Finding the best quality of light is most of our job as photographers, and a great place to start looking is window light, especially north-facing window light. This type of light creates a soft transition from light to shadow, and can be very flattering on our subjects. Sometimes, however, we need to get consistent results all day, as in the case of this menu shoot, and using a window will cause too much variation in the light.
For this shoot, we needed a consistent color, direction, and softness to the light all day, as we would be photographing the entire menu for Mi Casa, Itaewon. Weather in Seoul is extremely prone to change, and the dense buildings reflect and block light in different ways all day. The shoot would also last from early morning to sunset, meaning that the light temperature would also be changing. It would be difficult for us to use their beautiful, big windows to get consistent light. So, I knew that I would need a neutral-colored, soft, directional light that would wash over our whole scene. I could be working anywhere on our 2x1 m surface and using a small portion or the whole board at any given time.
Knowing this, the source would need to be very large. The largest source I own is a Photek Softlighter 60, and this simply wouldn't be big enough. I looked around the rental houses here in Seoul, and nobody had anything bigger to work with, so I would need to build something myself. I decided on building a wall of light for us to work with.
Transportation and the spiral staircase up to the restaurant would not allow for something rigid or more permanent, so I decided to use the largest sheets of white paper I could find. I chose a section of the restaurant where I would be able to hang the sheets from the ceiling, and then began taping them together to create a three-meter long wall of light from ceiling to floor. This would become the effective light source for the day's shooting.
I would then put my Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 in the Softlighter behind the wall of paper. This would mean a lot of extra diffusion before the light even got to the paper wall and a more even spread of light than using the standard reflector bowl on the flash. The flash facing backwards in the Softlighter begins softening the light, and then the diffuser on the front softens it again. This spread the light fairly evenly across my final diffuser, the paper wall.
Of course, if your shooting area is not as large as mine was, there may be no need to create such a large wall of light, but double diffusing is a great way to soften the light regardless and can significantly increase the effective size of your light source using non-photographic materials that are usually a lot cheaper. This technique can also be used for portraits, or anything else you may need to light with very soft shadows.