What If It’s Too Windy To Put Lights Outside Like Scott Hargis Does in His Lynda.com Videos?

January 4th, 2017

Ron in Northern CA asks:

I’ve been watching Scott Hargis videos on shooting real estate and I am in the process of getting flashes to light my shots instead of continuing to use LR HDR. He often shows placing a flash outside with an umbrella to give good light. But he says nothing about what he does if it’s a windy day. We seem to have a lot of windy days where I live so I’m curious on solutions for this.

Yes, I recall the Lynda.com videos where Scott puts the umbrellas outside to create interior photos that look natural because the added light is coming through the window(s). I think you have a few basic choices if weather prevents you from putting umbrellas outside like Scott shows:

  1. Change your composition so you can put the lights inside and still get the natural look to the light. This may or may not be possible depending on the situation.
  2. Give up the idea of getting a natural look to the light. While the natural look is always the ideal solution if you can do it, you may be able to do it all the time.
  3. Get some REALLY heavy sand bags for your light stands!

I’m sure others will have suggestions for Ron.

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11 Responses to “What If It’s Too Windy To Put Lights Outside Like Scott Hargis Does in His Lynda.com Videos?”

  • Ron you can add a flash layer to your hdr images and get outstanding results. This also makes it unnecessary to put a flash outside shinning through the windows.

  • You’ve missed the point of Scott’s umbrella method, which is pretty much genius. It’s a reverse window pull. By using the strobes outside, it allows to use a faster shutter speed to minimize glow, and at the same time it looks like natural light, in a single exposure.

    Your choice is to actually use the natural light coming into the windows, and controlling the windows with flash from the inside. More steps, but it is possible.

  • If you have camranger you could setup the internal lights on stands and hold the umbrella light from outside. I do this quite frequently and review the image from my tablet. If you are getting into lights you will find camranger quite useful, although not essential.

  • Sorry to be the grinch here but this (putting the lights outside) is nice IF you have an outside. Here in Spain, mostly in the cities and suburbs, the 80% of the work comes from apartments. So, this interesting practice is more or less no too much useful. But it´s interesting.

  • Umbrellas are affected quiet easily by wind, I would try beauty dish and heavy sand bags.

  • Depending on the strobes you use, there are some companies that make a closed round soft box, like the Westcott Halo, which are less likely to be blown over by wind, than an Umbrella. And as recommended, use a sandbag and heavy stand. I use Lumedyne 200 WS flash units which are small, and powerful, and will sometimes shoot through a closed softbox. But shooting outside, I too will sometimes use a 20″ beauty dish because the wind is not our friend. If you can, try to have someone hold the light stand………..ask your agent or even the home owner, as they love to watch and see how you transform their home into a picturesque magazine add.

  • Umbrellas are a PITA outside. I rarely use them myself unless I’m out there holding onto the stand while shooting remotely. But like Larry said, you can also use some really heavy sandbags. Not practical for real estate of course, but maybe worth the extra baggage for higher paying gigs.

    Some other options:

    1. IF you can shoot through a window that won’t be in frame, you can butt your umbrella up against the window so the stand doesn’t blow over.

    2. If there’s a tree or a deck post or something, you can strap the stand to it. A gust of wind may very well invert your umbrella, but at least your lights won’t come crashing down.

    3. Get an assistant, of course! Seriously though, your client or the homeowner may be willing to guard your light stand while you shoot.

    4. Trade the umbrella for a softbox.

  • If the question is what to do if wind is blowing that will pick up a lighting umbrella like a sail it seems to me that the obvious answer is don’t. If you have to shoot using an umbrella outside, then come back on a day when there is no wind blowing unless you can afford to have broken equipment. Even weighing down the stand with weights only means the stand may remain in place but the umbrella and the flash and their fastenings can still be damaged.

    And it is always a good idea to put at least one sand bag on a stand anywhere since even someone opening a door if you use a stand inside can send a blast of sudden air that can knock over a lighting stand set up. And often other people can trip over a stand or hit their heads on the umbrella set up if you are not alone.

    But I agree, if you need soft light coming through the window or door which is why you are using an umbrella, a soft box will also provide that light and will be less affected by wind but nevertheless is not immune. There are some very cheap ones on Amazon and they don’t have to be as big as an umbrella. You can also fire a flash head through a diffusing screen that if well attached to a couple of stands, separate from the flash head, that are weighted down can withstand more wind if set up so the wind is blowing across it rather than into it. Or to reverse that set up, you can bounce a flash head off a 20×30″ foam core board that is also set up so wind blows across it rather than onto it. But all these solutions will probably require higher power flash power than bouncing a flash head into a silver umbrella since you loose a lot of light bouncing off in other directions.

    OR instead of trying to get a soft light quality of light, you can aim the flash head directly through the window which approximates sun light with hard shadow edges and if the Windows have mullions in them, those will show as shadows on the flooring and walls. (A flash head on a stand will not offer much wind resistance by itself.) With a slight warming filter over the flash head it becomes more believable. BUT any artificial light will cause a “V” shaped set of shadows since it is closer to the house than the sun. Most people will probably not focus on that. This solution can probably be achieved with your little hot shoe flash head.

    Hope this helps.

  • I think compositing is the best way to do this. Even if there is no wind it’s sorta unnerving to leave an umbrella unattended outside. Doing it using compositing you’d just walk outside with the umbrella and light handheld, trigger with a Camranger, and meld that frame in during post.

  • To me, it would depend on how fancy your setup is to begin with. If it’s a standard RE shoot and you’re not expecting any portfolio shots out of the property, I would concentrate on lighting the space a different, more practical way for the conditions. If you need to get the depth and quality of light that Scott gets in a single exposure, I agree with Larry that sandbags would probably be the best substitute.

    Other options include asking someone else to hold the strobe or have them steady the light stand, or if you have a wireless tethering system like the CamRanger, do so yourself. The reason I would recommend the CamRanger or a similar system for this would be that your last step would be to position the outside light, and if you don’t have someone else to hold it in place, you may need to adjust the position or settings, which you cannot do and preview the shot at the same time without a tethering system.

  • @Andrew Pece – I think with wireless tethering, assuming the rest of your lights are set up the way you want, you could do what you described and still not have to composite anything.

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