Umbrella Lighting 101 in Photography (Video)

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When most people hear the word umbrella, they think rain. When photographers hear the saying umbrella, they think 72-inch shoot-through parabolic bounce for key and a 45-inch white bounce for fill. Umbrellas can be very useful lighting tools in the studio, especially since they come in a wide variety of finishes, shapes, and sizes. Whether you’re familiar with umbrellas or not, Jay P. Morgan’s short tutorial will disclose how different umbrellas affect your lighting in terms of light coverage, falloff, and quality:


Some Noteworthy Results from Morgan’s Umbrella Tests:


  • The sized the umbrella doesn’t determine the quantity of coverage or the amount of light it makes.



  • The shoot-through umbrella and black-backed umbrella have virtually identical light quality and coverage.



  • The shoot-through umbrella usually takes on two roles: a tough bounce light, or a soft diffused light.



  • Smaller umbrellas alllow for harder light, while larger umbrellas produce softer light.



  • Umbrella shape does get a new area coverage. A parabolic umbrella can provide a more focused light that falls off faster compared to the flatter umbrellas.



  • Silver umbrellas make a highlight specularity not present to umbrellas.


umbrella lighting 101 diffused bounce light

Despite their differences, those two umbrellas have the same light coverage and falloff


“When I want the light on a background, I’ll utilize the white-black [umbrella]. It puts the light on the background and not really anything or anybody else.”

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