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Old February 28th, 2009, 12:20 AM   #1
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CFL + Umbrella

I'm looking for an inexpensive solution ($150) to light for quick setup for instructional videos that will be put up on the Web. All I'm concerned with is providing enough light on the subject to shoot without gain and harsh shadows.

I've read a number of threads most suggest softboxes. I'd prefer umbrellas because I already have them for my photography and would like to get an inexpensive fixture that will take 3-5 24w cfls. I don't need dimmable since I'd could control it by the number of bulbs I screw in.

1. Can I use CFLs on a photo umbrella heat wise?
2. Can you recommend fixture that mounts to a standard light stand and accepts an umbrella?
3. Whats your general opinion of using an umbrella for diffusion?
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Old February 28th, 2009, 02:19 AM   #2
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Pete... You certainly can use an umbrella for diffusion. The laws of physics remain the same for all kinds of photogrpahy. (grin). That said... Umbrellas are light eaters for the return they give as compared to a softbox. With an studio electronic flash unit you can crank it up and still harvest a significant light return out of an umbrella... not so with CFL sources. I am unaware of any CFL fixture that carries a place (hole) for an umbrella - as compared to say, a tungsten source. (Lowels mostly all have em as an example).

Remember that by their nature CFL's are already somewhat diffuse, hence the light fall off is fast. I know other, more experienced hands than I will chime in, but I would not recommend an umbrella with a CFL. Period.

I have some older umbrellas and some newer ones as well... diffuse white, solid white, silver, gold etc... but all to use with studio flash or tungsten.

If you want to go with a CFL source, and soft light box, look at the Coollights site and they have a great CFL and softbox WITH a grid (a mandatory accessory if you ask me, especially for interview lighting) for under $200. Great for interviews.

I hope this helps.

Last edited by Chris Swanberg; March 1st, 2009 at 01:32 AM.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 09:38 AM   #3
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Thx Chris now I understand now why I haven't seen any talk of umbrellas in combination with CFL. So if I need to light a room lets say a kitchen for a cooking lesson what would be the difference of bouncing the lights off the ceiling vs a soft box? I'm guessing one of the problems I'm going to have is using a light source that's powerful enough to override other light so I don't get a mix of color temperatures.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 05:35 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Pete Cofran View Post
So if I need to light a room lets say a kitchen for a cooking lesson what would be the difference of bouncing the lights off the ceiling vs a soft box? I'm guessing one of the problems I'm going to have is using a light source that's powerful enough to override other light so I don't get a mix of color temperatures.

Light coming from the ceiling isn't all that flattering to talent. A softbox can be used at various heights.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 01:29 AM   #5
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Most all of our digital cameras these days produce better images with more light. What you propose, bouncing light from the ceiling is not a bad way to up the overall ambient light in a scene... but it will require something with higher light output than CFL, and if you go the tungsten route you will need to decide what you color balance is going to be, Daylight? Tungsten? or a mix to fight with or use creatively? (Ceiling color is also a consideration).

Say you are going to do what you suggest, a cooking demonstration. Here is one idea. if your ceiling is pure white.... and you have no significant daylight source of light into the cooking arena, think about bouncing 1000 watt tungsten sources off the ceiling to raise the overall area lighting. Then add a softbox with a tungsten source for talent/demo illumination.... depending on time and closeups you might benefit from someone holding a reflector for fill. If your talent has a lot of headshots, you might also consider a rimlight/hairlight - all tungsten. (Plus you will need some decent electrical connections on multiple independent circuits)

My idea may not work however.Why? Because in your situation a lot will depend on how much of your shooting is done on static set ups and how much is moving camera or worse yet run and gun. My suggestion would work best with a mainly static set up situation, and be more or less unworkable with a run and gun (Iron Chef America) type of setup.

There are a lot of VERY knowledgeable folks here. Try and be as specific as possible regarding what you need to light and I bet you get some really great answers outlining the many ways you can skin this cat.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 08:03 AM   #6
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I 2nd that the 200w cfl's from coollights are the best bang out there! I have 3 and they are very handy. Great in their soft-box or all alone as a chinaball type source.

Umbrellas do create a nice soft and somewhat directional light.... but controlling their spill is their downside..... thus folks end up using soft boxes with grids. Now, you can use gobos on stands to control the spill and flare from the umbrellas....

I would imagine that soft-boxes would leave cleaner reflections in shiny surfaces like pots and pans etc....
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Old March 1st, 2009, 10:13 AM   #7
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To give you a little more details. I primarily shoot events such as theatrical performances and other events that don't require extra lighting. I'm trying to expand my freelance business, so I signed up for MonkeySee network. They host how to videos that anyone can create and offer those people the services of film makers in their area to produce their video at affordable rates $200-500 for a basic 2-3 hr shoot and up to a $1,000 for complex day shoots. I meet all their requirements except for the lighting department.

In the past I've used a couple of clamp on lights with those big bulbs you find at home depot.
Maybe this thing is just a pipe dream and no business will come of it but if it does work I'd like to have a lighting plan in place that I can immediately order what I need. The setup has to be very simple since its for run n gun, not a home studio. I'm thinking of two lights, key and fill.

For florescent options:
$275 http://www.coollights.biz/cl255p-coo...ight-p-66.html (no soft box to setup)
$179 http://www.skaeser.com/servlet/the-6...SOFTBOX/Detail

Last edited by Pete Cofrancesco; March 1st, 2009 at 03:25 PM.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 11:27 AM   #8
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This has nothing to do with lighting, but re: MonkeySee...

If you haven't already, take a close look at the editing and delivery requirements. The shooting is not that bad, but the time required for producing the deliverables is what made it unattractive to me.

YMMV.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 11:34 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bill Ward View Post
This has nothing to do with lighting, but re: MonkeySee...
but the time required for producing the deliverables is what made it unattractive to me.

YMMV.
I agree, I thought about that too, for now I need the work so any income is better than no income. If its too much editing time, I can turn the jobs down. I was hoping that it would also act as a method of advertising. That is the more clients who like my work the greater the contacts I'll get, since most of my new business is generated by word of mouth. In addition, I'll be expanding my knowledge and abilities.

To be honest, if I was a business looking to put out some free how to video in exchange for exposure then YouTube has a thousand times more traffic. MonkeySee advantage is it's content is focused on one thing only making it easier to find what you want. I still have very low expectations for MonkeySee but I'm aggressively exploring all opportunities. Its really hard to tell maybe there is a market and this is the future of advertising.

Last edited by Pete Cofrancesco; March 1st, 2009 at 12:08 PM.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 01:30 PM   #10
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Pete... as a starter for interviews/product demos, etc, this coollight's softbox is a terrific value:

CL-SFT1 Softbox Kit - Cool Lights USA

Add a pop out reflector (silver/gold/white), some stands and maybe even a holder for the reflector and you are off to a start. I'd quickly suggest some kind of backlight/rimlight/hairlight as a very soon after purchase, but that will get you started within your budget. I'm going to suggest getting a daylight balanced bulb to start as it allows you to use the fixture as a daylight fill in outdoor shots. Eventually a tungsten (3200K) balanced bulb is nice to have.

In answer to your Q about tubes and softboxes, tubes due to their length an size do not easily fit any softboxes and are a very diffuse light source anyway...

You could start a small war on here as to what would be your best bet as a lighting kit to cover a broad number of bases.

I have the soxtbox I linked you to, a larger more powerful CFL softbox, 4 Lowel Totas, 2 Lowel Prolights with barndoors and snoots, 1 lowel Omni with a snoot, a couple off brand 500 watt tungsten fixtures (made for photography) and 2 8" 2000 watt fresnels with barndoors, which can also use a 1000 watt bulb. Add to that the usual filters and filter holders, gobos, flags, cookies, stands clamps, dimmers, etc and at the moment that more or less comprises my location kit. I have a few battery powered prolights/NG lights for oncamera run and gun as well.
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