How to Use Photo Umbrellas

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Studio Equipment, Studio Lighting

studio photo umbrella

Photo umbrellas are often used to control the lighting in photo shoots, especially harsh brightness and extreme contrasts that can leave unwanted shadows against a photography background. One benefit is they create a soft, diffused lighting effect –especially for portraits. Reflective umbrellas are useful here because they reduce the contrast between shadow and light. Of course, not all photography umbrellas are the same, so it’s important to know which umbrella to grab in a given situation. There are various types of photography umbrellas to choose from, but most are categorized as either reflective or “bounce” umbrellas or “shoot-through” umbrellas . Which one you grab will depend on the needs of the shoot.  
silver black umbrellagold-umbrella

Choosing The Right Umbrella

The main variant in reflective umbrellas is the finish. Usually, the reflective materials are white, silver, or gold. Silver provides a cool and high contrast light, while white umbrellas reflect a gentle balanced light. Both are frequently used in black and white photography, while gold umbrellas reflect warmer more rich light, which is better suited to full color photography.. In any case, umbrellas create a soft glow which is attractive against skin, and helps to make your subject stand out against your photo backdrop. Shoot-through and translucent umbrellas work like an oversized softbox, but diffuse light a little more. Because light passes through them, they do not diffuse light as much onto your target as a reflective umbrella, making them ideal for mid and low key photography. Whichever umbrella you choose, it should be securely fastened to a stable stand, such as a tripod or lightstand.

female on white photo background

Positioning Umbrellas

Umbrellas help you manipulate your light source. If you are working inside, chances are you’ll need separate lighting, but on outdoor shoots you can often get by with sunlight and your umbrellas. However, it’s good to grab a couple man-made sources as well, just in case you need them. Reflective umbrellas should be positioned away from the subject allowing for light to bounce off the umbrella and onto the subject. When using shoot-through umbrellas, the light is aimed at the subject. Keeping these umbrellas behind the subject will keep the light direct.
female portrait using shoot-through photo umbrella
Even with umbrellas, lighting is likely to remain somewhat tricky, and you’ll need to experiment with positioning in order to get your set up the way you want. Changing the height and angle or the umbrellas as well as the distance between them and the subject are all things that can get the effect you want. Generally, shoot-through umbrellas are for great for eliminating shadows and reflective umbrellas for brightening a subject. Keep trying, and you’ll achieve that great look.
-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Trackback from your site.