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GE softlites...soft enough??

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charlesGE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 16, 2002 at 11:24:56 pm

I feel a little guilty about adding this post since this thread is titled "Pro Lighting" but here goes. I might be able to get away with incandescent lights if I get close enough to the talent. Initially I thought fluorescents were my only option due to the low heat output and my small air conditioner. Are the GE softlites diffuse enough for portrait lighting without any additional diffusion material?? I seem to remember some rule of thumb about testing for sufficient diffusion by putting an object a few inches from the talent and checking for the objects shadow. I'm using all digital cameras and camcorders so I can white balance and solve any color temperature problem right??


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Leo TicheliRe: GE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 19, 2002 at 3:04:48 pm

The softness of any light is a function of the size of the light relative to the subject. An unfrosted light bulb has a tiny hot filament so it is hard; that is, it produces strongly defined shadows. A frosted bulb, like the GE "softlights," has only a marginally larger size, so it's not really a soft source. Often such sources produce a soft effect because what's really lighting the subject is the very large wall the light is bouncing off.

You should learn to understand completely the "softlight rule:"

"The softness of the light is directly proportional to the relative size of the aperture of the light relative to the subject."

As an example, a 2'x2' soft source becomes softer as you move it toward the subject and harder as you move it away. Such a fixture is softer than a 4'x4' fixture that is twice as far away. It's the law of squares.

You can easily see this by lighting a subject with a single source in a totally darkened room and moving the light toward and away from the subject while you view the results on a monitor or with your camera.

I'm afraid you will see little change with a bare bulb of any kind because the aperture of the light is so small it's rather hard no matter how close it is; it's always much smaller than the subject's face. No fixture smaller than about a square foot is much of a "softlight."

I hope this helps.

Leo





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charlesRe: GE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 19, 2002 at 3:24:36 pm

O.K., I understood most of that. So what if I have five soft light bulbs close together?? Viewed as a single light source will this be more diffuse than one single bulb?? If I have say 20 75 watt tungsten bulbs (unfrosted) arranged in a half circle all pointing at the talent, would this be as diffuse as one large bulb 20 times the small bulbs size?? I'm not really trying to find a specific lighting hardware solution with these questions, just trying to get an understanding. Thanks...


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charlesRe: GE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 19, 2002 at 3:33:06 pm

What I meant to say...would 20 bulbs produce a light as diffuse as a single bulb shot through some diffusion material (say an umbrella) 20 times the size of the single light bulb.


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JR AllenRe: GE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 19, 2002 at 3:41:54 pm

No good - you get 20 shadows from 20 lights sources.

To get a single light source out of 5 (or 20) bulbs you can try this.

Buy 5 of those silver aluminum work light fixtures - put your GE Softlights in them and aim all five at a large white card. The large white card becomes your single light source which is now as large and hence as soft as you need it to be.

By the time you fanagle all this you can save yourself great grief by buying a 1000w fresnel off e-bay and bouncing that off a white card - easier to do, easier to work with and more versatile.


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Leo TicheliRe: GE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 19, 2002 at 3:45:32 pm

Hi Charles,
You're on the right track, however...

Unless the bulbs were so closely packed together that they were no longer a bunch of tiny sources, you might get a lot of hard shadows from the individual sources.

Here's the low cost, easy way to achieve a beautiful softly lit portrait:

1. Stretch a frosted shower curtain between two stands. Place it as close as possible to the subject at about a 45° angle. The side near the lens should be just out of frame.

2. Put a open-faced fixture behind the shower curtain, far enough away so you don't burn it and so that it covers the curtain but does not spill past it.

There you go. Guaranteed results with very low-cost equipment. A 1000 watt fixture should be sufficient for most situations. If you can add it to your budget, a 4' x 4' grid cloth is better and really not very expensive.

If you want the ultimate in softness, use a very large sheet of unbleached muslin; a bed sheet will work just fine. You will, of course, need a larger light to punch through.

Good shooting!
Leo



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charlesRe: GE softlites...soft enough??
by on Aug 20, 2002 at 1:41:20 am

O.K that sounds like a plan. Where do I find these 1000 watt fixtures (and bulbs please) you speak of?? Camera stores??
Are they better than the Halogen 1000 watt/stand worklights in terms of hot spots?? Other advantages??


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Leo Ticheliseek help...
by on Aug 20, 2002 at 2:17:42 am

Hi Charles,
OK, here's the deal; you need a lot more help than we can give you in a forum. I suggest you let us know where you are located and ask someone in your area to spend some time with; perhaps they will invite you to their studio to show you a few things.

I feel a bit like I'm selling a sports car to someone who doesn't know how to drive, but here's a link to a Mole Richardson Mickey for sale on eBay; it's a very versatile fixture that will work for your needs; well, at least it will do what I described in my previous post:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=900620374

I don't know anything about the seller, so you're on your own on that; I did note that, while they have a lot of positive feedback, they also have a high number of negatives. If you search around, you may be able to find a used Mickey Mole elsewhere.

Good luck,
Leo





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charlesRe: seek help...I did, they told me I was crazy...
by on Aug 20, 2002 at 5:30:41 pm

You guys are doing just fine and have been very helpful. I do also try to add to my knowledge by speaking to photographers and sales people in person when possible. Its much easier to come to the forum as I live in the sticks. This forum helps fill in some of the gaps. I'm located near Lansing Michigan. Thanks...


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Leo TicheliRe: seek help...I did, they told me I was crazy...
by on Aug 20, 2002 at 9:46:19 pm

There must be someone near Lansing who can help...

How about it, you guys and gals out in the pasture; who's going to pay their civic rent and spend some time with Charles? Perhaps you can take him along on a shoot and let him observe, maybe even pitch in...

Leo





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