4 Shoot Through Umbrella Tips: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

4 Shoot Through Umbrella Tips: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

February 28, 2020 50 By Peter Engel


In this video, I’ll show you how to use a shoot through umbrella to create four different looks in a small home studio. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching Adorama TV brought to you by Adorama, the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers and today I’m back in my small home studio and I’m gonna show you how to create four different looks but using just one shoot through umbrella. They’re the type with the white, translucent fabric and it’s a sort of thing you might get as your very first light modifier. It was for me. It was this one right down here. It’s well over 20 years old and it’s still going strong. Now they come in a wide range of sizes from small up to in my studio, this one here which is a 60″/1.5m across wing-like umbrella. That means it’s slightly cropped so in my small home studio with limited ceiling height, I can get it just that bit higher and it makes a bit more sense when I’m using a speed light with a rectangular front. At this point I’d normally say let’s get a model in and get shooting, but we’re not quite ready because we need to set up the speed light and umbrella. Now the speed light is on a 20mm zoom but it’s the distance from the speed light to the umbrella I’m most interested in. If you have it too close to the surface you’ll find you have a surprisingly small light source. However if you have it too far back well then light can go past the edges and that can cause problems too. The best thing is to photograph the surface of your umbrella and then adjust the distance until you have most of it filled with light. Once you’ve got that, put a little mark on the shaft of your umbrella and then you can quickly set it up again in future. Now remember light from a shoot through umbrella goes in two directions it will go through but it will also bounce off and light that bounces off will bounce around your room and well let’s just say these umbrellas aren’t the most directional. But with that in mind they are still really good light modifiers. So, let’s get the lights set properly. Let’s get a model in. Let’s get shooting. So to help me out today I’ve got the amazing Charlotte. Charlotte is going to be the model for this shoot and the first setup with the umbrella that I’m going to do has the umbrella set way over there. In fact it’s so far away you can’t actually see it in the video. But trust me it’s around about 12 feet from the model. Now having the light that far gives the light some interesting properties so I’ve already worked out the metering I know what that is. All I need to do is take a shot so if Charlotte you’re ready? Okay let’s take a test photo Here we go. And when I do that we can see a couple of interesting things let’s start with the shadow behind Charlotte there is a definite shadow there but the edges are nice and soft. Then there’s the exposure across the scene. It’s really even. Now the reason for those two things are all down to the distance of the umbrella. The further away I put it the more even the exposure becomes across the scene. But the further away I put it the smaller it is relative to the size of Charlotte so the harder the shadows become. However that evenness is really good news if you’ve got a subject that moves around so children, animals, that kind of thing. Or if we want to just shoot Charlotte but not have to remeter. Which is exactly what we’re going to do. So Charlotte if you’re ready let’s take a few pictures. Here we go. That’s great Do you want to lean back against the wall right behind you? So as you can see Charlotte can move pretty much anywhere in my studio and the exposure, the lighting, everything stays the same and I can move around which is really handy. However this is a very safe light. It isn’t exciting or dynamic. We can do a little bit better than that. So for the second look I’ve moved the umbrella much much closer. In fact now it’s about 4.5ft from Charlotte more-or-less. That’s gonna have an impact on the style of light but also the exposure so let’s work that out. Remember I’m shooting at f/4 I haven’t changed the power from before. Charlotte, I’m gonna pop this near your chin. But at this distance it’s gone up to f/9 So more than two stops more light. I can wind the power down using the transmitter until I get to f/4 and we’re good to go. Okay let’s take this shot and see how the pattern of light has changed. Okay Charlotte here we go again. Great So this time the shadow next to Charlotte is much much softer compared to the first setup and that’s because the umbrella is that much closer and therefore it is relatively larger in
size. However there’s no real deep dark shadows anywhere across this scene because the shoot-through umbrella is bouncing light all around the room and to a certain degree, it’s filling the shadows with light. So with that in mind, let’s take a few pictures and see how they look. Charlotte are you ready? Okay here we go. So my third lighting position is with the umbrella really really close to Charlotte. In fact it’s so close that I run the risk of it appearing in my frame or worse stabbing Charlotte which is not something you ever want to do. But one of the advantages of a shoot through umbrella is you can get the light that close to your subject. Now that will have a couple of impacts on the look of the shot but also the exposure. Now remember I’m shooting at f/4 so let’s see what we’re getting at the moment. Charlotte I’m gonna pop this new your chin and I’m getting well f/8 so two stops extra
light . I can dial that down take the same test again now we’re back to f/4 okay so the light’s correct let’s see how it looks. I’ll take a test shot. Here we go Charlotte. That looks absolutely fantastic. I love the light on Charlotte. When you have your modifier this close it always gives great wraparound lighting. However if I go out a little bit then I would see the edges of the umbrella. Looking at the background that’s interesting too because the umbrella being such a wide spread of
light so I’m lighting both Charlotte and the background with the single speed
light. So the umbrella has lit Charlotte perfectly but because it’s so large and close to the wall it’s also put some light on that right hand background. If I want to do a wider shot I’ll need to do a little bit of work in Photoshop but there is one more way that you can use this umbrella and speed light to get a very different looking picture and it makes use of the one thing I said not to do right at the beginning of this video. Because I’m gonna slide the umbrella much closer to my speed light. So now this is a really small gap between the two. That’s gonna have a couple of impacts. The first one is now much further away from Charlotte than it was before so I’m gonna move this a little bit closer a little bit lower down and of course it’s gonna affect my exposure Get it back to f/4 there we go perfect. Okay let’s take a test shot. Here we go Effectively I’ve reduced the size of the
umbrella by just lighting a small part of it. That’s made the light a bit harder on Charlotte but also means it’s not going to light the background so much. That’s gone darker but it’s not completely black because once again the shoot through umbrella is bouncing light around my studio and a tiny bit will always reach the background. It’s all down to the distance between this speed light and the surface of the umbrella. The closer they are the harder the light. The further back they are the softer the light. Shoot through umbrellas are probably the cheapest light modifier that you ever buy but they are incredibly versatile. For example, this one comes with a black outer cover transforming it into a reflective umbrella. We’ll cover those in another video. Now if you’ve enjoyed this video or you’ve got any questions, leave me a comment below. Click on the bell icon for regular notifications or the brand new videos right here in AdoramaTV. And of course click on that subscribe button. I’m Gavin Hoey. Thanks for watching.