So for Christmas, Santa left me a couple of nice continuous lights to replace the 1000W halogen Craftsman work lamps I'd been using. So in honor of the new lights, here's a quick comparison which shows off pretty clearly the benefits of soft light.
Here's the setup. There is an overhead light (A), a right hand halogen (B), left hand halogen (C), and camera position (D).
The first shot was taken with just the 60W overhead bulb. Although the shadows are hidden mostly by the bottles from this angle, they are fairly harsh.
This next shot was lit with a 500EX flash to the right of the camera. This clearly shows why flashes are not such a good idea for closeup portraits!
Now we turn a 600W halogen light, with no softening umbrella used, from position A. This has the harshest shadows of all. The small lightsource so close to the subject creates very dark shadows and very bright hot-spots (highlights) on the bottles.
Through the miracle of diffusing, we take the same lighting from the previous photo, but bounce the light off the inside of a reflective umbrella. Even with this basic setup, we see that the shadows are softened significantly.
Finally, taking two such umbrella lights, placing them as shown in the setup photo, we have this shot.
This is a simple example, and shows what softening the light and removing shadows is all about. These are far from professional results. Some backlighting would be helpful to remove the shadows entirely, and there's nothing particularly sexy about these results. They aren't going to convince any ad-readers to buy Grey Goose. But hopefully this experiment has been educational and clear.
Thanks Santa. Now it's time to get into making some art with these new lighting possibilities!