What’s the Difference? is a series of video lighting tutorials. Each episode responds to a single question. In this episode, Jared Platt compares a bareheaded off-camera flash with an umbrella deep. The entire series, including all videos, articles and lighting diagrams, is available at our website. And feel free to leave a question in the comment section if you have one!
In the mountains of Utah is a little storybook valley called Midway, where we shot this child life portrait. As the sun, diffused by the thin cloud cover on the horizon, prepared to drop below the mountaintops, it threw warm light across the sky and the lake shimmered in the warm glow. It was a perfect landscape backdrop to our adventure story.
Our goal for this shoot was to compare the effect of a bareheaded flash to that of an Umbrella Deep Silver M. Our main light was the B2 Off-Camera Flash, which was used with and without the umbrella. Between our two shots, the main light was the only light we changed, but there were three total lights on the set. A single B2 battery pack was powering two B2 Heads, our main light to light the children (set off to the right of the frame), and a second light (placed off frame right behind the children) for the purposes of adding a slight rim light on the children and a little extra light on the ground behind them. To separate the second B2 Head from the battery pack, an Extension Cable 3M was used.
All three lights were set on their own group (A, B and C), so I could control them independently, directly from the Air Remote TTL-C.
First, we set our ambient exposure (ISO 50, 1/60 sec @ f8) to maintain detail in the sky and in the shadows of the mountains, then we turned on our flashes and the Air Remote-C in TTL mode and adjusted our flash exposure ratios, giving the B1 rim light a full stop more exposure than the main light. We then fired our test shot. The TTL always gets us in the ballpark, although with the amount of light coming from the sky we had to adjust the total light output with the flash compensation dial on the camera to make the exposure perfect.
Swipe the image to see the difference between a bare head (swipe to the right) and with an Umbrella Deep Silver M (swipe to the left).
With Umbrella Deep
The Profoto B2 Head provides an almost 180 degree spread of light when it is used without a modifier. In some cases, this is very useful. But using an Umbrella Deep has the effect of focusing the light into a smaller area. Nothing like a Snoot, but it certainly provides a distinct area of light with a soft transition to shadow on the edge of that light.
The deeper you push the flash head into the umbrella, the more focused the light will become. In our first shot, we pushed the flash head as deep as it could go into the umbrella, because we wanted to get a definite vignette around the bottom of the image to focus more attention on the children.
Profoto’s Umbrella Deep comes in white, silver and translucent versions. In this case we choose the silver version, which produces two distinct differences from for instance a white umbrella.
First, instead of being diffused and scattered by the white umbrella surface, the light is very direct, and because it is traveling straight, it produces similar hard shadow edges to those produced by a bare head.
Second, the reflective silver surface, together with the unique shape of the Umbrella Deep, makes a great light magnifier, which means I get almost one stop more light out of my flash by using it. This is very useful in maintaining battery life or in overpowering the sun on a shoot!
With a Bare Head
For comparison, we removed the umbrella and pointed the B2 main light flash directly on our subjects. With no modifiers, the B2 Head produces nearly 180 degrees of light, which means the children are lit and so is the foreground.
A slight adjustment needed to be made for the change in power of the main light, since the Umbrella Deep was amplifying it. No other changes were made to any of the other lights. Both images are great, but I personally prefer the image with the darker foreground shot with the Umbrella Deep. Do you agree?
I will generally prefer to modify my main subject light. In this case, I chose the Umbrella Deep Silver M because it focused the light on the children. But there are certainly times when a bareheaded flash will be needed, so it is important to know the properties of that light before you employ it on the job.
Testing is the key. Get out there and make your own comparisons and learn how each modifier changes your light and your image.