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08-11-2016, 09:05 AM   #1
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Photoshop Flashes & Umbrellas Out? Or Is There Another Secret/Tip I'm Missing?

I was watching a video recently where the photographer recommended getting the light source as close to the subject as possible because the quality of light is supposed to be better the closer it is to the subject. That makes sense if you're shooting a headshot with a solid background (easy to crop and photoshop out), but what if you're shooting a wider shot? I've always struggled with how close/far away light sources are supposed to be from the subject. This becomes even more difficult, for me, when the background isn't a solid color. For example, what if it's an environmental, or any other location, shoot?

What do you do? Any tips, websites, videos, books that anyone recommends?

08-11-2016, 09:23 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
I was watching a video recently where the photographer recommended getting the light source as close to the subject as possible because the quality of light is supposed to be better the closer it is to the subject.
The size of the light source is important. I doubt "quality" is a factor of distance.
08-11-2016, 09:52 AM   #3
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The closer the light source, the bigger it is relatively.
08-11-2016, 10:27 AM   #4
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What is your question?

08-11-2016, 10:43 AM   #5
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The larger the light source (in relationship to the subject) the softer the light. A 33 inch umbrella 2 feet away is in effect larger than the same umbrella 6 feet away. Softer light provides a smoother transition from highlight to shadow.
08-11-2016, 11:05 AM   #6
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If you want localized soft light in a broad image, the only way to get it is to remove the source in post. Such is physics...
08-11-2016, 11:24 AM   #7
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Thanks for the input everyone. I just reread my initial post and realized it was all over the place. Let me rephrase:

Do you:

1) Bring the light closer (softer, "higher" quality) to the subject and edit out the umbrella/flash in post?
2) Have the light source further away (harsher, "lesser" quality) to the subject?

I know it's subjective and I know it's also going to be situational, but I'm really curious to see what others do. I was watching some tutorials the other day and noticed that a lot of times the umbrella is really close to the subject, but the umbrella doesn't always appear in post. I'm assuming that sometimes it's angles and sometimes it's Photoshop.
08-11-2016, 12:32 PM   #8
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When I shot with a light source close to my subject I most often shot with my 50-135. Once in a while I may get the umbrella in my frame. As far as the background is concerned, I control that by subject to background distance. The farther from the background the more the light will fall off before it lights the background. Note that soft light is better quality light if that is the look you want to achieve. If you want harsher shadows and a more dramatic look then hard light would be considered as better quality light.

08-11-2016, 04:18 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote

1) Bring the light closer (softer, "higher" quality) to the subject and edit out the umbrella/flash in post?
2) Have the light source further away (harsher, "lesser" quality) to the subject?
#1.

This applies to outdoor shoots too where you might have a voice-activated lightstand eg somebody you've asked to handhold the flash, either by itself or on the end of a monopod, just out of the frame. You get in close because you can overpower the sun.

You just take two shots, one without light or even subject, to remove the flash with your mouse.
08-12-2016, 12:21 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
Thanks for the input everyone. I just reread my initial post and realized it was all over the place. Let me rephrase:

Do you:

1) Bring the light closer (softer, "higher" quality) to the subject and edit out the umbrella/flash in post?
2) Have the light source further away (harsher, "lesser" quality) to the subject?

I know it's subjective and I know it's also going to be situational, but I'm really curious to see what others do. I was watching some tutorials the other day and noticed that a lot of times the umbrella is really close to the subject, but the umbrella doesn't always appear in post. I'm assuming that sometimes it's angles and sometimes it's Photoshop.
As usual the correct answer is: it depends...

With your "I know it's subjective and I know it's also going to be situational" you are 100% correct.

If you want to add soft light, the source has to large. This "large" depends on the size of the modifier and the distance to your subject. The maximum size of the modifier depends on weather conditions and if you have an assistant.
If you want a broad image, you have to use a wide angle lens. If you use a wide angle lens, and the modifier has to be placed out of frame, your light will get harder. Another option would be to light from the front and feather it up.
On the other side, if your subject is smaller in the frame, you might want to hit them with harder light to get more contrast.

So yes: very subjective and yes very situational!

When working alone I prefer either a 60x60 softbox or an 80 parabolic, usually diffused.

Good question!
08-12-2016, 08:41 AM   #11
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If i'm reading your question correctly, you are wondering how to have soft lighting, as in those portraits that are shown with the light source close to the subject, but in a much wider shot right?

Simple, more flash sources from different angles, and at different light ratios.....

Place more light sources at different angles/spots/locations with different light ratios where you need to lighten up the shadows...

PS: I think you are "stuck" with the mentality of shooting with just 1 light location.
08-12-2016, 03:32 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by SyncGuy Quote
If i'm reading your question correctly, you are wondering how to have soft lighting, as in those portraits that are shown with the light source close to the subject, but in a much wider shot right?

Simple, more flash sources from different angles, and at different light ratios.....

Place more light sources at different angles/spots/locations with different light ratios where you need to lighten up the shadows...

PS: I think you are "stuck" with the mentality of shooting with just 1 light location.
Sometimes, for softness, a single light is perfect, SyncGuy.

Think of the wedding photographer's dream ... an overcast Saturday, with the whole sky being a softbox.

Or a Vermeer painting, with light pouring in from a single big window. Or evenly lighting the faces of a group of people is often best done with a shoot through umbrella scattering light everywhere. Or bounce flash indoors, lighting up a whole ceiling or wall. Shooting a car in product photography is often done with strobes firing down from the ceiling through a massive scrim.

Sometimes, though, softness isn't the ultimate aim, because it can involve a lack of shadows. The subject can look 2D.

That's the situation you're really talking about. You can use some relatively hard lighting to get nice defining shadows and throw in fill from elsewhere ... a beauty dish actually creates ugly dark hollows in the eye sockets, etc, but a fill flash or a reflector from below, and, yes, you're singing!
08-12-2016, 03:42 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
Thanks for the input everyone. I just reread my initial post and realized it was all over the place. Let me rephrase:

Do you:

1) Bring the light closer (softer, "higher" quality) to the subject and edit out the umbrella/flash in post?
2) Have the light source further away (harsher, "lesser" quality) to the subject?

I know it's subjective and I know it's also going to be situational, but I'm really curious to see what others do. I was watching some tutorials the other day and noticed that a lot of times the umbrella is really close to the subject, but the umbrella doesn't always appear in post. I'm assuming that sometimes it's angles and sometimes it's Photoshop.
have the light source further away but using a larger modifier so the "relative size" to the model is the same, or fill in shadows with extra lights/reflectors.

as others have said, the distance from subject doesn't change the quality of light. the "relative size" of the light source to subject does. so using the same size softbox and moving it further away will indeed create a harsher light but then replacing the softbox with a larger one can create the same type of light.
08-12-2016, 04:02 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by zestoi Quote

as others have said, the distance from subject doesn't change the quality of light. the "relative size" of the light source to subject does.
Oh, but it does, Zestoi ... altering the distance changes the 'relative size'.

The Sun is massive, but it's so far away it's effectively a point source - very, very difficult to get good light with by itself. Herb Ritts celebrated the hard light in his iconic shots of models and celebrities on the roof of his LA studio.
08-12-2016, 04:08 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
Oh, but it does, Zestoi ... altering the distance changes the 'relative size'.

The Sun is massive, but it's so far away it's effectively a point source - very, very difficult to get good light with by itself. Herb Ritts celebrated the hard light in his iconic shots of models and celebrities on the roof of his LA studio.
i said that you also need to use a larger modifier if you move the light further away so that the "relative size" remains the same

obviously moving the same size light source further away will change the light quality...
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