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Old August 22nd, 2008, 03:14 AM   #1
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Best Diffusion without Softbox

Whats the best way (specific products?) to soften up my omni, without buying a new dedicated light with a softbox?
Diffusion paper?
C-stand holding a silk frame?
Something else?

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Old August 22nd, 2008, 05:09 AM   #2
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've heard silks don't soften as much as people think they do. The giveaway is the weird star -shaped pattern you can see from the other side of the silk (with the silk between you and the light source). If you look at a light going through, say LEE 216, it's a circular pattern (or whatever shape the barn doors on the light have cut it into).

Tracing paper is popular (I believe "1000H" is the specific type)
Muslin is super diffus. . .ive, though it cuts out a lot of light.
Lee 216 and 250 are good ones too.

Also, consider bouncing as opposed to diffusing. Just another option.

Remember, though, the larger the diffusion/bounce source, and the further your light is from it, the softer the final light output will be. Close up, that is, with the diffusion or bounce source fairly close to your subject, 4' x 4' is a good place to start. You'll want to put the light far enough back that the light "fills" the diffusion/bounce source. This will give you your softest output. Closer in will yield more light but less softitude. Farther away you want you diffusion/bounce to be, the larger a piece of diffusion/bounce you'll need (and probably a more powerful light) for the same result.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 07:21 AM   #3
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I use the collapsible Photoflex Frame Panels with different fabrics. Sit a subject inside two of them (39x72) with some cheap tota-lights - makes for some very nice soft light. Also great if you use it in direct sunlight to diffuse or bounce.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 07:25 AM   #4
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There are all kinds of diffusion material available beside silks. The grade of diffusion is usually rated by transmission F stop. The higher the stop the greater the diffusion. Some of the flexfills reflectors can also be used for diffusion.

Before Chimeras and all the diffusion fabrics available on the market today we still had to diffuse our lights and we also had to make our own frames. Use pre-packaged shower curtain material available at any department store or buy it by the yard at any fabric stores. Use the white for greater diffusion or the frosted for lesser diffusion. You can just hang it between your light and you subject by using something like a background holder or for something more permanent make your own frame out of 1x2 wood strips and staple the material to the wood.

Adjusting the distance between light-diffusion-subject will give you different results. Careful, although the shower curtain material has some limited heat resistance, keep the light at least two feet away.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 09:27 AM   #5
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Bouncing light off a piece of foamcore can also produce a lovely, diffused light. And it's CHEAP.
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 09:09 PM   #6
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Dryer sheets - Work great and the spun material handles heat real well although they will burn if they get too hot.

Get the unscented ones and use a stapler to make a "quilt."
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Old August 24th, 2008, 06:21 PM   #7
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You're better off to spend 5 bucks for a sheet of diffusion gel. I like Lee gels. With legitimate gels, you don't have to worry about starting a fire. Spread the barn doors and clip the gel to the outer edges with C-47s.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 09:51 PM   #8
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Keep in mind, if you do that, you will get significantly different (generally less desirable) results that if you use a softbox or one of the large sources I mentioned above. Putting a diffusion gel right on the light will soften it a little, but more than anything it makes a "not quite hard" source that's difficult to control.
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Old September 15th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #9
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if you don't mind the spill, a piece of flexible, reflective foamcore fixed to the barndoors of your lamp make for a great reflector. Face the lamp up and bend-fix the reflector so it reflects as much light as possible. Spills massively but it's the cheapest and quickest most softest light you can get out of an open face fixture.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 07:57 PM   #10
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Please please please do not use dryer sheets, unless you are running cool to the touch lights. At least buy yourself some tough spun, or something that was made to withstand real heat from lights.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 11:59 PM   #11
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What actually creates the appearance of "soft" lighting is only PARTIALLY about the nature of the material the light is passing through. And the material is NOT the most critical part - the GEOMETRY of the light source relative to the subject is MUCH more important.

The true function of whatever material you use is to SPREAD the apparent SURFACE of the light into a larger area.

A "bag style" softbox takes a light that's perhaps 6 inches across - and turns it into an illuminating surface that's perhaps three FEET across.

Photons from the entire three feet then hit the subject, not just from straight on - but from angles.

THIS is the softbox effect.

One photon hits a facial wrinkle from dead ahead, another hits the facial wrinkle from the left edge of the soft box, yet another photon hits the wrinkle from the RIGHT edge of the softbox. These are joined by zillions of other photons all arriving from a zillion angles, and PRESTO, the harsh shadows of the wrinkle are filled in and SOFTENED - because instead of a harsh single point of light, the surface is filled with a WASH of light from MANY ANGLES.

If you don't have SOMETHING to create the wider area of the angle of incidence of the photons hitting the subject, all any kind of diffusion will do is dim the light coming from the insturment and perhaps spread it out from the size of the bulb itself to the size of the diffusion gel you've clipped to the light. So you go from perhaps 1 inch apparent light source to say, a 6 inch apparent light source.

That may well provide soft lighting for a piece of jewelry, or a toy car, but not for a face and certainly not for a scene.

Said another way the Material you select is only ONE part of the issue. If you don't spread the angle of incidence, you don't get a true "soft light" effect no matter WHAT you clip on your light.

Hope that helps.
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