5 Tips for Shooting Off-Camera Flash, Part 2

This week Jason Anderson from Canon Blogger continues his five part series on learning how to use off-camera flash.

Last week, I started the series with a demonstration of how to correctly mount your umbrella to a light stand.  The clue was “up for luck” as a mnemonic.  Today, we’re going to add another nitty-gritty detail about your umbrella.  This isn’t so much a “tip” as it is a demonstration because neither here is right or wrong – it’s more about showing you the behavior of light, so you know how to position an umbrella, relative to the flash.

In last week’s post, I showed how light can spill over an improperly mounted umbrella. I got a few emails noting that light does seem to still spill over the top of even a properly mounted one.  While that’s right, there’s a couple things to keep in mind.  First off, the flash is mounted to a trigger, not to the light stand directly.  This does raise the flash a tad (about an inch), and while that may not sound like much, it can increase the spill.  Now there are some triggers that are extremely low profile or that can rotate to lower the height of the flash by angling it forward, but there are downsides here too.  If you think about the idea of moving the head of the flash closer to the umbrella, you are essentially decreasing the amount of fill that your shoot thru will get.  The light will be more concentrated, (a.k.a. hotter) the closer it gets to the umbrella.  Conversely, the further away from the umbrella, the more diffused it will be.  Take a look:

Now, again, the terms “wrong” and “right” are subjective, because you may want a hotter light from your shoot thru.  The only thing I would say to that though, is that if you want a hotter light – why use the umbrella in the first place?  A shoot thru is designed to reduce the “hot” factor of the light and make it more even and diffused.  You can best accomplish this by positioning the light as far back on the umbrella as possible.  How far?  I usually leave about a quarter of an inch to an inch just so I can grab the umbrella if needed from the back side.  You can position yours where ever you like – just remember the “hot factor”!

Don’t forget to come next week for Part 3!  I bet this is one a lot of you will likely say “Now,that is cool!”  In the meantime, keep sharing your own ideas, tips and tricks for getting the most out of your lighting gear!

Be sure and check out more of Jason’s articles at http://canonblogger.com


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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4 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    Great series thanks, Gerry! Perfectly times for my purchase of a trigger, stand, and umbrella for the flash I had gathering dust!

    So, I'm new to using it, but wanted to ask – would the zoom setting on the flash be part of this aspect of set-up? Because of the "hotness" factor you mention, I routinely set mine for the minimum zoom (28mm, I think) to maximize the "spread". Instinctively, it seems like a higher zoom would decrease the effective distance between the umbrella and the flash and make for a hotter flash effect.

  1. September 19, 2012

    […] pardon the pun) on how to correctly attach the umbrella to the light stand.  In Week 2, we shifted gears to demonstrate how adjusting the umbrella’s proximity to the flash can […]

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