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07/19/2009 08:39:28 AM · #1
Why I HATE Umbrella Lighting...

If you want to get me to fall asleep, just show me some images shot with umbrella lighting. Now I am not talking Richard Avedon, because Richard Avedon did a lot more than capture images with a single umbrella, he captured a moment that is so his signature, that anyone else attempting to copy would be dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of what Avedon accomplished.

Umbrella lighting is the 'WalMart' or the 'Ford Pinto' of lighting for me. It is the horrible gig at the Holiday Inn, where some dried up ex alcoholic is attempting to make a come back singing 'I will Survive" to a bunch of totally miserable accountants congregating for their annual convention.

Umbrella light is that really bad hair do or dress that can only be seen in some totally kitsch boutique in Boise, Idaho. It is that Wedding photo that we have all grown to, ah, hmmm, Love?

It smacks of hey, I am now a photographer because I now own a couple of studio lights and have to have this because if I don't I won't be considered credible and it will impress anyone who doesn't know any better and the bigger the better types...

Ah, give me that umbrella to be very, very safe and to not upset the REAL serious photographers out there that believe that you have to have a reflector to kick in some light in to "THAT" shadow area, otherwise it is NOT a technically good image.

What is even worse is that those who MUST HAVE an umbrella, will almost certainly have a..."Da Da, a Soft-box!!!" Now THAT is really impressive. Every time I see a set up with a soft-box and the "UMBRELLA" I pop the proverbial CHUBBY and have to sit down, as to not expose by excitement.

Now, if somebody were to say to me, "Hey check out what I did with this umbrella!" that would totally blow me away, I would be so F'ing pleased. But at this point in time, I have seen nothing but flat, boring, pedestrian, predictable, unassuming, dull and flat out knock me out with a VALIUM the size of a HOCKEY PUCK images.

Hey, but who knows. Given that surprises do happen, I'm open to the possibilities.

Surprise me.

//www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=814

Message edited by author 2009-07-20 05:17:07.
07/19/2009 08:45:29 AM · #2
Oh great. Now my inferiority complex is even worse.

07/19/2009 08:56:21 AM · #3
Originally posted by Strikeslip:

Oh great. Now my inferiority complex is even worse.


My thoughts exactly!

Benjamin - I really like your portraits. Can you advise? This one for instance is gorgeous, with lighting that I love. //www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=1. What do you use?
07/19/2009 09:30:04 AM · #4
Fantastic diatribe.....but that is all it was. In fact, the better title should take the Why out of it because you really didn't say "why", you only stated your opinion.

Can you offer some photos, examples, critique to explain, illustrate and most importantly, educate?

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 09:30:40.
07/19/2009 09:32:48 AM · #5
Originally posted by Bebe:

Originally posted by Strikeslip:

Oh great. Now my inferiority complex is even worse.


My thoughts exactly!

Benjamin - I really like your portraits. Can you advise? This one for instance is gorgeous, with lighting that I love. //www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=1. What do you use?


OK..I'll do my best..better yet, go and check out this illustration. Says it all. You can also add two back light 500 watt tungstens to the existing flashes I show in the illustration.

//www.pbase.com/benjikan/image/82925850

and

//www.pbase.com/benjikan/image/82926228

Enjoy

Ben ;-)

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 09:33:12.
07/19/2009 09:34:35 AM · #6
Originally posted by PGerst:

Fantastic diatribe.....but that is all it was. In fact, the better title should take the Why out of it because you really didn't say "why", you only stated your opinion.

Can you offer some photos, examples, critique to explain, illustrate and most importantly, educate?


Sure go to these links and look at my stuff. Nothing was shot with an UM...Brella.

//www.pbase.com/benjikan/publishedworks
07/19/2009 10:05:11 AM · #7
*Puts umberellas in bin*
07/19/2009 10:18:09 AM · #8
Thanks for talking down to the group by giving your opinion. Are you trying to now replace Profate by telling everyone unless we have stripbox, softbox, barndoors, gels, and whatever that we can't make images that wow you? Oh wait I don't really care what you think since you aren't my client.

/me adds Ben to the ever growing list.

Matt
07/19/2009 10:24:58 AM · #9
Wow, I'm impressed. Not.
In your entire diatribe, there is only one word I can see that describes *why* you think that lighting with umbrellas is uninspired. That word is "flat." Well, I'm here to cue you in in case you forgot, it's how the tool is used, not the tool itself.
If you had written a well thought out analysis of exactly why you felt that the majority of shots lit with umbrellas are uninspiring, actually provided some information, actually discussed how you thought folks could enhance their creativity, well then I might have a higher opinion of your post.
Oh, and by the way, I don't own an umbrella, but after reading your post, I might just buy one.
07/19/2009 10:40:06 AM · #10
Ben, every day you copy your blog entry here and add links to it. Seems to me, you aren't trying to help this community so much as you are trying to toot your own horn and drive traffic to your blog via this site's large user base. That bothers me. But now your blatenly bash newer photographers who are starting out with the very piece of equipment everyone starts out using when learning to light. That describes many of the users on this site.

I don't know a single young photographer who has dashed out and purchased a 6 light set to that they could learn lighting. They start out with what they can afford and, hopefully, master the use of it before adding more to it. I applaud any photographer who can produce a quality image regardless of the equipment they use. Being an equipment snob does not necesarrily produce better images, its all in knowledge of how to use what you have to your best advantage.

If you don't have anything nice to say...
07/19/2009 10:42:03 AM · #11
Originally posted by kirbic:

Wow, I'm impressed. Not.
In your entire diatribe, there is only one word I can see that describes *why* you think that lighting with umbrellas is uninspired. That word is "flat." Well, I'm here to cue you in in case you forgot, it's how the tool is used, not the tool itself.
If you had written a well thought out analysis of exactly why you felt that the majority of shots lit with umbrellas are uninspiring, actually provided some information, actually discussed how you thought folks could enhance their creativity, well then I might have a higher opinion of your post.
Oh, and by the way, I don't own an umbrella, but after reading your post, I might just buy one.


I appreciate your input and it really is quite valid. I wrote it in this manner specifically to contrast what I feel and this is only my opinion after doing this for over 25 years, why onc might consider different avenues when approaching the lighting of a subject. None the less, again your observations are well taken.

Thanks
Ben :-)
07/19/2009 11:02:28 AM · #12
I dunno, I kinda agree on some front... Brolly's have been used for decades by the wally world type of places on 45/45 type of deal and that gives you safe, easy to setup and uninspiring pictures - not sure I would use flat as they can be used in places not 45/front on for flat images. It depends a lot on the model as well - most regular people cannot pull off hard light as well as big soft stuff :-)

If I was getting paid for photg - you bet I would have a stack of them for regular work stuff. The images tend to work out - i.e. safe.... edgy images look better to me personally and that tends to be more spot or hard light but it's harder to pull off and more time consuming.

Personally - I love my 60" shoot-thru brolly for family & friends stuff but I have gone off the smaller ones.

Just a question (serious, I am trying to understand this better)... I see your picture has a largish panel... how would you describe the difference in light from a large shoot-thru brolly to a panel? I would think they are similar... although the panel would spread less light I am guessing....
07/19/2009 11:04:37 AM · #13
Benji... question for you.

I fully admit that i am terrible at portrait, mainly because i have no lighting equipment besides my flash. I was looking into starting out with some speedlights and stands with umbrella, or softboxes. After reading your original post, I am confused as to what to get to start with.

What would you recommend to the beginner? If I am starting out, and want to work my way toward the type of quality you produce, what should I start with.
07/19/2009 11:10:34 AM · #14
Originally posted by VitaminB:

Benji... question for you.

I fully admit that i am terrible at portrait, mainly because i have no lighting equipment besides my flash. I was looking into starting out with some speedlights and stands with umbrella, or softboxes. After reading your original post, I am confused as to what to get to start with.

What would you recommend to the beginner? If I am starting out, and want to work my way toward the type of quality you produce, what should I start with.


Isn't it obvious? Arrogance and a very large ego. :D

Matt
07/19/2009 11:23:11 AM · #15
Originally posted by VitaminB:

Benji... question for you.

I fully admit that i am terrible at portrait, mainly because i have no lighting equipment besides my flash. I was looking into starting out with some speedlights and stands with umbrella, or softboxes. After reading your original post, I am confused as to what to get to start with.

What would you recommend to the beginner? If I am starting out, and want to work my way toward the type of quality you produce, what should I start with.


May I suggest two flash modules i.e. Multiblitz, Speedlights, Balcar or what ever. Get different sized bowls 7", 9", 12" a larger diffuser like an Opalite some honeycomb grids. Some white calque (white plastic tracing architectural paper) to soften the lights on the bowls. That is if you want to soften the lights. A few snoots and a couple of barn doors. If you can afford a third strobe module, get one. That way you can do a symmetrical back drop light and still have one for the foreground. You could purchase a small shoot through reflector as well. Some black backdrop paper to build scrims if needed or desired for your outcome and some clothing line clips, gaffers tape, scissors and razor cutter.

Now have a ball.

PS...I wrote a series here on a very cheap set up to start experimenting with called "Continuous vs Flash Lighting and everything in Between" you might consider reading. There are 7 parts in the first series.

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 11:29:44.
07/19/2009 11:25:50 AM · #16
Originally posted by MattO:

Originally posted by VitaminB:

Benji... question for you.

I fully admit that i am terrible at portrait, mainly because i have no lighting equipment besides my flash. I was looking into starting out with some speedlights and stands with umbrella, or softboxes. After reading your original post, I am confused as to what to get to start with.

What would you recommend to the beginner? If I am starting out, and want to work my way toward the type of quality you produce, what should I start with.


Isn't it obvious? Arrogance and a very large ego. :D

Matt


:-)
07/19/2009 11:54:52 AM · #17
Originally posted by Bebe:

My thoughts exactly!..............Benjamin - I really like your portraits. Can you advise? This one for instance is gorgeous, with lighting that I love. //www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=1. What do you use?


While the lighting to the face is great I personally don't dig the black halo from the neck down, is that something you planned? is it a naturally hard shadow or an editing after-effect?

07/19/2009 11:56:14 AM · #18
Originally posted by idnic:

Ben, every day you copy your blog entry here and add links to it. Seems to me, you aren't trying to help this community so much as you are trying to toot your own horn and drive traffic to your blog via this site's large user base. That bothers me. But now your blatenly bash newer photographers who are starting out with the very piece of equipment everyone starts out using when learning to light. That describes many of the users on this site....[SNIP]...If you don't have anything nice to say...


Absolutely agree with Cindy!
07/19/2009 11:56:58 AM · #19
Originally posted by senor_kasper:

Originally posted by Bebe:

My thoughts exactly!..............Benjamin - I really like your portraits. Can you advise? This one for instance is gorgeous, with lighting that I love. //www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=1. What do you use?


While the lighting to the face is great I personally don't dig the black halo from the neck down, is that something you planned? is it a naturally hard shadow or an editing after-effect?


I already responded to your query above, but here goes again:

OK..I'll do my best..better yet, go and check out this illustration. Says it all. You can also add two back light 500 watt tungstens to the existing flashes I show in the illustration.

I used a Balcar Opalite for the subject using a honeycomb grid. I used a 1/2 blue gelatin filter on the main light as well. I used four flash heads for the background, two of which were lighting the background and two shooting directly in to the back of the model at around 45°. I lit the background from 1.5-2 stops hotter than the foreground. I also lit the background with 2 x 500 or 1000 watt standard outdoor halogen lites filtered with a full blue gelatin. The main lite was shot down at the model and slightly off center at an angle of around 60°.

//www.pbase.com/benjikan/image/82925850

and

//www.pbase.com/benjikan/image/82926228

Enjoy

Ben ;-)

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 12:03:22.
07/19/2009 11:57:09 AM · #20
Originally posted by MattO:

Thanks for talking down to the group by giving your opinion. Are you trying to now replace Profate by telling everyone unless we have stripbox, softbox, barndoors, gels, and whatever that we can't make images that wow you? Oh wait I don't really care what you think since you aren't my client.

/me adds Ben to the ever growing list.

Matt


Added to my list a long time ago.
07/19/2009 12:01:56 PM · #21
Originally posted by doctornick:

Originally posted by MattO:

Thanks for talking down to the group by giving your opinion. Are you trying to now replace Profate by telling everyone unless we have stripbox, softbox, barndoors, gels, and whatever that we can't make images that wow you? Oh wait I don't really care what you think since you aren't my client.

/me adds Ben to the ever growing list.

Matt


Added to my list a long time ago.


I am deeply honored. Thank you.
07/19/2009 12:05:01 PM · #22
Ben, as Cindy, myself, and others in agreement have pointed out, you have yet to really explain WHY you hate umbrella lighting and WHY you're techniques are so superior, as you have implied.

Without specific examples and detailed explanations, your opinion is weakly received, not to mention useless. It is best to post examples here (not links) explaining why one technique does or does not do the job.

Many people here, including myself, choose to experiment not by buying equipment, but by building it. By using some PVC tubing, glue, and some bed sheeting material, I learned more in one session than I could by most other means.

What I'm saying is a rant is fine, but make it a quality rant by offering examples, explanations, and open your opinion to debate.

A thread like this is worth watching, as I could probably learn something....but do it right.

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 12:05:35.
07/19/2009 12:05:04 PM · #23
Originally posted by senor_kasper:

Originally posted by Bebe:

My thoughts exactly!..............Benjamin - I really like your portraits. Can you advise? This one for instance is gorgeous, with lighting that I love. //www.benjaminkanarekblog.com/?p=1. What do you use?


While the lighting to the face is great I personally don't dig the black halo from the neck down, is that something you planned? is it a naturally hard shadow or an editing after-effect?


Yes, that was my intention. Kind of one of my trade marks...No post prod. I can make the line as thick as I want depending on duration.

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 12:11:07.
07/19/2009 12:10:13 PM · #24
Originally posted by PGerst:

Ben, as Cindy, myself, and others in agreement have pointed out, you have yet to really explain WHY you hate umbrella lighting and WHY you're techniques are so superior, as you have implied.

Without specific examples and detailed explanations, your opinion is weakly received, not to mention useless. It is best to post examples here (not links) explaining why one technique does or does not do the job.

Many people here, including myself, choose to experiment not by buying equipment, but by building it. By using some PVC tubing, glue, and some bed sheeting material, I learned more in one session than I could by most other means.

What I'm saying is a rant is fine, but make it a quality rant by offering examples, explanations, and open your opinion to debate.

A thread like this is worth watching, as I could probably learn something....but do it right.


I think I was quite specific as to why I do not like Umbrella lighting. That is how I FEEL about it. It, like all art forms are a purely subjective form of expression and thus is not subject to the same scrutiny as a technical discussion. I just find it too predictable and banal for my own taste. If you like it, that is absolutely great. Use it... As long as you like what you do and it pleases you, that is all that matters. I need more depth to be satisfied and what depth is, is also a very personal matter that could open up another can of worms.

Message edited by author 2009-07-19 12:14:18.
07/19/2009 12:11:06 PM · #25
What an entertaining thread! I have to say, despite having the umbrella and soft-box starter kit myself, I found Ben's post an entertaining read, albeit in the same way we can all enjoy Simon Cowell!

I took it as coming from someone who was exercising a bit of journalistic license and although I agree that effectively, he has used this site to plug his blog - in fairness he has stayed around to back up his comments and offer further opinions. I'm sure there is learning to be had or not had as it suits us - I for one am up for a bit of heated debate!!

I also enjoyed Matt's comments - very funny!

I was going to thank Ben earlier for the lighting layouts but wanted point out that I wasn't sure how I might fit it around the dining room table! Clearly we work (well, he works, I play) in very different contexts.

Ben, I do have a question for you though - is it just coincidental that you have copied this blog entry in DPC in a week where many of us are engaged in portrait work or was it a deliberate and calculated intervention? I suspect that it might have seemed a bit less pointed if posted in another week.

Looking forward to more witty comments!

Paul

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