Parabolic Umbrellas

Getting the most from your parabolic umbrella

It has been a few years now since Paul Buff (Alien Bees) introduced their 86-inch PLM (Parabolic Light Modifier) umbrella, which was quickly followed up by similar umbrellas from other companies. Some call them a 7-foot umbrella (measured across the arc of the back of the umbrella), some call then 65-inch umbrellas (measured across the opening of the umbrella). They come in a variety of styles—white reflective, dull silver, shiny silver, and translucent (shoot through). They have 16 ribs/panels (most photo umbrellas have 8, while the Photek GoodLighter and Softlighter have 10). The more ribs, the closer the shape comes to being round.

But it is not just about the shape (mostly noticed in the catchlights of people). Before all of these inexpensive parabolic umbrellas there were others at much greater price from companies like Broncolor and Briese. I believe it was all started by Briese, but their market is mostly in the film industry. More photographers around the world are familiar with the Broncolor Para modifiers that come in a variety sizes from their Para 88 (about 3-feet across the front) to the Para 330 (almost 11-feet across the front opening). Prices range from $3,000 to $7,000 or more just for the umbrella system.

These original parabolic reflectors provide a wide range of looks by having a mechanism to move the lamp head within the umbrella to focus or defocus the light. With the lamp placed deep into the umbrella you can find the focus spot that turns it into a gigantic spotlight that collimates the light rays emerging from it. But many people feel that the real beauty from the para comes when it is defocused. To do that bring the lamp head all the way out to the edge of the umbrella. With its 24 shiny silver panels the center of the umbrella goes dark and you wind up with 24 small bright spotlights around the edge, making it into a gigantic ring light.

It is this soft, yet hard, ring light quality that I have found to be lacking in the 7-foot class parabolic umbrellas. For most of the time that I have owned these big umbrellas I have basically used them as umbrellas for fill light or with a heavy diffusion fabric across the front turning them into big round softboxes. That is fine for the white reflective and the translucent umbrellas. But that silver umbrella. There had to be more to it.

For the photos in this article I will be using the shiny silver version of the Interfit Photographic 65-inch Parabolic Umbrella with their Honey Badger studio flash. You can slide your lamp all the way in on the shaft of these umbrellas to create a strong spotlight like effect. But drawing the head out to the end of the shaft doesn’t get to the ring light look. Take a look at the first two photos of the silver umbrella with the head all the way in making for a concentrated light and then with the head pulled out to the very end of the shaft. The center is still the hot spot in the umbrella. Where are those spotlights around the edge of the umbrella?

Flash head mounted far down the shaft of the umbrella

Flash head mounted far down the shaft of the umbrella

Flash head mounted as far out on the umbrella shaft as possible

Flash head mounted as far out on the umbrella shaft as possible

Flash head mounted on a separate stand 5-feet out from the umbrella

Flash head mounted on a separate stand 5-feet out from the umbrella

para-compare.jpg

For a while I’ve been thinking about ways to make these umbrellas act a bit more like the Para. I don’t expect to match it exactly, but I was sure that I could do better than what I’ve been getting. It finally dawned on me to take the lamp head off of the umbrella shaft and mount it on a separate light stand so I could pull it even further out of the umbrella. Take a look at the light pattern in the umbrella in the third photo where I have placed the lamp 5-feet (60-inches) from the center of the umbrella instead of at the 31-inches when mounted on the umbrella shaft. This is starting to look more like what I’ve been trying to achieve. The edge lights are not quite as small as I would like, but I think that comes from the overall shape of the umbrella. The true paras are deeper and more of a cone shape than the 7-footers.

What does all that translate to on the other side of the camera? Here are three self portraits made with the lamp head in the three positions. The modifier and camera remained stationary between these photos with the umbrella about 8-feet away from the subject and white seamless paper about 2-feet behind the subject.

Flash head mounted far up the umbrella shaft

Flash head mounted far up the umbrella shaft

Flash head pulled back to the end of the umbrella shaft

Flash head pulled back to the end of the umbrella shaft

Flash head mounted outside the umbrella

Flash head mounted outside the umbrella

head-outside4.jpg

The first image feels a bit harsh and contrasty for my taste. The second is a little nicer with a bit more of a feeling of the light wrapping. Third image is my choice for contrast and quality. Notice the color change in the third photo. In the first two images the light is pretty well contained within the modifier and doesn’t bounce all around the room (what I call environmental bounce). In the third image the flash head is well outside the modifier, as shown on the right, bouncing light around the room which has a golden colored wood floor, which becomes a secondary light source, which warms up the image considerably.

Here are closeups of the catchlights in each of the above. Some might find the ring light look in the third image distracting. Other people might not ever notice it.

With the lamp head way out in front of the modifier you need to be careful about the light striking the front of the lens causing flare. The lens hood might not be enough. You might need to set up a flag between the light and the lens depending on how close you are trying to get the light to your subject.

You can stop reading here if you like. But if you want to geek out a bit about parabolas, I’ve added the following section.

Going more into the geek…

Let’s look at what makes a parabola. First the standard definition: a symmetrical open plane curve formed by the intersection of a cone with a plane parallel to its side. 

WHAT???

parabola-focused.jpg
parabola-defocused.jpg

Basically, it is a U-shaped curve. You can read tons more on Wikipedia. Here we are concerned less with what a parabola is or how it is formed, but more about what it does to light. Within the parabola is a focus point on the axis of symmetry and outside is a line called the directix. The parabola is the shape defined when all the points on a line are equidistant from both the focus point and the directix. Visually, it goes something like this on the right.

When talking about light, a (theoretical) point source placed at the focus point is reflected into a parallel beam, leaving the parabola in parallel rays. In actual practice let’s just say that the light is deep (falls off slower than inverse square would predict) and contained or directional. Various factors prevent the light rays from being truly parallel. There is little environmental bounce, so the light is contrasty, but it is also large, so it fills in some shadows. You will need to experiment with having the light at different distances from the subject to find the look that you like.

If the lamp is moved further out of the parabola—defocused—the light rays are scattered (diffused) and exit in a diverging pattern, but the center goes dark and you get a ring of bright spotlight-like lights around the edge of the reflector. The overall exposure will be less as more of the light is spread out and bypassing the subject. Again, experiment with different light-to-subject distances, erring towards having the light closer in the smaller the parabolic umbrella you are using.


Don't confuse contrast with quality of light

One more time with feeling!

We are coming to the end of my 10-week intro to studio lighting class and I still see confusion between light quality (determined by the size of the light) and contrast (determined by the environment).

Basically, contrast is the depth/darkness/density of the shadows. It is controlled by the environment. If there is a lot of light bouncing around off of the walls, ceiling, floor, or other nearby surfaces the shadows open up. Adding a diffuser to your light spreads the light out to bounce off all those objects to lower the contrast. The bigger and darker the environment you are photographing in, the more contrast you will have. Narrow beam reflectors and grids can be used to control spill (the opposite of adding diffusion) and maintain or increase contrast when working in smaller spaces with light color walls, ceiling, etc. Please, do not add diffusion material in front of your grids!

Quality of light is the transition from highlight to shadow. It is controlled by the size of the light. The larger the light is as seen by the subject, the softer the light is as the light hits the subject from many angles and provides its own fill light. Yes, it lightens the shadows, but the main thing is that it does away with the abrupt edge that you get from a smaller/harder light. 

Adding a diffuser such as a scrim or a shower curtain some distance in front of a small light source turns it into a larger source, making the light softer. But diffusion right on the light (which doesn't change the size of the light) will not change the quality of the light. While the shadow is less dark, it still maintains a hard edge if the light source is small.

Some pictures to help explain…

One more time. With Cubes!

Cue the Cubes!

diffusion-cubes.jpg

Again??? Well, yes. I do these blog posts for myself as much as for my readers. They are my public notebook of lighting tests and experiments.

Here we have three exciting and vibrant still life studies in gray. All three photos were made with the Interfit Deep Zoom Reflector on their Badger Unleashed strobe head. The image on the right was with the bare reflector. In the middle I added the included diffusion sock, and on the left I added an additional layer of diffusion (double-diffused as some might say). I have identified three places in the images to look at and compare.

At point one I want you to look at the primary shadow of the gray cube onto the white cube (scroll down to the bottom of the post for larger versions of the cube photos). With the open reflector there are actually multiple overlapping shadows. The open reflector is not even across. There are multiple light sources: the flash tube, the glass dome, the walls of the reflector. Each is slightly different in brightness and casts its own shadow. Adding a diffuser homogenizes the light into one large source and eliminates the hot spot. You can see this in these photos of the face of the reflector.

Bare reflector, single layer of diffusion, and double layer of diffusion

Bare reflector, single layer of diffusion, and double layer of diffusion

Looking closely at the cubes you should still be able to see that there is a primary hard edged shadow at point One and that doesn’t change between the three photos because the overall size of the light has not changed. Remember, for a light to be softer with more gradual shadows the light has to come in from many directions. Once you have added a diffuser it won’t matter how many extra layers you add, it will not make the light any softer. The diffusion will alter the contrast of the scene as it spreads the light out in a wider pattern allowing it to bounce off of items in the environment such as the floor, walls, ceiling, etc. filling in the shadows and making them less dense. Less dense = less contrast. But the shadow edge, the quality, does not change.

Point Two is similar. The open reflector shadow is deeper. Adding the diffusion evens out the light from the reflector and fills in some of the shadow. But again the primary shadow edge is about equal.

Point Three is the most dramatic difference where the diffuser made the light larger and able to wrap around the side of the black cube to provide more illumination so you can see the back of the table top.

What I really want to concentrate on are the differences between the images with single and double diffusion. Or is differences the wrong word as they are actually very similar, almost identical in appearance. The main difference being that I had to open up the aperture a stop to maintain the proper exposure.

I hope this helps show that adding more and more layers of diffusion will not soften the shadows in your photographs. That comes from making the light larger. Multiple layers of diffusion require more light output or allow you to cut down the amount of light if you cannot power it down or don’t want to change your f/stop.

Click on each of the photos below for a larger version.

Open Reflector

Single Diffuser

Single Diffuser

Double Diffuser

Double Diffuser

Diffusion yet again

I just can’t stop…

In my last post I mentioned that adding diffusion at the same size as the light source will not soften the light (change the shadow edge transition), but will change the contrast. Adding an additional layer (or more) will still maintain the same light quality, but spread it out a little bit more and also lose a lot of power.

That got me to wondering just how much light is bouncing around the room to add to lower the contrast and fill in those shadows. Obviously in a very large studio with black floor, walls, and ceilings there will be nothing to bounce off of. Similarly if working out doors in an open field there will be no extra fill. But I am working in a modestly sized room with an 8-foot white ceiling, a light natural wood floor, and white walls.

Time for another test!

The Interfit Deep Zoom Reflector

The Interfit Deep Zoom Reflector

Here are three images made with the Interfit Deep Zoom reflector. The first image is with the “bare” reflector. Next is with the included diffusion “sock” and the third image has a sheet of diffusion material added to the front of the modifier for “double-diffusion.” I kept the camera settings at ISO 100, SS 1/160 sec., and F/9 so that the ambient light effect on the image would remain the same. I raised the power of the flash in each image to compensate for the diffusers and to maintain the same flash exposure.

Click to enlarge

Here you can see that the shadow edge changes slightly from bare reflector to diffused reflector as the light is homogenized from multiple sources (flash tube, glass dome, reflector) all contributing their own shadows to one source (the diffusion material). And you can see that the shadows open up a little bit and the background gets a little bit brighter. Comparing the second image (single diffuser) to the third (double-diffuser) note that the shadow edge that determines the light quality is exactly the same. The diffusion is the same size as the light. If the light size doesn’t change the quality of light doesn’t change. What changes here is how much power you need from your lights to compensate for the light loss from the multiple diffusers. Again, don’t confuse contrast with quality (hard or soft) of light.

Now go out and light up your world!

John



Diffusion Confusion (take 4!)

Diffusion will be my epitaph

So I lied last time. It is more than once a year that I find myself writing about diffusion. But i still see so much misunderstanding about this topic. This time I will try to be short and sweet.

Diffusion scatters light. Diffusion can come from passing light through a translucent material (such as a white shower curtain, or a scrim, or diffusion material from the camera/cinema store) or by bouncing the light off of a mat surface (a painted wall, a sheet of foamcore, a sheet of art board, etc.). Here I will be concentrating on shining the light through translucent material placed right on the light source (or the metal dish reflector on the light source).

As I said, diffusion scatters the light. But it doesn’t soften the light. Diffusion possibly lowers the contrast as it scatters the light that will then bounce of of nearby surfaces like the floor, walls, and ceiling. This will cause the shadows to be filled in or lighter in density. But the shadow edge transition won’t change if the size of the light source doesn’t change. Don’t confuse contrast with hardness (quality). In a small studio space this is more apparent than in a large space (in the large space the light has to travel farther to a surface to bounce off of to come back and fill in the shadows).

How many layers of diffusion did you use???

It pains me when I read someone saying the put 3 or 4 or 5 (or more!) layers of diffusion over their light to soften it. All they actually did was lower the output of the light, causing them to either have to use a more powerful light, go to a higher ISO, or work at a wider aperture than they might have wanted to. But the one thing they did not do is change the shadow transition to make the light softer. To make the light softer would require using a diffuser that is much larger than the light source. If the diffuser and the light are the same size the light quality remains the same. The time to use double diffusion is if your diffusion material is rather thin and you can see the hot center spot of a light pointed through the material. (NOTE: This is separate from the concept of a softbox or octabox that has an inner and outer diffuser. In that case the inner diffuser’s job is to spread out the light from the strobe to completely illuminate the larger front panel diffuser and is not the same thing as double diffusing the front of the softbox or octa.)

7-inch reflector without and with diffusion

The opposite of diffusion is to narrow the light with some sort of baffle. This could be a snoot, a set of barn doors, or a honeycomb grid. I want to talk about grids here for one big reason. I often see photographers mixing a grid with a diffuser by putting the diffuser between the grid and the subject. I am not sure what they are trying to accomplish with that other than again losing a lot of light (2 stops or more in my testing). And they also lose the effect of the grid. If you feel you need a diffuser with a grid, you need to place the diffusing material between the flash tube and the grid, not in front of the grid. See the Deep Zoom Reflector examples photos later in the article.

First, let’s go to the standard 7-inch reflector that is common to most strobe systems. In the accompanying photos (click on the photo to see a larger version) I have used the 7-inch on its own, then with one layer of diffusion clipped on, and then with two layers of diffusion clipped on. There are a few things to notice. First is the large shadow on the background. Without diffusion there are actually multiple shadows with distinct edges. This comes from the combination of the flash tube itself, the reflector behind the flash tube, and the dish reflector around the flash tube each putting out a little bit different amount of light from their different sizes. When we add diffusion the light is homogenized or evened out so the shadow on the wall is more even. Then look at the shadow of the nose and the highlight on the tip of the nose. By adding the diffusion (one layer, two layers, or a dozen layers) we do not see any changes to these from one photo to the next. The edge of the shadow is still the same hardness and the highlight is still the same brightness in relation to the overall exposure. As noted above the density of the shadow might be a little brighter from light bouncing around the room, but that doesn’t affect the edge quality of that subject. If we want to lessen the brightness of the highlight on the nose one solution is to bring the light in closer, which will make the light bigger and cause it to fall off quicker (See! Everything in photography is interdependent and full of trade-offs). As a specular reflection the brightness will actually stay the same while getting larger, but the exposure on the rest of the face will also get brighter and we will power down the strobe to compensate for that which will then also bring down the brightness of the hot spot.

7-inch reflector bare, with a grid, and with a grid + diffusion

Now let’s look at combining a grid with diffusion. Three examples again this time. The first is with the same one we saw with 7-inch dish in the above examples. Then the 10-degree grid is added which limits the spread of the light for a more dramatic look and deeper shadows because there is less light bouncing around the rest of the room. This is the look I suspect that everyone is looking for with the grids. But then some people put a diffuser over grid. And look what happens when the diffusion material is placed over the grid—the diffusion material does its job (scattering the light into a wider pattern) and completely obliterates the effect from the use of the grid. Take a look at the diagram at the bottom of this post. And that is at the cost of two or more stops of light (translating into using more battery power if you are using a portable battery powered system). If you do feel the need to diffuse the light when using a grid you need to place the diffusion between the flash tube and the grid, not in front of the grid (yes, I am repeating myself for emphasis). We will take a look at how that works in the next set of examples below.

Diffusion scatters light

Baffles restrict light

Don’t confuse light contrast with light quality

Deep Zoom Reflector examples

One more example, this time with the Deep Zoom 11-inch reflector kit from Interfit. The Deep Zoom kit comes with a set of three grids (10-, 20-, and 30-degree) and a diffusion sock. Six examples this time. First we see the Deep Zoom by itself providing a nice crisp look. Adding the diffusion sock lowers the contrast, but retains the same shadow edge quality. Next I put on the 10-degree grid providing a more dramatic look with falloff of light across the background and a bit more contrast. Then I tried the grid with the diffusion sock over the grid and POOF there goes the grid effect that you spent good money on to purchase the grids. The next thing to try was with the sock behind the grid, between the flash tube and the grid. We get the drama back, but with a bit less contrast. So, while we’re at it, what happens wit with the sock behind the grid and a sheet of diffusion material in front of the grid. Again we can see that by adding diffusion in front of the grid we are negating the effect of the grid.

In all six examples we need to take a look at and compare the transition edge of the nose shadow. By now I hope that you don’t really need to look at it to know that it is going to be the same because the size of the light didn’t change between photographs.

So, to recap…

Diffusion scatters light in all directions and makes it cover a wider area. As the light is scattered and some is absorbed by the diffusion material you will lose some power.

Diffusion material can be specific products like those from Lee and Rosco. Or it can be a sheet of tracing paper or a bedsheet or a frosted shower curtain. Here I am assuming that the diffusion is dense enough that you won’t see a hot spot from a light shining through it. This is usually called a full-stop diffuser. Your diffusion material should be neutral in color, but often isn’t. That white shower curtain might contain brighteners that make it cause the light to be more blue, or it might have yellowed with age. Be prepared to have to do some color compensation when processing your raw files.

The opposite of a diffuser is a baffle (though I am befuddled as to why some softbox manufacturers and photographers call their scrims and the inner diffuser on their softboxes baffles). Baffles restrict the flow of light. Common examples are snoots, barn doors, and grids. Grids maintain the shadow edge while restricting the coverage of the light. Hard grids are available for use with metal reflectors like the 7-inch, the Deep Zoom, and beauty dishes. They are rigid with a honeycomb pattern of openings and snap onto the front of the reflector. They usually come in densities from 5-degrees to 40-degrees. The lower the number the narrower the light coming out of them. Soft fabric grids are available for most softboxes and octa boxes. They are usually around 40-degrees and allow you to have a large directional soft light.

Don’t confuse contrast (the difference between the light and dark areas of your image) with quality of light (how quickly the shadows transition from dark to light). While thinking about that, also do not confuse brightness with harshness. Moving a light in closer makes it brighter, but also softer as it becomes bigger in relation to the subject (or as seen by the subject). The exception to this is when using hard grids. Because the light rays are restricted by the honeycomb only the center rays from the light going through the grid will reach the subject, making the light appear smaller as it is brought in closer.

Expanding on this illustration from a  previous blog post

Expanding on this illustration from a previous blog post

Well, thanks again for indulging me and reading through my thoughts on studio lighting. Now go out and make some photographs! Until next time…

Cheers!
John Cornicello



The Interfit Line of Studio Flash Units

High quality, good customer service, reasonable prices

The Honey Badger and the Badger Unleashed

The Honey Badger and the Badger Unleashed

This blog contains affiliate links. If you purchase items directly from Interfit Photographic USA using my discount code, cornicello10, I will be compensated for the referral.

I was first introduced to the Interfit line of lighting gear at WPPI in 2017. I visited their booth to find out more about the LED panels they were distributing at the time. I was impressed with the people I met and came away from the meeting more interested in their studio strobes, which I hadn’t been very familiar with before. I kept in contact with Interfit over the next few months and signed on as one of their Creative Pros in June of 2017.

Along with the quality of their products, I was impressed that they have US-based operations in California and Georgia and that I was able to meet their staff not only at large shows like WPPI, but also at regional events. Their CEO and lead engineer both attended Glazer’s Camera PhotoFest in Seattle, for example. While I have not had a reason to contact their customer service department, I have heard a number of good stories from satisfied customers.

I started my relationship with a pair of S1 strobes. In August of 2017 Interfit released their Honey Badger line of strobes. I added those to my studio along with some of their modifiers. In early 2018 they introduced a line called Studio Essentials that included a 200Ws Value Flash head and an LED monolight. Their latest release is the Badger Unleashed battery powered strobe heads. 

Here is an overview of each of their studio strobe offerings.

FLASH HEADS

Interfit S1 battery or A/C powered strobe

Interfit S1 battery or A/C powered strobe

clean, clear, easy to use controls on the Interfit S1

clean, clear, easy to use controls on the Interfit S1

S1 - Interfit’s most powerful strobe at 500 watt-seconds. It uses S-mount accessories (as do all of their strobes). It has a built-in handle to help adjust the angle of the light on a light stand. It is battery-powered with the option of plugging it into an a/c wall socket. Controls on the back are clearly labeled and easy to use. This flash offers high speed sync (HSS) and TTL exposure control when used with their dedicated Canon, Nikon, or Sony remote triggers (the receiver is built into the strobe head). The S1 uses IGBT technology to offer very short flash durations at the lower end of the power range. The modeling lamp is a 10-watt LED, which is equivalent to around a 60-watt incandescent bulb. The low wattage helps make the battery last longer. There is a glass diffuser dome covering the flash tube and modeling lamp for protection and for even light spread inside of the light modifiers you use with the flash.


Interfit Honey Badger studio strobe

Interfit Honey Badger studio strobe

Control panel on the Honey Badger

Control panel on the Honey Badger

Honey Badger - The bright yellow strobe offers 320 watt-seconds of power and has a 60-watt daylight color balanced LED modeling lamp that is as bright as a 300-watt incandescent lamp. As it is an LED, it does not get hot, so no burnt fingers changing modifiers as you would with other strobes with incandescent modeling lamps. In addition to the standard S-mount for modifiers, the Honey Badger also accepts pop-up modifiers and comes standard with a 24-inch square softbox. This strobe is all manual and has a very fast recycle time. It is compatible with the dedicated remotes and the generic remote that works with just about any camera with a hot shoe. Controls are clearly marked and easy to use. A radio trigger receiver is built in. There is a glass diffuser dome covering the flash tube and modeling lamp for protection and for even light spread inside of the light modifiers you use with the flash. The Honey Badger is my go-to light for most studio situations.


Interfit Badger Unleashed battery powered studio and location strobe

Interfit Badger Unleashed battery powered studio and location strobe

Control panel on the Badger Unleashed

Control panel on the Badger Unleashed

Badger Unleashed - This is the new cousin of the Honey Badger, though it is also a mini-S1. It is 250 watt-seconds (which is only one stop less than the S1, or power level 9 out of 10) with a 15-watt LED modeling lamp. Like the Honey Badger, it offers S-Mount and pop-up modifier compatibility. The Badger Unleashed is IGBT controlled and offers high speed sync (HSS) and TTL automatic exposure control with the dedicated remotes for Canon, Nikon, and Sony. It also works in manual mode with the generic remote trigger. The Badger Unleashed has a short flash duration to help freeze motion and recycle time is 1.5 seconds at full power. This light can power down to 1 watt-second for those times you want to work wide open with your fast lenses or just need a little kiss of light to augment your scene. The battery is rated for over 400 full power flashes per charge and recharge time is around 90 minutes. Extra batteries are available, too. There is a glass diffuser dome covering the flash tube and modeling lamp for protection and for even light spread inside of the light modifiers you use with the flash.

The new battery-powered Badger Unleashed from Interfit Photographic is now available. I took one out for its first spin this evening. Check it out here.

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash

Control panel on the back of the Studio Essentials Value Flash

Control panel on the back of the Studio Essentials Value Flash

Studio Essentials Value Flash - This is a compact and light weight “starter” flash with 200 watt-seconds of power. It has a built-in radio receiver that works with the $20 remote trigger. There are kits available, including the $300 two-light softbox kit which I use to light the Egg Chair as part of my Chair Series photos. This includes 2 strobe heads, two 20x28-inch softboxes, two light stands, a remote trigger, and a carrying case. A similar two-light kit with umbrellas (but no carry case) is only $200. These lights use a 75-watt incandescent modeling lamp and there is a built-in handle to help adjust angles. Operation is all manual with an easy to use control panel on the back of the strobe heads. Recycle time is 2 seconds at full power. Power can be dialed back 5 stops to 12.5 watt-seconds in 1/10th stop increments. Modifiers attach via the built-in S-mount. A very good value for $99.99!


Accessories

The new Nomad portable battery pack is a sine wave inverter with two A/C outlets and a USB charger port. Additional batteries are also available for the Badger Unleashed and S1 lights.

Interfit-nomad-1.jpg
Interfit-nomad-2

MODIFIERS

Another thing that endeared me to Interfit is their collection of high quality and reasonably priced light modifiers, most of which come with a fabric grid included. Here is a list of the modifiers I use regularly. Scroll down for some example photographs.


Example Photographs

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and 10-degree grid

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and 10-degree grid

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and diffusion sock

Interfit Badger Unleashed with Deep Zoom reflector and diffusion sock

Interfit Badger Unleashed with 12x36-inch strip box

Interfit Badger Unleashed with 12x36-inch strip box

Interfit Honey Badger with 48-inch deep parabolic softbox

Interfit Honey Badger with 48-inch deep parabolic softbox

Interfit S1 with 28-inch folding beauty dish

Interfit S1 with 28-inch folding beauty dish

Honey Badger with 24x36-inch softbox

Honey Badger with 24x36-inch softbox

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Interfit Honey Badger with 65-inch silver parabolic umbrella and diffusion sock

Interfit Honey Badger with 65-inch silver parabolic umbrella and diffusion sock

Badger Unleashed with 7-inch dish reflector

Badger Unleashed with 7-inch dish reflector

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Interfit Studio Essentials Value Flash (two) with 20x28-inch softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Honey Badger with 24-inch pop-up softbox

Interfit Badger Unleashed (two) with 36x48-inch softbox from camera left and 12x36-inch strip box at camera position for fill

Interfit Badger Unleashed (two) with 36x48-inch softbox from camera left and 12x36-inch strip box at camera position for fill

Honey Badger with 36x48-inch softbox as the background

Honey Badger with 36x48-inch softbox as the background

There you have it! Since getting into the Interfit line of studio lighting I have been able to retire my Dyna-lite, Speedotron, and Einstein flashes. Let me know if you might be interested in purchasing a Speedotron Force 5 monolight or Speedotron 202VF heads locally in Seattle.

Remember that you can get a 10% discount on any products purchased directly from Interfit USA using the code “cornicello10” at checkout.

Thanks!
John Cornicello











Perspective (yet again!)

One word…, “DISTANCE”

Here we go again! Let’s start with the lesson drilled in my my college photography professor, Ed Sculley:

 
Pick the camera to subject distance that gives the perspective you want, then select the focal length lens to fill the frame appropriately
— Ed Sculley
 

Wise words! They harken back to a favorite Ansel Adams quote:

 
A good photograph is knowing where to stand
— Ansel Adams
 

For this post I define perspective as the relationship between the elements in a photograph. In a portrait that would be the size of the nose compared to the eyes compared to the ears, compared to the background. In an outdoor scene it might be the tree in the front yard compared to the house compared to the mountains in the distance.

Let’s start with the portrait. All too often I see articles claiming to show how lenses affect the look of a face. You’ve seen them, too. They show a photo made with a short wide angle lens where the face narrow with a big nose and then a series of photos with longer lenses where the face is flatter and flatter as the lenses get longer and longer. But what they don’t tell you is that not only did they change the lenses, but they also moved the camera. And moving the camera is what caused the changes in the looks. The lens just determines what is in the frame at the various distances.

Think of changing lenses as cropping your image in camera. All lenses show the same perspective at the same camera to subject distance. By putting on a longer lens you are magnifying the central area of the frame. If you don’t move the camera everything in the photo scales equally—the perspective remains the same. Let’s imagine a scene where you have a person in front of a window. with a tree outside. If you switch from a 50mm lens to a 100mm lens everything in the scene (the person, the window and the tree) all become twice as large in the frame, but their sizes relative to each other remain the same. If, on the other hand, you move the camera closer a more natural change occurs. The person in the front gets larger while the elements in the background appear smaller. The act of moving in might require us to change to a shorter lens to fit everything in the frame. But it isn’t the changing of the lens that altered the perspective, the move did that. The lens just determined what would fit into the frame.

Start with our view of our subject by a window with a tree outside as seen with a normal lens.

Start with our view of our subject by a window with a tree outside as seen with a normal lens.

Leaving the camera in the same position, a longer lens magnifies everything in the scene equally. But the relationship between objects remains the same.

Leaving the camera in the same position, a longer lens magnifies everything in the scene equally. But the relationship between objects remains the same.

If instead of changing lenses we move the camera closer the subject in front gets larger while the background elements appear smaller. The size relationships all change.

If instead of changing lenses we move the camera closer the subject in front gets larger while the background elements appear smaller. The size relationships all change.

 
The closer the camera is to your subject the smaller the background elements will appear
— John Cornicello
 

As you move back away from your subject the objects in the background get larger in relation to the size of the subject—compressing the scene. Longer lenses force you to move back, leading one to think that it is the lens that is doing the compression. In reality it was moving back that compressed the scene. The longer lens magnified the subject to fill the frame better.

This is why you cannot “zoom with your feet.” Cinematographers tend to use prime lenses and move the camera (dolly in or out) to change the size relations in the frame. A zoom tempts you to keep the camera in one position and zoom to change size. But this is an unnatural look. In our 3-D world perspective changes as we move closer to and further from the objects around us. In a moving image a zoom instead of a dolly move just doesn’t quite look or feel right.

Don’t take this to mean I am against zoom lenses. Quite the opposite. I think they are very useful, especially in still photography, if used correctly. With a zoom lens you can position your camera exactly where you want it and then fine tune the framing to avoid or limit the cropping that you would need to do in post-processing.

And I do encourage you to move your feet. Step to the left or the right. Take a step in or back. Get down on the ground or up on a ladder. These all give you a different perspective. And you can do this with a prime lens or a zoom lens.

This all started a few days ago when my wife showed me this “great demonstration of lenses” in an Instagram post. I felt bad that I had to tell her it was all wrong. So I quickly made these crude illustrations to clarify things. The video on the left shows photos made with the same 16mm lens at various distances and resized to show how the drawing of the face is affected by the camera to subject distance. In the video on the right the camera remained stationary while the lenses were changed to show that the lens doesn’t alter the drawing of the face.

Here are side-by-side comparisons to help get the point across. The images in the first set were all made with a 24mm lens at different camera to subject distances and resized to maintain the same head size.

24mm lens at various distances

24mm lens at various distances

This images in this next set were all taken from the same distance with different focal length lenses and resized to maintain the same head size.

Different lenses from the same distance show the same perspective

Different lenses from the same distance show the same perspective

One more example to show that telephoto compression is a fallacy. Here we have a scene from a railroad station in Kyoto, Japan photographed with four different focal lengths from 18mm to 400mm. As you can see, the area of the scene that is common to all four images (in the magenta box) is exactly the same. The longer lens just isolates the central area, but the perspective is the same as in the wide angle photo. If you were able to enlarge the 18mm photo to match the size of the 400mm photo the quality would be terrible, but the compression (perspective) would be the same.

For more entertainment, please visit my post about the Incredible Shrinking Space Needle.

Well, enough early morning rambling for now. I hope you got something useful out of this.

Until next time, Cheers!
John
(Oh, yeah, please buy my book! THANKS!)