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Demo: Umbrellas

Lesson 9 from: Introduction to Using Multiple Flashes

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

9. Demo: Umbrellas

Next Lesson: Demo: Soft Boxes

Lesson Info

Demo: Umbrellas

This umbrella, this is a Profoto umbrella. And it's a White S. The S stands for small. So, this is a small umbrella. Most people, most photographers over the years find out that you need to really get bigger. Everything about your modifiers needs to be bigger. So, even though the pricing on the small modifiers is appealing, you're gonna be disappointed in the long run if you buy all small umbrellas. This came, basically, for free with my Profoto kit; they just throw them into the kit. But when I go out and by my own umbrellas, I'm buying the big umbrellas like this one back here. So, this umbrella, I think, is a six foot diameter umbrella. Maybe. Yeah, so this umbrella is wonderful. The bigger the umbrella you buy, the happier you're going to be. You can ... This covers all kinds of sins in your studio arrangements. The light is huge - it wraps all around the subject - it's soft, it's comfortable, it just feels good. Honestly, if all I had, if all I could do is buy like two lighting mo...

difiers, I'd buy two of these umbrellas. They are fantastic. And I'll show you in just a little bit why they work so well. Let's talk about the inside of the umbrellas. Let me pull this big guy out. Try not to wack the camera. Alright. So, we've got silver. And then, we've got white. So, which should you buy? Well, I don't know. (laughs) I don't always have the answer. If you're just gonna buy one, I recommend the white umbrella. The white is the most versatile. Easiest to use. It doesn't cause a lot of shininess on the subject's face. These silver-y umbrellas, a lot of times, they're a harsher, harder look. And that's appealing sometimes. Sometimes, you want the look to look harsher and harder - you want the shadows to be harder. Some people have oily skin. And if you have oily skin, you don't always want a really shiny reflective surface because that can be unappealing in that final photograph. So, if you're just gonna buy one style of umbrella, I recommend white. Now, there's this. Both of these umbrellas, you can see that the flash basically fires into the umbrella and then, back onto the subject. So, it's obvious, but you want the umbrella's face to be pointed at the subject. You're not gonna shoot this way with the umbrella because no light is going to get through. There's other umbrellas that you do shoot through. Let me grab one of those real quick. This was the very first umbrella I ever bought. It's my sad little umbrella. It's been around the block (laughs). It's been with me. I've been a professional photographer for about 20 years and I bought this a long time ago. It's fallen on the ground, it's bent up, but I still use it sometimes because it's the shoot through umbrella. So, in other words, you can shoot through it and the light, the difference in light between the shoot-through and the reflect-off-the-back is not that much of a difference. It's subtle, but not significant. So, don't get too caught up in whether or not your umbrella - you've probably seen them if you've shopped for umbrellas. They've got the types that you can take off the cover and it can transform between a shoot-through or reflect-off-the-back. I don't think it's that important. Just pick one and start shooting with it. What are the good things about umbrellas? Well, they're small. Someone asked this morning, "How small does the umbrella fold down to?" Well, it's this big. It's tiny. So, you can put that along with your light stand and carry the whole thing around in your hand and you've got a portable lighting kit that will go with you anywhere in the world. When I travel, I do a lot of trips to Africa or maybe I'm just taking my family and we go to Hawaii, let's say. Everyone always wants portraits on the beach or sometimes I'll shoot portraits of the Maasai warriors in Tanzania. I can guarantee you this: I'm not taking a big huge soft box in a big 12 foot high light stand. No, I'm taking a small light stand, one or two little umbrellas and some speed lights. And I can do great portraiture on location anywhere in the world. Bigger is better. I've just mentioned these two. These are about, I would say what? 30 inch umbrellas? That's my guess. 30 inch. Small. Tiny. This one here - let me grab this guy. This is a 42 inch umbrella. This is the bare minimum. This one's made my a company called PhotoFlex. I've used PhotoFlex gear for a long, long time and this specific umbrella is probably 15 years old. It's a 42 inch. This is the bare minimum size I think you should buy if you're working out of a studio - 42. So, if you're going to get maybe two umbrellas for your studio, I recommend like a 42-inch white and then, maybe a five foot or six foot or even seven foot umbrella, also white. I brought this silver one in here today just to show you the different look, but white is a lot easier to work with. Okay, so let's - Oh, and there's one other thing. There's other colors like gold. Don't do that. If you're starting out in photography, don't get a gold-colored umbrella. You're only gonna use it one time in your career. Maybe two times in your career. And they're designed to have a very specific look. It's kind of a fashion industry look and most people don't look really good with heavy gold coloring on their face. You have to be awfully pale in order for that to look well. So, just get white. You'll be happy. So, let me shoot a few portraits with these umbrellas. Get a feel for what the different sizes do and how they look. I haven't picked on you yet. Sure. Alright. So, we're gonna have you sit on that and I'm gonna start with the small umbrella. Just push this off set just a little bit. And ... we'll use this set up. So, I will start ... Let me start with the small one. Okay. Fill this in there like that. And for triggering, today, I'm gonna use those little Yongnuos. Those little Chinese radio triggers, okay? And for the flash, this is my Nikon SB910. So, I'm gonna set this guy up. It's gonna be set to manual mode and I've got that little Yongnuo on there to trigger it. So, this could be a very inexpensive flash that you bought on eBay or Amazon or at your local camera store. And that's ... I'm gonna turn this guy on. We'll set the mode to ... Okay, there we go. Turn this on and set the mode to manual output. And then, I'm gonna set the power. I'm just gonna start off the power to one-eighth. We'll go one-eighth power, okay? So, manual flash, one-eighth power, and then, radio trigger here on this little guy. I turn that guy on and I know that the camera can't see it 'cause it's obscured, but it says it's in Channel 1, Group A. Okay? Now, I have to find a way to put that here on my light stand and the bottom of the Yongnuo just has a typical - what we call a hot-shoe attachment. So, I have to find some way to get this thing on there and I'm gonna use one of little black feet that I have 'cause I just got a bunch of them over here. Just like that. So, that goes on there and screw that thing down so it doesn't fall off, it's all stable and then, I'll put it here on my brass stud into the light stand and we're good to go. So, because we're radio trigger, I don't have to think about which direction the flash is pointed, which receiver because the flash isn't doing any receiving. The little radio trigger's doing the receiving. Okay. We'll move this over here. So, ya'll can see what that looks like. Now, positioning that flash, you typically want to position the key light a little bit above the person's head and a little bit in front if you're just using one because when you position it in front, we're getting a little bit of wrap-around the side and we're getting kind of the nice catch light up in the top part of the eye. If you have two lights, then you can split the lights a little bit more and we're gonna get into positioning in much more detail. But because we are just using one, I'll just kind of keep it there in the front. "How do you keep your umbrellas from flying away" "when you shoot outdoors?" Diana says, "I've tried to use them outdoors" "and just a little bit of wind" "is usually a disaster with an umbrella." (laughs) Yeah, so traveling light means that you don't want to carry a lot of extra gear with you like sandbags and all that good stuff, but sometimes you just have to travel with sandbags. A couple of tips that I have for you: One is, I will often take some straps, some like nylon straps, and I will tie down my camera bag to my light stand to add extra weight on the light stand. Or, I'll just hang - like most camera bags have a handle, I'll just hang that handle somewhere on the camera stand. Alternatively, you can bring these little ditty bags, little nylon bags and just fill them up with rocks on location. So, if there's rocks or sand, just fill it up and hang it from your light stand. And then, a lot of times when we're out shooting photos, we're there with, maybe, a mother and her kids. The mom can a lot of times, just hold on to that light stand while you're photographing her kid. So, employ your human-powered light stand holders to just get in there and weight it down. Okay, let's see if we're back up and running here. We'll go to tethered capture. Start tethered capture. Again, everything is good there. No camera detected. Now, it is detected. And another shot. (snap) Please go in. Yes! Yay! We're good. Okay. Now, it's for real. You ready for this? Yes, sir. Alright. So, I'm gonna have you kind of point your knees off that way and you're gonna look at me. Alright, cool. So, let's take this shot for real. Shot number one. (snap) You're very serious, which is good. So, that indicates to me is we're getting to know each other here. I'm starting to learn about his personality and that's important! It's important when choosing lights because now that I know his personality a little bit more, I can start thinking, "Oh, you know what?" "He would be more in line with a giant umbrella" "or maybe a harder, harsher type of light." Alright, so how are we looking for brightness on that photo inside of Lightroom? I'd say it's a little hot, wouldn't you? Just a little bit bright. So, I'm gonna reduce the power and because we're all manual here, I'm just gonna set that down. I was at one-eighth power. I'm gonna drop it about two-thirds of a stop. So, I go to minus-point-seven. So, I'm now at one-eighth power minus two-thirds. I'm two-thirds of a stop below, one-eighth power. Alright, here we go. So, I'll take that same picture again. Does that light feel about the same distance? Okay. And that's one of the keys is when you're using manual flash, you don't want to change or vary the lighting position because that messes up your calculations, it messes up ... it's not standard anymore. It's variable. Alright, here we go. One, two, three. (snap) Okay. So, this is gonna be a little bit better. Yeah, that's more better. Alright, cool. So, that is with the ProFoto, White Small. So, let's take basically the same photo and this time I'm gonna use a 42 inch umbrella. Let's get a feel for what that will look like. One of the other things I love about these is that they're so quick to take down and put up. Throw that one on. So, this is a 42-inch. I'm trying to get it so the positioning is about the same distance away. And ... It's a bigger umbrella, so it can't be exactly in the same position; it obscures the lens. Alright, one, two, three. (snap) So, let's compare those two, eh? The one on the left is the smaller umbrella and the one on the right is the bigger umbrella. You can see the one on the left has a little bit harsher shadow. Okay? Just a little bit darker shadow. The one on the right wrapped a little bit more around his body, a little bit more around his face. Cool. Let's do the same thing again now, using the big honking umbrella; one of my favorites to use. To do that, we're gonna require the use of both hands. I don't want to trip my cable up here. So, I'm gonna pull this off. What are we gonna need? I'm gonna need ... the flash. Pull this one over here. See, one of the things about having a lot of lights on set is you run into this all the time and that's why that one photographer I mentioned before, he said, "When you're thinking of using two flashes use one." "When you're thinking of using three, use one." There's some truth to that because there's a lot of moving parts when you bring in three, four, and five flashes. It's just hard to get around the set. Okay. Here we go. Same basic photo, but because this thing is so big, I had to move it back a little bit. We'll call that good. Alright, here we go. And, one, two, three. (snap) Yeah, there we go. This one's nicer. That one's nicer too. Look at that! Look at how soft it is, look at how kind and gentle it is. It's almost like you only need one modifier, one flash. Now, there's a few things I should've done a little bit better on this example. When you're using a small flash like this, that flash is only filling - I'll turn this to the camera so ya'll can see. That flash is only filling a small surface area of this big, giant, massive umbrella. So, a lot of times, I like to use a diffusion dome on the flash head to cause the light to spread all throughout the umbrella. In fact, that's the better technique. So, since I am actually teaching ... the appropriate techniques today, let's do everything right. So, I'm gonna grab a little diffusion dome over here. That one there will work. And that's just gonna go here over the flash. Like that. And now when this flash fires, it will actually fill the whole inside of the umbrella up. And I'll just take one more shot and then, we'll move on to the next lighting modifier. Okay. Camera's still connected, which is cool. Here we go. One, two, three. (snap) For some reason, I'm not seeing that flash fire, but it looks like it did. Not a whole lot of difference. Not a ton of difference, but we did use a larger percentage of the interior of the flash of the umbrella. Yeah? So, a quick question. I saw you actually adjusting the distance of the flash to the umbrella and DiMartini had asked, "Does it matter where you position" "the flash inside the umbrella?" "How far back should the flash" "be positioned away from the umbrella itself?" Super question! And it's valid. It's important. So, what we want is we want the interior of your lighting, of your diffusion - I'm sorry, of your modifier. We want the interior of your modifier to be fully illuminated by the flash by the light from that. So, what I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna push my modeling light on the flash itself and I look at the inside of my modifier and just try to visually tell if the entire surface area is being impacted by that light. If it's not, well, then, I've got a few things I can adjust: A, I can push the shaft of my modifier forward or backward to fill that up or B, I can diffuse it here like I did with this diffusion dome a little bit more. When you're in a soft box, the same thing. If you look at the front of your soft box when you fire the flash, if only a small segment of that soft box is illuminated, well, inside then, you need to get that light to spread out wider. I just guesstimated to answer the question specifically, but I guesstimated with lots of experience. Great. And one more question that a couple people had asked was about the zoom factor on the flash head itself, in terms of do you put it at the widest, do you change that based on what modifier you're using? Great. As you all know or most of you know who are using these little flashes, they have a head inside here that zooms. It's called a zooming head and really what it is is there's a little motor in there that moves the flash bulb forward or backward. When the flash bulb goes backwards, the light becomes more zoomed. When the flash bulb goes forward, it becomes more wide angle. So, where should we set this? Well, my famous answer: it depends. It depends on the lighting modifier that you're using. On the back of the flash, typically, there's a button, it's called Zoom. On this one, it's on the LCD screen. It might be hard to tell on our studio cameras here, but basically, you push that zoom button and ... oops, it went to sleep. And as you zoom it, you can see here, it says, "Oh, you're at 120 millimeters." Or, I'm at ... 24 millimeters. So, 24 millimeters means that it's a really wide angle coverage. And as I push the zoom button again, push it a bunch of times, now we're at 85. Now, we're at a 135. The idea is that if you're using a lens on your camera and you've got your flash like this on the camera, if you have an 85 millimeter lens, this will cover that 85 millimeter field of view. If you've got a 200 millimeter lens, it'll cover the 200 millimeter field of view. Alright. That doesn't apply necessarily to this. So, what zoom setting do we have to have in here? Super wide. Well, the widest is 24. And 24 millimeter zoom would be like that. So, really, we just need something mega wide and so, when you put these diffusion domes on, the zoom doesn't even really matter at that point. So, the flash is smart enough that it detected that this little thing went on there, these little switches on the bottom of your flashes says, "Oh! You've got the diffusion dome." It zoomed to 17, but really this thing makes it go all over the place.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Multiple Flash Lighting Diagrams
Keynote Presentation

Ratings and Reviews

Marty Walker

This is really a fantastic class and at an even fantastic-er price. Well worth the money, and is a great help. The instructor does a very good job explaining the methods, light shapers, and effects they create. One of my favorite videos!

Jeph DeLorme

Mike Hagen does a great job of presenting what could be a complicated process in a way that makes it easy to understand and implement. Not only does he make it easy to follow along, he presents alternative solutions that don't break the budget. I have viewed several instructors and various classes at Creative Live and this would definitely be one of my favorites. I have to say, this class would be a bargain at 10x the price!

Tim Stapenhurst

What can I say about this class? Mike is great- not only does he give a thorough break down of all the equipment one could need but he also includes wide variety of price options for those just getting started. Aside from his thorough knowledge of gear, Mike provides an excellent and easy to follow bread down of how to build up the light for your subject. His lesson plan is super easy to follow and very concise as he slowly builds up from using 2 lights to 5 lights. He also demonstrate what I think is a much needed trait in a photographer and that is being cool under pressure, dealing with issues and not getting rattled and simply going back to the basics. Creative Live Nailed it with this class

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