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Shoot: Creating Soft Fill Light with a Big Umbrella

An umbrella is an easy and relatively affordable way to significantly increase the apparent size of your Speedlite—which means that the edges of the shadows will soften as the light reaches around your subject.

Windowlight May Be Soft, But It Is Still Directional

For this shoot, a series of large (4′ x 6′) windows on the left side of the lens provided a huge swath of ambient light. An overcast sky softened the ambient light even further. Still, as you can see in the inset photo (Figure 19.12), there is a directional quality to the light. That is to say that since the windowlight crosses the model from the side, the soft light still casts shadows that the lens can see. Notice how her cheeks, nose, and jaw are sculpted by the shadows.

Blending Fill Flash Into Windowlight With A Large, White Umbrella

While I think that the windowlight-only shot is beautiful, I prefer the shot with the fill light for two reasons: the softening effect on the skin and the increased illumination on the hair. The softening of the skin happened because the flash fills the shadows and reduces the surface detail.

A key factor in making this fill light blend with the ambient windowlight is that I bounced my Speedlite into a 60″ white umbrella that was positioned in as close as I could get it—literally just outside the frame on the right. The size of the umbrella and the softening effect of its white fabric created a large source of soft light that blends in naturally with the windowlight. Essentially, I mirrored the look of the windowlight with my fill flash.

Lighting Details

Environment: Indoors, adjacent to large window

Time of Day: Late morning

Ambient: Overcast daylight

Speedlite: One 600EX-RT

Mode: Manual

Zoom: Zoomed to 20mm

Modifier: 6″ white umbrella

Distance to Subject: Just out of frame

Height: Center at 6′ and angled down

Trigger: Extra-long E-TTL cord

Camera Details

Camera: 5D Mark III

Lens: 24-105mm f/4L IS at 80mm

Distance to Subject: 12′

Exposure Mode: Manual

Exposure: 1by30.jpg″, f/8, ISO 400

White Balance: Daylight

Figure 19.10

Figure 19.10 Lighting diagram

Figure 19.11

Figure 19.11 A single Speedlite firing into large white umbrella just to the right of the camera’s view blends naturally with the windowlight. Notice how the light fills the shadows and softens the appearance of the skin.

Figure 19.12

Figure 19.12 While beautiful, the shadows in this windowlight-only shot sculpt the facial structure and define the skin more sharply than the shot with fill flash.

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