Discouraged using one SB900 and umbrella

Joined
Jul 15, 2010
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I only have one SB900 now and honestly feel it’s too cool in color when i use it. i really want a warmer strobe color and am curious if this is possible with a speed light?

I tried using one of the CTO gels that came with the SB900 but it was just way too warm and then i tried dialing back the white balance to cool it off. Also it has also caused me to have to up the flash power significantly as well compared to no gel.

every now and then i go to a local flickr meet and they pretty much all have Alien be and some other powered strobes and they all have a much nicer warmer color not even gelled and just in soft boxes and octagons.

every time i try to practice lighting with my one SB900 and white shoot through umbrella i just get very discouraged and end up putting it away, the color and lighting is nothing like the Alien bees i used before even though i mimic the location of the light and the power as close as i can.


i always hear people saying how creative you can get with just one light and modifier but i guess I’m just doing it all wrong or i am just not creative enough of a person because nothing i try from, light location, distance to subject, angle, bare/umbrella seems to work and i am just not happy with the light overall from one SB900.


i try searching here and flickr for images of people using just one strobe and i do see some great results and even copying them and their settings they post i cant mimic the results so its very frustrating.


Btw i use the one SB900 using CLS and i have the pop up flash set to not contribute light only activate CLS.
 
Joined
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I agree that Nikon Speedlights tend to look a little cool. I shoot in Cloudy WB usually when using flash. Have you tried doing a custom WB? There should be little difference in the actual color temperature between AB lights (5600 degrees K) and the SB900.

Maybe an image or two would be helpful for diagnosis of the problem.
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
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I only have one SB900 now and honestly feel it’s too cool in color when i use it. i really want a warmer strobe color and am curious if this is possible with a speed light?


No flash has "one" color temperature. Any other idea is fantasy fairy tale. All flashes vary their color temperature as the power level is changed (ionized Xenon gas changes spectrum with current density). Speedlights become more blue at lower power, and studio lights like Alienbees become more red at lower power. You "could" increase your speedlight power level to be near full power at stopped down aperture, and achieve more red.

(FWIW, before someone objects about exceptions, these light types use different methods of controlling power, "thyristor" type - IGBT today, in speedlights, and voltage control in studio lights - which is why they differ. So a couple of lights, like the Einsteins, combine both methods, so that one shift counteracts the other in a measured way.) This still only achieves constant color - it does not necessary achieve the one color you prefer to be correct.

The system Speedlights, only when on the hot shoe, can communicate color corresponding to the power level actually used, to the camera (Nikon's Flash Color Temperature Communication - SB-900 page B3). And if and only if the camera is in Auto WB, then the JPG can use that communication to set WB to the reported value - of the HOT SHOE flash. This does not help off camera. And it still is never exactly precise. We always still have our preferences.


So, bottom line... flash color temperature is simply something we learn to deal with. Even if the flash might happen to be "correct", your tastes may prefer something slightly different. This is no different than outside in sunlight, there are also several colors of sunlight, cloudy, shade, etc.

The easy way is to include a white card (or even a gray card) in the first test scene, to be used for correction. Most photo editors have a white balance tool, where you click a spot that should be white (this card), and the computer makes it be white, which corrects the overall image. Using RAW images is the easy way, the tools are much superior.

See http://www.scantips.com/lights/setup/ (down near page bottom) for an example of this white card use.

See the multiple images near page bottom at http://www.scantips.com/lights/flashbasics3c.html
for a sample of speedlight results at differing power levels.


Your only actual problem is that you don't have the $5 tool to fix it. (even using a sheet of cheap white printer copy paper will be less precise, but much better than nothing).
 
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Joined
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thank you very much once again Wayne, always looking forward to your responses on these forums. i have your website saved as a favorite and think its a plethora of information so thank you for providing that for everyone.

along with your thoughts i have also purchased the lighting in layers dvd set so im excited and waiting patiently for it to get here as i have heard many good things abuot the way information is presented in those dvd's.
 
Joined
Mar 31, 2010
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North of Seattle, South of Canada
Gel your flash to correct for ambient light color balance or simply to add color to the otherwise bluish flash light since the bare SB-900 flash color temp is variable depending on duration but averages out to about 5600K. For the latter, a 1/4 CTO works well in many cases (outdoors for example where it warms the flash light just a bit so skin tones don't look cold).

nextelbuddy said:
I tried using one of the CTO gels that came with the SB900 but it was just way too warm and then i tried dialing back the white balance to cool it off.

The supplied gels that fit in the clear plastic holder are full and 1/4 cut CTO and designed to balance tungsten ambient. In fact, all it does is set the cameras WB to the appropriate tungsten WB for you automatically. I never use them. You will find individual gel strips of 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full cut CTO useful, along with others such as CTB and Plus Green.

Again, the point of all this is to make the flash light appear the same color temperature as the ambient light, thus not too warm as in your case, or too blue as would happen in a warmly lit room with no gel.
 
Joined
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You have the right idea, but you're using a sledgehammer to drive a finishing nail. A full CTO converts daylight (5500K) to tungsten (3200K). You're wanting to just warm up the strobe a little, so a quarter CTO is much closer to what you want. Even that may be over-correction. Back in the day, I would use a Kodak CC05 or 10R (red) cut up and permanently taped over the flash face. Since Kodak CC filter were optical quality (made to be used in the image path) they were pricey - maybe $3-5 1970's dollars for a 3" square.

Now we have correction sets specifically for small flash. You likely need the #08 Pale Gold to get the touch of warmth you desire. As Wayne says, the color of the strobe output varies with power level. But your goal isn't to get it perfect, it's to warm it up a little. You can buy a 20x24-inch SHEETfor $6 plus shipping, and have enough for decades of color correcting multiple flashes. If one layer isn't enough, throw on a second! The #08 is waaay lighter than a full CTO, so it'll also cost you a lot less power.

We can dink around with electronics all day, or improve the color of the light at the source, which makes it easy to achieve near-perfection in post.
 
Joined
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It's better to warm only that which is lit by the flash when possible. This is why gels are not only for balancing flash with ambient. You can use them to warm the flash alone and is where the 1/4 CTO gel (or even a 1/8 CTO) can be useful.
 
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When gelled with the provided gels and provided gel adapter, I seem to recall that the flash sends that info to the camera which automatically adjusts the WB for it? Something to bear in mind (if I'm right of course!)
 
Joined
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You're right, although it depends on the camera body. The D3 series and D700 must be set to either Auto or Flash WB for the system to work as designed when using the SB-900 gel holder and supplied gels. Other bodies require manual WB and exposure compensation values. And not all bodies work with every supplied gel. Some are not compatible with the system at all.

Refer to the SB-900 user manual, pg: D-36, here...

http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/Speedlights/SB-900_en.pdf

Personally, I find it more gimmicky than truly useful and prefer to use my own gels instead.
 

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