An Ultimate Guide to Photography Umbrella

Photography Umbrella, the first lighting modifier that you purchased when you begin your career as a Photographer. Right?

Photography umbrellas are cheap, efficient, and portable that can control light conditions. Whether you want to soften or spread the light or put a hard shadow in the image, a photography umbrella will allow you to do so proficiently. 

However, sometimes photography umbrellas are misused. As a result, photographers can’t get the highest efficiency from their photography umbrella.

Keep in mind that this article will assist you in learning everything related to the photography umbrella so that you can get the highest benefit from it.

Remember, it will be a long fight. So fasten your seat belt, and let’s take on.

Photography Umbrella Details

Out of many lighting modifiers, photography umbrellas are one of the most inexpensive items. Even new photographers prefer to purchase photography umbrellas to modify their camera lighting conditions while capturing a snapshot.

However, photography umbrellas are user-friendly. But you will need to keep some factors in mind while purchasing a photography umbrella since a wide range of models, shape, design, and style is available in the market.

Moreover, you will find colored photography umbrellas such as white, black, silver, or a combination of white and silver or black-lined white/silver.

The first type is also known as a shot-through umbrella, while a reflective umbrella is another name for black-lined umbrellas. The lights get spread over a larger area by a shot-through umbrella. It also diffuses the light.

photography umbrellas

On the other side of the coin, a black-lined or reflective umbrella keeps the light power and doesn’t allow it to spread over a wider area.

As I stated earlier, umbrellas come in different sizes and shapes. A larger photography umbrella means the light will be softer. Therefore, while purchasing a photography umbrella, you will need to know about the size, type, and a few other factors.

What is a Photography Umbrella?

Photography Umbrella

Photography umbrellas are categorized as diffusion and perform to modify the lighting condition. A diffuser’s responsibility is to create and scatter a light source to larger areas and make a softer light.

If we compare a flash head and a photography umbrella, we will find that the dark and light transition will be more gradual with the photography umbrella.

With the help of an umbrella, you can capture an image that doesn’t have a clear flash look to them. Moreover, you can create a light craft that is too satisfying to different skin types in the portrait.

Since an umbrella can scatter a light source over a larger area, the light becomes softer. The characteristics of an umbrella and softboxes are quite similar, but they have differences too. However, both of them are used in portrait images and different studio photography quite often.  

Now one question might have popped up in your mind, is there any difference between an umbrella and softboxes?

What is a Photography Umbrella

You can control softboxes quite comfortably and focus the light exactly to your desired area. On the other hand, an umbrella is an inexpensive item, and setting up the process is straightforward.

If you look intently at a portrait that used a light diffuser, you will find that the picture received the shape of the light diffuser. While all photography umbrellas are circular, softboxes are available in different shapes and sizes.

Also, softboxes come with different variations, but photography umbrellas are all the same. 

Types of Photography Umbrella 

Photography umbrellas are two major in type, and the 3rd type is a combination of both. White umbrellas are known as shot-through umbrellas. Light can easily spread out over a larger area since the white fabric is used to manufacture white umbrellas.

White Photography Umbrellas

White umbrellas will be the best option if you require to capture an image with a larger area. However, in terms of controlling the light, black umbrellas are better compared to white umbrellas. Because they spread the light throughout a larger size, so light gets softer and less glower.

Black Photography Umbrellas

Black umbrellas are known as reflective umbrellas. However, the outer portion of a black umbrella is black-colored, but the inner part is white or silver-colored.

Reflective or black umbrellas leave the light behind instead of softening when the light passes through the umbrella.

These types of umbrellas are easy to control because they can’t spread the light over a wide area and hold the light’s power.

You will get softer light from a black umbrella with a white lining. A black umbrella with a silver lining will create less soft light. So, at this point, you will need to know your preference before purchasing.

You will find another type of umbrella in the market – convertible umbrella. It is a white umbrella with a black cover. When you remove the black cover from them, it will become a shot-through umbrella. And when you add the cover, it will become a reflective umbrella. It means, both reflective and shot-through umbrellas are available in the convertible umbrella. Suppose you can’t decide whether you should purchase a reflective or shot-through umbrella, choose a convertible umbrella without any confusion. These photography umbrellas come at an affordable price too.

Convertible umbrellas allow a photographer to capture images following a more advanced photography technique named flagging.

Photography Umbrella Size 

Photography Umbrella Size

Moreover, when purchasing a photography umbrella, size also matters. The light will be softer if your photography umbrella is larger. However, controlling a larger photography umbrella is challenging.

Have you ever controlled an umbrella in the rain with heavy wind? If the answer is YES, you have already experienced handling a photography umbrella outdoors.

When you carry a larger photography umbrella on a windy day, you will be required to sandbag the light stand. This will prevent the umbrella from tipping. Another option is to stick your camera bag on a light stand to reduce weight.

At this point, you can purchase a 45” convertible photography umbrella. The umbrella is large enough for a small group and soft enough to capture a portrait photo. But when you are going to capture onsite photography, this will not be a good option.

photography umbrella in a photography studio

Another thing is, if you have the plan to use the photography umbrella in a photography studio, you should pick a larger umbrella.

The cost of a photography umbrella depends on the brand, build quality, and features.

One point you need to keep in mind – the quality of the light in silver-lined photography umbrellas varies depending on the brand.

Procedure of Photography Umbrella Set up

Photography Umbrella Set up

1. Use Strobe of Flash to Mount the Umbrella

In addition to opening the umbrella from a closed storage location, what method do you follow to set up this type of light rectifier? You will find a small hole in most of the studio strobes that allows you to insert the umbrella’s handle into it, and a knob is also there to tighten the handle into its position without any problem.

Do you use an off-camera flash system? Then look for a flash bracket that has an umbrella holder too.

Like a strobe, the bracket also has a small hole where the umbrella handle can easily slide into. At the side, you will also find a knob to tighten to its place.

Also, put a close eye on the position of the light. For example, if the strobe or flush is placed too close to the photography umbrella, the entire umbrella will not be filled by the light efficiently.

If you want the softest light, mount the umbrella in such a way so that the last half of the umbrella can take place in the holder, not the first half. Additionally, if you prefer a small-sized umbrella along with a bit of severer light, place it closer to the surface of the umbrella.

2. Mount the Umbrella to Lighten Up the Subject

Do you know what is the main logic to use a photography umbrella while capturing an image?

It is – lightens up the subject.

Lighten Up the Subject for Photography

Accidentally, many photographers are out there who miss out on lighting up the subject in an image. Although the light angle may vary because a photographer can experiment with different lighting patterns, the subject should focus. To confirm that you are lighting up the subject, avoid placing the light backward.

In a shot-through umbrella, place the light in such a way so that the subject receives the full focus from the light source, the flash head, or strobe. For example, when using a reflective umbrella, the light hits the white or silver lining and bounces backward.

At this point, you will need to place the reflective umbrella pointing back at the subject. In addition to setting the lighting so that it performs in the right way, there are two alternatives when the task comes to how you place the umbrella.

Firstly, you will need to place the light following a method to hit the subject and the subject’s surroundings directly.

Secondly, pointing the light to the subject at an angle so that the edge of the light falls on the subject and lights up a little area. In this method, you place one edge of the umbrella towards the subject without placing the umbrella’s center towards the subject. This method is known as feathering.

When you are capturing an image of a group, you can follow this feathering method. Following this method, the light edge will fall on one person at the end, and the balance lights will spread out through the rest of the group.

3. Keep illuminating the Rest of the Image

First, you will need to make sure the umbrella is mounted following the right method and in the right direction. Also, determine whether to use feathering light or not.

use an umbrella and light sources to capturing a photo

No dissimilarity is there between using an umbrella and using other light sources while capturing a photo. If you want to create multiple lighting patterns, you need to adjust the light angle.

When you create a light, keep in mind that it will be softer if you bring it closer. Moving the light further away will create harder light.

It is worth remembering that adjusting the height of the light is also possible. So if you want more dimension, go high. And you will get even light if you change the light to a lower position.

Shoot – as per requirement, regulate the light. For example, you can try to bring a smaller number of feathers closer to the light or change its height or angle if it is incorrect.

4. Set up Multi-light Source

Set up Multi-light Source for Photography

Handling one light source is easy. But while capturing an image, you can use several light sources as per requirement.

A photography umbrella can be used as a key light and modifier both. Also, in the light setup, an umbrella can play both fill light or any light.

This way, the light will be scattered without the extra control of the softbox.

Photography Umbrellas vs. Softboxes

Photography Umbrellas vs. Softboxes

The functions of a photography umbrella and softbox are similar. Both provide light and dark light patterns as per the requirement of a photographer.

However, differences are there, which I am discussing in this section.


The photography umbrella and softbox both provide excellent service in terms of portability. However, a softbox comes with a less portable feature because of its weight. Softboxes are larger, and as a result, a person feels the challenge to carry them.

Besides, a photography umbrella is much easier to carry compared to a softbox. Moreover, they are lightweight and come with fewer accessories that make them a great portable camera accessory in the market.

Easy Setup Process

At this point, both softboxes and umbrellas are easy to set up. By simply opening and closing the fold, you can set up a softbox. Moreover, you will not face any hassle to set a photography umbrella too. It is not only easy to set up but also without losing much time. You can set up a photography umbrella.


However, softboxes are available in different sizes. Larger softboxes are heavy than small softboxes. So, if you purchase a larger softbox, undoubtedly, you will face problems carrying it from one place to another.

lightweight umbrellas

On the other side of the coin, photography umbrellas are lightweight, and you will not face any hassle in carrying them due to their light feature.

Easy to Use

Both softbox and photography umbrellas are easy to use. The only drawback of a photography umbrella is; its accuracy is less compared to the softbox. Although the setup time is higher in a softbox, you will get long-term service from softboxes. Moreover, because of its while material, it delivers a smooth result.


Photography umbrellas are inexpensive than softboxes. However, you will get a professional-like experience using a softbox. However, smaller-sized softboxes prices are similar to a photography umbrella, but the bigger one is more expensive than an umbrella.

Final Thought on Photography Umbrella

Both professional and beginner photographers can capture impressive images using different techniques of photography umbrellas. Since photography umbrellas are affordable, easy to carry and use, they will be a great option for professionals and beginners.

techniques of photography umbrellas

Following a few basic techniques, you will be able to snap an image that everyone will praise. But first of all, you will need to know the purpose of using an umbrella in photography and picking the right item from so many available options.

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