Sunday, June 21, 2009

Think light, be the light...and then do something opposite

Spending 30-50 euros for an umbrella is not my way of having fun. Especially if the majority fails to deliver the goods.
So what can you do? Well, in case you didn't know, I live with 3 women: my wife and my 2 step daughters. Wonderful, the things they do and know! So when I bought two umbrellas for over 50 euro, I wasn't pleased, because they were small and not as good as the price. So I came up with another idea: in my town we have two Chinese stores where they sell all kinds of useless things. But: they sell them cheap!
So I bought a few umbrellas there for a "whopping" price of 2.5 euro a piece. Then I went to a local fabric store (you know, where women buy material to make dresses and such) and I saw just beautiful fabric made of gold, silver and satin white.... These materials you don't even find on an expensive photo umbrella and they're dirt cheap!
So what you do is, you first rip the plastic off the umbrella so you just have a frame left. Now it's time to call in the favors your wife owes you (or your daughter, neighbor, friends) and have them copy the layout of the plastic you ripped off the umbrella. Let them play and watch TV or keep reading until they're ready. Or you may want to "help" them, just to ensure they're doing it and not watching the other TV... I'm not good at this, because my umbrellas aren't ready yet. But it's over 35 C here and that's a good excuse.

Anyway I managed to make a few shots with the fabric draped over the umbrellas and I'm very happy. With the gold it's pretty easy to mimic a sunset, even if you live in Holland or England where nature has decided that the weather has to be rainy or overcast every day of the year...

What I also found out, is the best way to shoot with an umbrella is completely oppose to it. Not like Joe McNally or strobist are doing: either they shoot through the umbrella or they bounce off the inside of the umbrella. BOTH ARE WRONG and even, I might add in my arrogant mood, a little dumb...
Why? When do you use an umbrella? When you want light to be soft... very soft, right?
When you shoot through the umbrella, the light is diffused, but not so much as it could. When you shoot bouncing off the inside, you bounce at a parabolic like a satellite antenna. Guess what? It is made to concentrate at the middle, be it light, be it a radio or tv signal.
Now you turn it around and shoot at the top of the umbrella (where the rain falls) and the effect is reversed: the light bounces off the umbrella and is spread all over, leaving virtually no shadow at all !!
Here are some examples:
this is shot with normal ambient light coming through the window:

here the hard direct flash light:

this is shot with the golden umbrella, normal inside bounce:

now this is shot bouncing from the outside, the round side of the umbrella:

As you can see, the light is much softer and more evenly distributed. Like the light of a real sunset.

If you don't need a fake sunlight but a white or bright light, though still diffused, you can use this the same way for a white or silver umbrella. You'll still get much better light....

Leave a message if you have questions or comments.
Leave a donation if you want. Anything is welcome and it motivates me to find new ways to light up your life....

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