The Oh-So Powerful Umbrella | Transcription
The umbrella is is one of the most powerful light modifiers you can get and it’s incredibly inexpensive. This is the Westcott Shoot Through Umbrella. It’s I believe, like 20 bucks, okay? Again, get the Westcott version of this. There are cheaper versions but 20 bucks is already inexpensive enough and this is actually well made and well built. This guy ports around of course, like an umbrella, which means that it’s incredibly small. You can put it into any lighting accessory and bag and once you need it, you’re just going to open it up and place it onto your flash bracket right here. Here we would have our flash on top of this, we’d have this on our stand and we’d place this right into that little umbrella port. One thing to keep in mind that I wanted to actually demonstrate in this video is to make sure that you place the flash and the umbrella at an appropriate distance.
Meaning, remember from Lighting 101, if a diffuser is placed to close to the light source, the light doesn’t have a chance to open up and to use the full length or the full size of that diffuser. For example, if my flash is mounted on here and I push this in, then when the flash fires, I’m only using this little front piece of the diffuser, right? I need to keep this diffuser further from the flash and ideally, you want to keep the flash zoomed out so that it’s basically going to be zoomed like 24 or whatever wide zoom so the flash hits the entire umbrella and you end up getting a much softer light. Now of course, with a softer light you do have more light fall off but that’s not the point. The point is to get a beautiful, soft light.
In this tutorial, I’m going to go ahead and walk through the umbrella in a little situation where, what we’re doing here is we’re shooting a couple’s engagement session. This is an actual client. We’re out in downtown Las Angeles. There’s a beautiful scene here where we have these kind of converging lines on this building or on these buildings surrounding this area and i want to place them in a way where we can kind of use that and utilize that. I thought the perfect modifier for this scene is the umbrella. Why? Because it’s simple, it’s easy to use, it gives me a soft light and frankly, that’s the modifier I had on me at the time so why not use it?
For composition and attributes, we’re using F2.8 for 2 reasons. I’m actually using the Canon 24-70 Mark II. Why? Because I didn’t yet have this guy. This guy is the Sigma 24mm F1.4, an amazing, amazing prime that we’ve got since we filmed this little piece. If I had this at the time, I would have used this guy because it’s absolutely fantastic. Plus, it gets us down to an aperture that will allow far more light in. We get 2 stops more light with this guy, F1.4 than we do the Canon’s F 2.8. Although the Canon 24-70 Mark II is a fantastic lens in and of itself as well. We’re using F2.8 for basically, primarily, just to allow in the maximum light possible. Why? Because we’re shooting wide angle anyways so we’re not really creating much depth of field. If we were on this guy, we would have the option to create depth of field but on the Canon 24-70, when it’s wide, any wide angle lens, unless you’re down to 1.2, 1.4, 1.8, you’re not creating a lot of depth of field there.
With sync, we’re in a low-light scene so we don’t need to worry about our shutter speed being too high or too low. Actually, that’s incorrect. We do need to worry about it being too low. What we have here is at F2.8, I want to shoot at a fairly ISO. We’re at ISO 800 but the scene is actually quite dark and so we’re exposing for about a second to get, well, not about a second, we are exposing for a second to get enough ambient light in there. We want to get the buildings bright, we want to get everything bright and so what we need to end up doing is firing rear-curtain sync but here’s the thing. At the time, I was testing the newer, these are the TT850 flashes. These guys are one of the budget flashes that we’re recommending and again, before we recommended anything in this course, we used it a number of times. The TT850 is a great flash. We just said, due to quality control issues, make sure you have extra batteries and make sure you have one or two extra flash units in case something breaks.
With this guy, we have a manual flash with the ability to control power off camera. This actually lets me control groups and power off camera and I can dial things up and down. The problem is that we don’t have full feature flash capability. We don’t have rear-curtain sync, we don’t have first-curtain sync, it’s always going to fire first-curtain sync with this guy because there are no other options. It doesn’t have high speed, it doesn’t have TTL, it’s just a regular manual flash that gives us radio control over manual flash power. Okay, we’re down to 1 second of an exposure and I want to expose this with rear-curtain sync because I want the flash to pop at the end of that exposure. Why? That way, if there’s any motion or movement, when we fire at the end of that one second duration, we freeze the subject at the end of that motion or movement and it looks better typically, for this type of shot to do that. When we’re on the dance floor, when we’re capturing motion and we want to basically capture it in a way where the motion leads into the frozen subject, we need to shoot rear-curtain sync.
What do you do when your flash does not have rear-curtain sync? Well, that’s simple. What I did was I actually popped this off of my camera and I handheld it. I put my camera on it’s tripod so the camera’s on it’s tripod and then basically when I fire the shutter, I just count in my head. I mean, it’s only 1 second so you just fire the shutter and then pop by hitting the test button on this guy. You just pop the flashes manually towards the end of the frame. You might need to do it a couple of times just to get the right exposure and the right image and so forth because it’ll take a little bit of practice but it’s a technique that we use constantly to fire manually rear-curtain sync. We’re going to show you a longer version of that where we basically time it and then fire manually at the end of a 30 second exposure. So long as the exposure is long enough that you can actually like kind of time it, then you can fire rear-curtain sync just manually by manually pressing the test button on the trigger and then to fire the strobes.
Let’s talk through the rest of this setup. We have our ambient light exposure is 1 second, ISO 800, this is fro the sky, this is for the building, this is so that we have a beautiful background and so forth. Light direction and quality, we have the flash placed to the right. We’re filling again, into the female subject’s face to make sure that she’s not left in the shadows. We’re using the umbrella, we’ve also used a CTO Gel, again for stylistic purposes here. Why? Because there’s really, if you look at this first shot, there’s not a lot of ambient light on them. When you see that, the first shot is at 1 second, F2.8, ISO 800, this is at 3000 Kelvin. I pulled it down because I knew, I knew right off the bat that I want the background, I want the buildings, I want everything to fall into that nighttime blue so I’m going to cool it down right from the beginning.
Taking the shot, you see that we don’t have a lot of ambient light on them which means that I can choose whatever color of light I want to put on them because there’s not really any existing ambient light color. If there was a lot of existing ambient light color, then we’d have a problem where we’d have to match that ambient light color. Otherwise, we’re going to get mixed lighting. There’s not so we pop a CTO Gel on, we’re balanced at 3,000 Kelvin and we get a beautiful, warm light on them, we get this beautiful background and so forth and it looks fantastic. With the test shot, we have the camera set on the tripod to prevent camera shake. We end up getting good light power, basically good balance at around 1/8th to 1/16th flash power on the umbrella. The umbrella is placed pretty dang close to them in the scene. It’s just right barely out of frame on this right side. It’s pretty close and we get a nice little … you can see how beautifully diffused that light is. I’m just making sure that the flash is far enough from the … did I say fur? Fur enough from … It’s far enough from the flash on the bracket, will give you a better diffused light.
Light color, we ended up gelling to CTO. We pulled it to 3000 Kelvin to exaggerate the blue tones in the sky. We pose, we frame, we shoot. Now check this out. I marked this image as an X right here. Why do you think that is? The light’s good, everything else is good. Well, with this shot, I felt like it looked a little bit unnatural. It was light … I wanted this kiss to look like it was in the moment, to look like it was passionate, to look like it was just … it was bang on. That’s a total Top Gear word that I just used right there. Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear. Awesome. Okay, what I end up doing is I just tell them to hey, you know what? Get into it, guys like lean her back a little bit. He gives her a little bit of a lean and she kind of … create that finishing curve in the spine and it looks beautiful. It looks so much better, just that subtle shift looked so much better and more natural than this shot so we ended up going with this one.
With the framing of the image, do you all notice the framing and the position of the subject? I actually positioned the subject in between these converging lines so these lines kind of coming down and they open up right here. That’s basically where we placed the subject is right between these lines so that we have this beautiful kind of composition where these lines kind of leading down right into the couple. Use those background elements again to create a stronger image. There is even a subtle back light coming from some of the street lights I believe. We had that back light kind of landing right on his arm and it created a nice little rim essentially on his shirt and everything, on his suit jacket.
It looked fantastic. One thing to make sure that you’re watching out for is that with that directional light, you need to watch the shadows on their bodies, okay? Just watch the shadows, make sure that the faces aren’t covered in any shadows or anything like that. This is such a simple tool, a 20 dollar modifier, a 100 dollar flash our basic camera setup. Again, you can do this with any wide-angle camera or wide-angle lens and if you haven’t purchased anything yet, the 24-70 Canon is like 2 grand, right? This guy is like less than a thousand dollars and you get a prime that can open up 2 stops wider, the image quality is impeccable. It is as good, if not better than the Cannon 24-70 Mark II and we have a fantastic setup with just this simple, simple light set up. Don’t discount the umbrella.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to an umbrella is that you do not have a ton of light control. Umbrellas kind of spill everywhere and they kind of fill everywhere. There’s not really a shape to them, they just open up and of course, wherever it’s pointed is going to be it’s brightest point but it’s going to fall off and kind of light that entire area. For this scene, I’m not really worried about that. For this scene, I don’t really care about that. I like the fact that there at the brightest point we have a little bit of light on the staircase and e have a beautiful shadow and everything like that but if I wanted to put the light just in one specific spot, then the umbrella would not be the right tool. In this case, it’s absolutely fantastic. When we want the light to open up and fill an area, the umbrella is an amazing tool.