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Three years ago in my photography career, I became obsessed with catchlights. These little lights are highlights in a subject’s eyes that make them pop just a bit more. They’re quite often really beautiful and add a bit of character and beauty to a portrait. And after shooting subject after subject and using light modifier after light modifier, it took some time but I learned the secret of getting better catchlights. Believe it or not, I took the concepts applied to using a ring flash and used them for other lights.
So what’s the secret?
The simple little trick is to tell your subject to look into the light source. Is your big umbrella camera left and above? Have their eyes right up there, get in nice and tight with an 85mm lens, and let the light do the rest of the work. Many portraitists don’t ever think about this, but it works wonders.
To take the most advantage of this, you’ll need to move your light source closer to your subject or have a really massive light source. This is one of the reasons why I’m smitten with really large umbrellas–because the light from them gets spread out and the arms of the umbrella create an interesting shape in a subject’s eyes.
Try it out this weekend–you’ll see a big difference in your images as they come to life.
There are some lighting modifiers that we really like, and then there are others that often blow us away and that we never want to send back. These modifiers often combine versatility, a specific look that’s done perfectly, and ease of use. But of course, they also just need to work very well.
Here’s a round up of some of our favorites.
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The company that brought us the first monolight with built in TTL is today announcing new umbrellas. First off, there are 12 new umbrellas and they’re all offered in two shapes: deep or shallow. All the umbrellas come in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. Then there are your configurations of silver, white, or white transparent. It’s nice to know that users have the choices as deep umbrellas tend to throw light in a more targeted area while shallow umbrellas throw it out everywhere.
We’ve got no official work on pricing yet, but Profoto’s anything isn’t usually in the reach of mere mortals. Though when you usually think about how good their products are, the prices are very justifiable. You can check out the umbrellas over at Profoto’s page.
Judging from the name of the new Phottix Para-Pro umbrella, one would think that it is a parabolic. In fact, many companies say that their umbrellas are parabolic. In fact, a parabolic umbrella is one that allows you to shape the throw of the light–and many use it to just market the fact that the throw can look like that of a parabolic umbrella. The company now has a brand new reflective interior umbrella listed on their site, and they’re stating that it will provide snappy highlights. Indeed, most silver umbrellas do this.
They’re available in a 72″, 60″ or 40″ size. The latter is guaranteed to give you some incredibly beautiful light output. Prices will be available within a couple of days.
Confused about whether or not you need an umbrella? You might want to check out The Phoblographer’s Introductory Guide to Photographic Umbrellas.
The first lighting modifier that most folks go for are softboxes. The reason for this is not only because of their popularity, but also because of the quality of light that they can deliver. Softboxes are shaped and designed in a way to deliver what is known as directional light–meaning that the light is also very direct and not scattered and spread around. Because of this, you generally also have more control. On top of this factoid, softboxes also take a harsh light source and through reflection and diffusion, soften it to give a really beautiful look to the image. And they come in all shapes and sizes–but as per the rule, the larger the light source is in relation to the object, the softer the light will be.
Here’s our sort introductory crash course to using softboxes.
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In our lighting guides so far, we’ve given you folks an introduction to lighting modifiers and also introduced you to ring flash. But today, we’re talking about a personal favorite: umbrellas. These lighting modifiers are one of the most versatile modifiers that can fill in the space of a softbox or a beauty dish, and they can embrace their own unique tendencies to spread light out in a large area. But because of their large size, it is sometimes very tough to get any sort of hard lighting out of them. As a quick refresher, hard light means that the shadows are very dark–where the converse is soft light, where the shadows are very light or almost non-existent.
In this guide, we’ll give you the skinny on all you need to know to get started with them.
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