, you also get fill from the room. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes not.

And quite importantly : it's a waste of power. If you're on batteries you're basically shortening your battery life for no reason.

Some folks are out busy taking photos while the endless measurebating keeps other folks at their keyboards typing away...

blablablablablabla. Cue the next trope "it's the photographer, not the gear", etc.

QED It’s always the photographer Umbrellas spill are its nature A gridded snoots lack of spill is its nature.

I don't know how many more times I'll have to show this comparison :

Cactus 105cm silver PLM vs 20° OCF grid

What was it again about the nature of umbrellas vs grids ?

As you state and I quote “Spill wastes batteries”

Light that's sent towards the room from the bare bulb isn't being reflected back by the umbrella towards your subject. So yep, if the extent of the spill is significant you'll have to use more power to get the same quantity of light on your subject most of the time. A well designed umbrella / spill kill reflector maximises the amount of light that goes into the umbrella to be reflected back towards the subject.

as for this pic? Underexposed to show a central illumination. Exposed peoperly will show extent of spill

*Sigh*

This comparison isn't underexposed. The lit area (which isn't really "central" in the case of these modifiers : it's basically mostly the only area where they really send light towards) is at 240 on the black / white grey scale. That's what is going to fall on your subject. Contrast wasn't added. It's Capture One default tone curve.

In the case of the lowly umbrella you’re much better off discussing umbra and penumbra capabilities and techniques to feather an umbrella

Please be my guest and open a new thread, it's an interesting discussion as well.

Just wrote a memo to god. The sun would last billions of years longer if it just didn’t shine so much into empty space. an umbrella is a tool. Knowing how to use it is an art. No need to criticize its features as bad Heck, a gridded snoot sucks too if you need wider light.

You could criticize any modifier for what it does or does not do. There is no right or wrong modifier anymore than there is a best camera or best spoon.

If there is a best modifier, we’d all be using it. You’ll eventually realize this and not demand everything be parabolic. Who cares They are all tools, features and choices. It’s what the fotog does that makes the difference Not the modifier

this is an umbrella para thread   Why don’t you discuss umbra/penumbra and show you can excel with that lowly umbrella and how it can outperform a para deep umbrella

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Parabolic softbox/umbrella in practice?

Don89 wrote:

You’ll eventually realize this and not demand everything be parabolic.

Why is it that I have the feeling that you never bothered to read my first post (which I can understand, it's long and boring) ?

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