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umbrella or softbox
Old 08-11-2003, 12:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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looking at some new strobe equipment and I was wondering, what is the difference between a Shoot Thru type umbrella and a traditional Soft Box? (besides one is an umbrella and the other is a softbox)

and if you prefer one over the other...why?

thanks for your help!
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Re: umbrella or softbox
Old 08-11-2003, 03:11 AM   #2 (permalink)
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You can control light spill with a softbox. A shoot through umbrella can sometimes leave shadows from the frame as well.

-Richie
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Re: umbrella or softbox
Old 08-11-2003, 07:26 AM   #3 (permalink)
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A shoot through type umbrella is a pretty good poor-man's softbox, but of course it's not as good. It's much less light-efficient, you get far more spill, it works best when flagged, it will illuminate the back wall of the studio (assuming you're in a studio) almost as much as your subject which might add unwanted fill, and so forth. On location, they're so much quicker and easier to set-up and work with if you have no assistants, however. I do make use of them for exactly that reason. If you're going to use them thus, buy several different sizes and use bigger ones for placing farther away, fuller-length subjects, and/or softer light quality, smaller for the opposite.

Comparing traditional umbrella use to softbox use, the quality of light is different. A softbox generates light that is very soft but directional, with all the light coming straight to the subject from the front of the box. An umbrella is less soft (it doesn't get bounced around and diffused as much as light does within a softbox) but less directional, it wraps around the subject a little bit, more so the closer it is to the subject. So, speaking of a traditional bounce umbrella, the comparison goes like this: Softbox = softer, more directional light. Umbrella = harder, less directional light. This assuming that all other factors (such as head reflectors, etc) are equal.
 
 
Re: umbrella or softbox
Old 08-11-2003, 08:33 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Has anyone tried the Photek softlighter 2? Its an umbrella with a white translucent covering so it softens the reflected light. Just curious, I am giving it consideration.
Here is the website for those not familiar..... would love to hear opinions

Photek USA
 
 
Re: umbrella or softbox
Old 08-11-2003, 10:10 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I have 2 - 60" Softlighters for my Novatron monolights. Soft light, very portable, which is fine for my needs. They take about 2 minutes to put together and a bit less to take down. The only thing that I don't like about them is that they seem to be on the delicate side.

Here's a recent image lit using the Softlighters:


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Softboxes are not made equal.
Old 08-11-2003, 01:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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There is almost as difference in light quality between the various brands of softboxes, as there is between softboxes and umbrellas.

Try to rent and test various brands before you buy. There is a reason those pricier ones cost more. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
 
 
Re: Softboxes are not made equal.
Old 08-11-2003, 01:39 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I have shot everything from standard 16" parabolic to 6' diffused light banks. The smaller spun aluminium 16" can give you pinpoint control chiseling out and perfecting the perfect face and the huge 6' softboxes are nearly (NEARLY) goof proof. The key is matching the "lightsource" to the desired final effect you are wanting to achive. Just as choosing the right film (remember that stuff?) is a critical step in the overall process. Previous posts are correct in that you have to know what you are trying to achieve in order to understand the "how too" in assembling all elements to create the final image. Seeing what the "Light" does is of course something that comes with experience in shooting different light sources. But, as I'm sure it has been said 1 million times here, it takes time to learn, and everyone uses and prefers different equipment and accessories. I agree that you need to try A LOT of different combonations and see what is your most comfortable and USEABLE lighting.

There are some really AWESOME photographers here that are producing spectacular images with a simple reflector and natuarl light while others are using 3-4-5-6 or more lights with various modifiers and are getting equally breathtaking results. The secret is to not "COPY" their styles, but learn from them and message them into a style of your own..... Nobody is "TOTALLY" original, but many her on GG sure can make you say WOOOOW, now that's a different look!!! "How the #$& did they do THAT!!"

My .02 cents [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
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Size is the key
Old 08-12-2003, 09:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Size is the key. If you a a flat surface that gives off light then the larger that flat surface, the softer the light will be. The softbox keeps the light totally inside the box so there is no spill. But all things being equal, a flat reflecting surface of size x will give the same softeness as a softbox of size x, again assuming that no other light enters the equation (such as spill from the the light on the flat reflector. Keep in mind also, that we are generally talking about soft light to mean softer shadows and the softer the light the less distinct are the shadows. But the general principle is the bigger the light the softer the light (distance from the subject, naturally changes the size of the light relative to the subject). This is why a overcast day gives nice soft light and a bright sunny day gives hard light (assuming no gobos, shade, etc).
I generally use a softbox when I have lower power lights and umbrellas when I have power to spare.

Cheers,
rfs
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You\'re forgetting about the hot spot
Old 08-14-2003, 10:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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An equal size umbrella and softbox placed at equal distance will not give equally soft light.

A softbox is (nearly) totally diffused across the front surface.

An umbrella, shoot-through or reflecting, has a hot spot in the center.

At the same time, a softbox or lightbank has a flat surface, light eminates in a directional manner. Shadows will form accordingly.

Umbrellas are curved. Light will hit the subject from multiple angles, and the fall-off from an umbrella (esp. when used reflectively) is an entirely different animal.

Apples to oranges.
 
 
Re: You\'re forgetting about the hot spot
Old 08-19-2003, 07:31 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I didn't word my comments as perfectly as I could, but I was assuming that the flat use of the umbrella would be evenly lit. You usually have to use multiple strobes to do this. But all in all, the softbox is defintely easier to work with and gives a much more consistent and even lighting pattern on the panel portion facing the model. If the umbrella is not flat, then you also do not get the same effect since you get a wrapping of the light and it is not even in its distributiion. If you shoot through the umbrella (and it is flat), then you are on equal footing, but need more light to get the same amount of light on the mdoel since there is spill.
Cheers,
rfs
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