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Bounce off walls or shoot into umbrella

Let's say you have forty adults to photograph, big group shot, inside in the evening. Never been to the venue but from pix it looks like there are lots of nice white walls everywhere.
Do you use your two SB910s on light stands to bounce off the walls or do you use them to shoot into two translucent white umbrellas? I think they're 42-inches or smaller. Medium size.

It also looks like there is spotlights everywhere because it's an art gallery. Are they fluorescents? In that case should I gel green?


  • Do you mean shoot-through umbrellas?
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    For formal photos? Use the umbrellas for a predictable look. You know what you'll get. 
  • Yes, formal, as formal as you can get with partiers taking a break from partying to gather at one end of the room for a photo. Thank you Neil.

    Thank you Stevef. No, I meant shoot into, with the umbrella facing out. This brings me to new question -- which way has more light spread and overall better light, pointing umbrella roof at subjects or pointing umbrella underside at subjects with flash shooting into it and essentially bouncing the light back? Is one way better for large groups and one better for one or two people? I noticed in one Tangents post NVN has umbrella roof facing bride and groom posing after wedding in church. But wonder if umbrella facing out is better for larger groups, if you haven't got soft box and umbrella(s) are not enormous.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited October 2014
    A shoot through is like a big dome diffuser. It throws light all over which can bounce off other things. When we add a photo booth to a wedding I use a shoot through, centred above me and I place a white reflector on the floor to bounce light light up and eliminate shadows under the chin, etc. A single light source at this time of the day is a joy. A reflective umbrella is more directional. 

    Sorry. I had a more professional link but seams to be down now. You can actually see the difference in the light distribution between both types of umbrellas when the fellow takes the shots.    

    The reflective umbrella provides softer light provided it is close enough to the subject. The light at the outsides of the umbrella is being directed forward and helps eliminate shadows. 

    Since the shoot through is spraying light all over on the outsides this light does not help eliminate shadows unless there are objects to bounce off.              

  • This is basically what a reflective umbrella does. Directional. A shoot through, due it's curve and translucence will spray more light all over the place thus not contributing to help reduce shadows.         
  • Thanks Zenon. I was wondering how the light was different depending on whether I was shooting into or thru an umbrella. So, I think what you are saying is that using umbrella as a shoot-thru you are more likely to get shadows than when you shoot into it? Even though shooting into create more directional light? The guy in the YouTube vid seemed to be saying that too, I think. It was a little confusing though because he said the light with a shoot thru set-up was softer yet produced harsher shadows. So that seemed contradictory. 

  • For my shoot, I ended up using two medium size umbrellas with two SB910s and I shot into them rather than thru, bouncing the light back on the crowd of about 40 people. It was all very rushed. They were attending an event, where I was also a guest, and stopped socializing long enough to gather for one photo. I arranged them as best I could, positioned the umbrellas as best I could, and fired away. There was no chance of redoing the set-up so it was what it was. I fired off a lot of shots and bracketed after checking the camera's screen, keeping the aperture high.

    It worked out pretty well. I think they will be happy. They are not perfect, I wish they were, but they are acceptable. While I'd have preferred they were brighter, to have done so would've made the three ladies front and center too overexposed. They were almost overexposed as it is. So the light was not as even as it should have been but within range to adjust. Also, despite decent aperture, usually around f9-11, and decent shutter speed, between 100 and 200, not everyone is as sharp as I'd like. There are one or two shadows but subtle, not glaring. I think maybe if the umbrellas had been higher and larger maybe that would have been eliminated.  

    I wonder how shooting thru the umbrellas would have had different results. It felt like the light wouldn't have spread as much, I don't know. And one umbrella dead center? Probably not enough spread?
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited October 2014
    Yes the shoot through as a harder light source and will show more shadow so they are not as popular as reflective umbrellas and soft boxes in the studio. As for a larger crowds like a dance floor I have seen photographers place white shoot through umbrellas on the corners of floor. Others bounce a bare flash off the wall. The ones that place umbrellas on the corners get nice results.

    If you use a shoot through because you want to speed more light where is it spreading to? A lot goes off to the sides and is wasted unless there is something to bounce off and reflects back to the people. Reflective umbrellas are more directional therefore more efficient and provide better control. Again it is all about the size of the light source and the distance it is to your subject. There is no way around the laws of physics. We are all bound to it. If you could not overpower the ambient and it was incandescent then gelling would help.    

    Another consideration is cranking the ISO way up which would have helped.                  

    You had a tough shoot. You might may have jsut been limited by the amount of people and your equipment - the size of the umbrellas, the power of your flashes and distance to the people. Studio strobes have a lot more juice. I have never lit 40 people in an organized setting indoors before but I don't think I would have used a single shoot through in the centre unless it was as big as parachute lol. To me more would be better. Maybe 3 - one in the middle and two on the outsides.

    If the front row is being over exposed and the back is under exposed then it may have been a distance issue or fall off. Here is a pretty good video on the subject that may help you dissect this. One of my favourites.   
  • Thank you Zenon. It wasn't the front row exactly that was being overexposed, it was the small cluster of three or four people dead center in the first and second rows. Those in front on sides were fine. I do not think my umbrellas were made for shooting into, as I was using them and have often in the past. They are translucent (no black backing) and better suited to shooting thru. I should play around with the reflective kind with the black backing. I have found for on-site headshots the shooting-into approach has worked pretty well but I wonder if shooting thru would be better.
  • I don't know enough to answer that. Let us know what you find. I'm pretty sure I posted this here on anther thread. Was that one of yours?

  • There is some good information in that thread. I had not seen it before.
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