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technical question about soft light.
Old 03-16-2005, 10:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I was driving home this evening and realized an inconsistancy. As my SUV was happily slurping dead dinosaur juice I start thinking, the larger the light source the softer the light. Now I also shoot weddings and just got a Sunpak 120j. I know the bare bulb is softer than with the reflector, even in large rooms with high ceilings (little to no bounce). This inconsisant because the reflector is 4.5" in diameter, and the bulb is considerably much smaller. Does the softness of the light have to do with how directional it is too? Is the directionality of the light more important that the size of the light source? Why aren't bare bulbs used more in studio work (I see more softboxes)? Spill? Loss of power? On a side note, the softness is about tied between barebulb and soft cover on the reflector. It just got me thinking, thought I'd share in hopes of gaining a better understanding of light qualities. Thanks,
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Re: technical question about soft light.
Old 03-16-2005, 11:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Ok Maybe this will help! Remember the light source in a soft-box is usually a bare bulb. It is the outside of the box (the light modifier) that makes the light soft. If you had a strobe light and it was not directed at the subject and was bouncing off the wall it would be a bounce light therefore the wall it was bouncing off of would be the light motifier. I HOPE THIS HELPS!!!

e-mail me if you have any questions.
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The time has come the. . .
Old 03-17-2005, 12:20 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Walrus said to talk of many things, of ships and shoes, and sealing wax, of cabbages and Kings and whether pigs have wings. ooops wrong thread. . .
. . . about this one. Whole books have been written about this and the scope of your question boggles a mere paragraph.
Barebulb vs softboxes (or any other directional device) is more about control of the light more than softness. Ditto most of every thing else you speculated on I would think. Barebulb is just too inefficient unless you've got a honkin' big one. Think inverse square law and realize the light that bounceing off a wall ten feet away travels twenty feet just to get back where you are, let alone the subject, has lost most of its punch, where as if you'd use some sort of reflector. . . well you get my point.
Back in the seventies and eighties some studios around here started bouncing light off their high white ceilings filing the shooting room with a light that was even throughout the room. Since the fill was a constant the only thing the shooter had to do was set up the mainlight for the desired effect. 'Course if the room was very big you needed a powersupply the size of a volkwagen and two to ten 1000 watt/second heads to do the job. . . .err ah what was the question again?
I may not be brillig but I do jabber. . . wok

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Re: technical question about soft light.
Old 03-17-2005, 12:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Good point. I sometimes loose sight of the fact that most strobe heads have removeable reflectors, dang Novatrons! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] But most softboxes have white/silver linings so they could be a giant reflector too. So are we back to the beginning again? If you're reflecting you need a cover to soften things up, if the bulb is bear, crank up the juice (you'll need it) and fire away! To clarify though, in a large, dark dance hall with high ceilings, you're not getting any bounce to speak of, but the barebulb is still softer. If the size of the light source was all that mattered then barebulb light would be harsh. The tube is only about the size of a CF card. I think that because the reflector actually straightens the light into a kind of beam, the deliniation of shadows is sharper than if the light can just flow willy-nilly, unencumbered, in every direction. Hmmm... just more to ponder I suppose.
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Re: technical question about soft light.
Old 03-17-2005, 06:17 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think that you have answered your own question.

The reflector intensifies and straigtens the beam.

There is a law of light of light that it reflects in proportion to the incidence at which is strikes a subject (think billiard ball off the rail).

With the reflector in place, you a sending out a "beam" of light that bounces back and the reflector is itensifying the light so it is more "specular" which also helps define your shadow.

With the bare bulb, it may be true that the bulb is a "smaller" lightsource and so in theory should be harsher, but you are not focusing it as much so as it goes outward in a less direction manner, and thus not so specular.

The reason people don't generally shoot "bare bulb" in the studio, is that all the other ways to "soften" the light are more efficient.

But you certainly can.

Try a bare bulb with a big piece of foamcore behind it as a reflector....works mighty nifty.

Mark
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