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Lightbanks vs. Anything Else
Just as there are 108 flavors of ice cream, each with its following, there are more 108 different ways to illuminate your photographic subject - no right way or wrong ways - only your way.
But there are a couple of basic choices : Direct light - be it natural sunlight or artificial sources - tungsten, arc, fluorescent or flash - results in highly contrasted bright highlights and dark sharp shadows. While diffused light - either as a natural dawn or cloudy day or artificially diffused light created by reflecting a light source off of a large white surface or through a large translucent material - creates a more controlled highlight-to-shadow modulation which is the better choice to match the dynamic limits of film and digital technologies.
The usual choices by photographers of quick, reusable and transportable lighting and diffusion materials have in the been work with flash directed into white umbrellas or through large folding "flats". Both combinations do not easily create unobstructed highlights in critical highlight (think: wine bottles) nor keep bounced light from straying onto undesired areas and surfaces (think: green ceilings).
So, there are three reasons one might wish to consider a lightbank to diffuse the raw light from a flash. First, the clean unobstructed "reflexive" highlight reflected in the photographic subject. Second, the possibility of getting a broad diffused light source up close to your subject to create the lightbank's optimal broad modeling of light. Lastly, the improved control of the flash source because a lightbank's flat two dimensional diffuser and opaque reflective shell avoids light spill onto surrounding objects or flare back into the camera.
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