I am wondering what works better for lighting a model on high key photography on white background.

I have 2 Bulbs Top Lighting 120V 85W (5500K, 4250 Lumens). Then I have either 2 softboxes with those bulbs or the 2 bulbs with umbrellas.

What is better to light the subject? Both are continuous light options...


I would vote for the softbox in that instance.

The softbox is an enclosed reflector, so there is very little stray light spill, and we assume all of the light goes forward to the aim point (it can't go anywhere else).

But stop and just look at a CFL lamp in an umbrella first. Of course most of the CFL light will go out sideways from the bulb, totally missing the umbrella altogether, which is very extreme room stray light. Not a good thing, and the light loss is not a good thing either. Not so much of it actually goes into the umbrella, so much less of it is reflected back.

I am not knocking umbrellas at all, they're great, and I am a fan of reflected umbrellas. Shoot-though umbrellas do have great amounts of stray light spilled into the room (maybe 1/3 goes through, and 2/3 is reflected back). But shoot though is used very close to subject, so the subject path is maybe one foot, and any spill reflections from room walls are several or many feet, which is an extreme difference, so the spill, while present in large amount, is minimized.

Generally a reflected umbrella is used with some type of reflector on the light to contain the light to actually hit the umbrella (for example, a speedlight with its fresnel lens at 24 mm), greatly reducing the stray spill.

  • How do we know the OP is using spiral type CFL bulbs rather than, say, some kind of more focused spot type of bulb? – Michael C Jan 5 '17 at 23:18
  • No, I don't know. He said 85 watts, but we also don't know if actual or equivalent. Most CFL 85 watt actual are spirals (they have to be larger). A reflector type could be much more effective in an umbrella. – WayneF Jan 5 '17 at 23:29
  • Yeah, I kinda missed the part about the 85W being so big. But it does seem there are reflectors available big enough to go around them. – Michael C Jan 6 '17 at 0:11
  • Reflectors are not quite the same on CFL.They tend to extend out of the reflector, not a good effect. This is a comment, but see scantips.com/lights/flashbasics2a.html A "blue" picture about 1/3 down the page is a Fovitec 45 watt CFL in a 10 inch clamp on reflector. This one fraudulently only measures 26 watts (it does do 45 VA, I've seen this more than once). There is also a larger Alzo 45W bulb there, which honestly does measure 45 watts, and it sticks out to extend to within an inch of the protective wire above it. That's a lot of spill. – WayneF Jan 6 '17 at 1:30

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