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Flash Modifier/Diffuser and/or Bracket for Wedding?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Replytoken, Aug 10, 2014.

  1. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Against my better wishes, I have been "voluntold" that I will be taking wedding photos at an upcoming family wedding. I am fully aware of all of the expectation pitfalls, as I have cautioned many a fellow forum member about them in prior posts. So, I want to concentrate this post on the one area that has always given me fits in the past at event photography - lighting. I will be using an E-M1 and and E-M5 (with grip) and have a large amount of high quality glass at my disposal, including the 12-40, 25/1.4, 45/1.8, 60/2.8 and 75/1.8. My flash is the FL-600R, and my present light modifier is a Rogue Flashbender. When shooting with my Nikon gear, I typically use the Rogue or a Sto-Fen diffuser, but have never been able to get them to work in a predictable manner. The events that I shoot often do not have low, white ceilings so bouncing is not usually an option.

    The wedding is out of town, and I will be arriving the day before. It is an outdoor wedding being held at a house, and the ceremony will be held at 6:30. We will be taking formals before the ceremony, and I will also be shooting the ceremony and reception. I understand that there will be two large tents, and that I should not expect much lighting in them. So, like Charlie Brown and the football, I am going to take another run at modifying my flash light so I get some pleasing photos. I know there are literally hundreds of options, beyond what I have tried, so I am setting the following parameters. Any purchase needs to be reasonably packable as I am flying, so that rules out any Gary Fong "tupperware". I am open to using a bracket, but as I would like to take advantage of the E-M5 grip, it would be best if it was not a left side bracket, as nobody want their flash firing up from underneath their lens. And, the bracket also needs to be reasonable in size (think Custom Brackets products).

    Lastly, as the lighting conditions are going to be changing, and I do not want to keep getting distracted with the flash set-up, I needs something that is flexible, reliable, and not going to get knocked around as I move through the crowd. In short, no large "tupperware". I am still sorting through the diffusers vs. modifiers issues, especially as I am strongly considering products from Lumiquest and Demb. I do not care for items that heavily reduce flash output by two to three stops, as they greatly reduce your working distance, and I do not believe the bride and groom want me that close all night long.

    So, I know that I am opening a can of worms with this post, but I hope there will be a few nuggets of wisdom and recommendations. I fly out in just over two weeks, but want to test the gear before heading out, and I may need to budget a few days for shipping if I buy from B&H. I would be very happy if I could keep any costs below $200 for both the modifier/diffuser and bracket. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    --Ken
     
  2. metalmania

    metalmania Mu-43 Veteran

    244
    Jul 19, 2012
    NYC
    Could you tell me why the Rogue flashbender is unpredictable on your Nikon gear? Is it due to the TTL? I thought with flashbender you could "throw" more light ahead.
     
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I have the Classic Flip-It from Demb, but ended up not using it all that much when I was doing news work (I found it kind of clumsy). What I did find quite good was putting a strip of white plastic around the top half of my Stofen diffuser (on the inside), which directed more light forwards than uselessly into the ether. Also, the FL50Rs came with a small version of the Demb, which I used from time to time, but I still preferred the Stofen.
     
  4. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I actually like their line of products, and purchased one of their early small wide (as opposed to tall) products. Sometimes it worked great, and sometimes it seemed as though I lost most of my light. I am still considering using it, but as I have not used it yet with my FL-600R, I wanted to see if there was a more predictable option available for changing light.

    --Ken
     
  5. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I used to Sto-Fen before the Rogue, and sometimes used them together. As I said above, sometimes the shots were great, sometimes it seemed like I lost most of my light. IIIRC, Neil V. recommends cutting a hole in the middle of the Sto-Fen so you can get a bit more control over the direction of the light. I am sure that if I had the time and inclination, I could get a better handle on this. But, I just found out yesterday, and I have a lot of other pressing projects needing attention before I leave.

    --Ken
     
  6. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    956
    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Frank
    At nearly all of the events I play as a musician, I see an awful lot of pros using that Gary Fong thing that looks like a clear margarine tub with a frosted lid on top. These guys go from event to event taking photos of whoever the senior corporate individuals may be - lots of portraits and they work very fast. They're not the largest modifiers, and there's even a small version.

    Personally I own two Lumiquest units and one Stofen. One Lumiquest is the small flash-mounted soft box, the other is the small curved reflector soft box where you point the flash upwards. Both do work but they both subtract a lot of light.

    At my wedding our photographers worked with two Canon flashes shot into medium sized umbrellas. They just picked up and moved them to wherever they needed them or worked with available light.

    Who's doing the engagement photos? Perhaps you can "practice" on them for an engagement photo session?
     
  7. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Thanks for the reply. Gary Fong's products seem to always draw extreme love/hate from folks, especially if you factor in his prices, but the consensus seems to be that they throw a lot of light everywhere, and while they do not really do anything exceptionally well, they do seem to help in many situations.

    I was considering both of the Lumiquest units that you have, but after reading way to many forum posts elsewhere, I am not sure which would serve my needs better. It seems that unless you can use/create a larger light source, you will still have harsh light, just with softer edges.

    Regarding the engagement photos, I do not believe they had any taken. There is a get-together the night before the wedding, and I will probably be shooting then as well, but most of my experimenting is going to have to take place where I am at, sine I arrive the day before the wedding.

    I am most happy shooting without flash, or with controlled lighting where everything is set up in advance. I understand lighting well enough in theory, but putting it into practice in a highly changing environment is a whole different matter. And judging from all of the posts on all of the forums about lighting modifiers that I have read over the years, it seems like I am not the only one in search of the Holy Grail. I need to mull this over a bit more to see if this is going to be fruitful or a waste of limited time. I really want to learn to like lighting with flash, but it always seems so elusive.

    --Ken
     
  8. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I have something coming up that may be of interest, but not in the timeframe that you have available. You should try my suggestion with the Stofen. Cut a strip of white plastic or thick white paper and place it along the inside edge of the top half (top three sides) of the Stofen and give it a try. I found that this focussed more of the light forwards, yet still diffused the light quite nicely.
     
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  9. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    It sounds a bit similar to what I did when I combined the Rogue Flashbender with the Sto-Fen. The Rogue can get as low as the bottom of the Sto-Fen, so it can reflect from the back, and I usually curve the outsides in a bit to make it gather the side light a bit more.

    --Ken
     
  10. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I have spent a bit more time thinking about my options, and am now leaning towards trying out the LumiQuest Quik Bounce. It is certainly not perfect, but I am willing to have a small amount of softened shadows for only losing 1.3 stops of light (an issue that I previously found very annoying when images appeared darker than I expected). And, I like that it allows for very quick changes between portrait and landscape, as it mounts on the short end of the flash (sideways), the way that I currently use my Flashbender when I am shooting at events. The "doors" on the top are also useful when I am able to bounce light off of a ceiling. It seems like it is a bit of a compact, quick and dirty design, but that is OK as I think that anything too large may get in the way, as I suspect that it will be a crowded affair.

    --Ken
     
  11. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Mike
    I use the small Rogue on my DMW-FL360L (identical to the FL-600R) with great results. Try bending the diffuser different amounts and do a test shot for each adjustment of the diffuser. I find that a slight curve at the top of the diffuser works well.

    Mike
     
  12. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I have used the Rogue in this manner and sometimes got very good results. I suspect that I will continue to use it along with the Lumiquest if I dcide to buy it. There may be a trip to Kenmore today to look at modifiers and soft boxes. And I may consider the new Rogue soft box attachment as well.

    --Ken
     
  13. metalmania

    metalmania Mu-43 Veteran

    244
    Jul 19, 2012
    NYC
    Their ebay store had a promotion of large flashhbender with soft box attachment for $30 shipped. Couldn't be more happy.
     
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  14. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I was able to pick up a Quik Bounce locally (for less than B&H, which was a bit shocking). I sometimes think that the real value of these products is to get you to test them and to learn more about light as you research them. I like how the QB fits on the flash, as it is not too big and so far it seems well secure. Well, at least better secured than my Flashbender which was sized for a larger flash as it never smugs up without my using an additional piece of 2-sided Velcro. It seems to do mostly as I expected, and as I did not expect it to break the laws of physics, it is pointing out other things that need attention for better images. I suspect that I will also pick up the Flashbender diffuser sicne it is so cheap and packs away quite small as well. This will give me some options if I need them.

    One thing that did puzzle me during some test shots in our living room is what the light meter believes when shooting TTL. Some exposures were spot on, and better balanced than using the flash sensor in A mode, but other images were severely dark. The test shots of my wife were adequately lit, as were a number of test shots of a lamp with a shade near by. But, we have a small flat screen TV that sits on a cabinet, and when I aimed at the TV or items near it, the shots were quite dark. But, when I aimed one shot at the cabinet doors, it was substantially brighter. This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts, as I am now trying to understand the meter system's logic. This was one of the reasons that I always shot my Nikon's in center-weighted metering, as I had the hardest time trying to understand Matrix Metering. I thought that Olympus' version was a bit better behaved, but this is leaving me scratching my head. Thankfully, I have a bit of time to practice and find more reliable settings for a changing environment.

    I will probably use the QB, but I suspect that with enough time, I might be able to get similar resutls with little purchased light modification equipment. Eventually I will be able to size up a scene outside of a studio and be able to light it correctly. I just wish that day would come sooner rather than later.

    --Ken
     
  15. 350duser

    350duser Mu-43 Veteran

    313
    Sep 26, 2012
    Brisbane, QLD
    A plus for the Rogue bender with the soft box attachment from me. Very useful and great light diffsion from such a compact package.

    I mounted my EM1 with FL600 and the Roguebender/softbox on a monopod. Worked very well although it looked like a ceremonial pole!
     
  16. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    956
    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Frank
    This sounds fairly similar to what Nikon's old D-TTL (the precursor to their CLS/iTTL system) would do with a highly reflective subject. LCD tvs have strange anti-reflective coatings that cause all sorts of specular highlights to reflect from a bright light source. I learned with that system that I had to use the flash as fill and rely on big glass and the occasional iso boost to get around the TTL flash tendency to act as the sole lighting source.

    I'm guessing that the Oly TTL is trying to preserve highlights.

    What if you work it the other way:
    Set the camera up for ambient exposure, then set your TTL flash to -1.5 or -2 and see how that works.

    If you can, get your wife to wear a white top or blouse. Put her in a room with lighting that's similar to what you'll see at the event. Try and get the ambient exposure to keep the shirt white first. Then add flash fill with -1.5 or -2 (subject to taste) to augment and add catchlights in the eyes.

    Then have her do the same with a dark suit or dark clothing. Use ambient to keep the clothing dark, and then add -1.5 or -2 fill and see how it does.

    Doing the above with a flash modifier should give you some fairly natural fill.
     
  17. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    941
    Oct 20, 2011
    I don't like the diffusion for such small light sources. All they are doing is losing a stop or so of light with no real benefit. Consider that the most of your shots are going to be at a relatively long distance with about an 8" light source assuming the LQ QB, and diffusion techniques are on camera and will be a couple yards from subject. Diffusion works better up close with very large light sources 20" and up, so it can have the chance to wrap around and soften the contrast as the light can hit from more angles. The QB likely came with a silver and gold insert, I highly suggest one those for B&W shots they add a nice specular light, adding some much needed contrast on white dresses.

    Another cheap, light, packable item to consider is a 10 pack of Chinese lanterns (http://www.amazon.com/16-White-Roun..._sim_hi_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=0KST9XVESN9HC0HB4RTC), and a cheap throw away fixture you can buy and dump at your location. should you need some cheap extra fill for your group shots. As one flash won't cut it at lower ISO's, short focal length's and large distances, these bad boys can add of a lot of diffused light CHEAP.
     
  18. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Thanks for the advice since my last post. There is a lot to chew on, and that is a good thing for me. My concern with the panel for the Flashbender is that I like to mount it with the flash head turned 90 degrees so I can quicky use it in portrait or landscape by just bending it. I am not sure it the panel will allow the flash to sit inside of the two panels sideways, but a quick phone call will hopefully answer that question.

    I am definitely going to play around with various metering arrangements, and may very well turn to manual control of the camera and/or flash. I will most likely run more test shots this and next week.

    I agree that working with a small flash is not ideal for light modification, but I am not sure what I will or will not be able to supplement my light sources, and there is the sticky issue of the wedding couple not wanting to "burden" me with more than just a few casual shots, so I cannot make their wedding into my location studio. People assume that there is little involved in making a good photograph, and this is not a conversation that can be had, as we are talking family and the bride and groom have a million other issues they are tracking. Yes, this handicaps my ability to deliver great images, but that is the environment in which I will need to work. I am sure that I can hit the minimum acceptable bar with enough images, but the perfectionist in me is often hard to keep in check.

    --Ken
     
  19. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Well, I shot the wedding with my FL-600 and used both the Lumiquest Quik Bounce and Mini Softbox. Both worked well for me with the flash set to Automatic, and the camera set to manual. I dialed in flash adjustments up or down as needed, and was reasonably happy with the preliminary results (I have not had yet been able to view and PP the raw files). The big surprise for me was the Mini Softbox. I did not have high expectations for it, but it surprised me. It was easier to use than the Quick Bounce (when vertical shots were not needed), was quite small, and did not block the flash sensor. Both slip into a flat case that easily slips into the back pocket of my Domke F-6, so they took up almost no room, and they shared the same Velcro attachment that easily grips onto the camera. I am sure that I could have had more consistent, and possibly better, results with more gear, but that just was not possible (as my F-6) looked pregnant as it was with four bodies, five lenses, a flash, and lots of batteries. Given that it was a constantly changing environment, and my first (and hopefully last) wedding with the E-M1 and 12-40, I was reasonably happy with the initial results. I am looking forward to PP the files in Lightroom soon to see how the final product turns out.

    --Ken
     
  20. JoJo

    JoJo Mu-43 Regular

    176
    Mar 19, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    JoJo
    Unfortunately, I think I have tried every diffuser/bounce device you can name. My ridiculous retirement account is proof of my history of stupid decisions. However, I found one product that I still use and recommend. Google "Graslon" and check it out. If anyone at Graslon reads this, I really think you need a front panel/dome that can EASILY be removed!!!!!!!!!!!
     
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