Lighting modifiers: Umbrellas

Everything you need to know about umbrellas

Portrait taken using umbrella lighting


Umbrella Lighting

Recorded Live on 7th Nov 2019 - Now Available On Replay

Often one of the first modifiers many photographers work with, umbrellas form the focus for this live workshop, where Karl covers everything you need to know about these popular modifiers.

Affordable, portable & versatile lighting solutions

Understand different types of umbrellas

Advantages and disadvantages of umbrella lighting

Creative lighting techniques

Lighting modifier comparisons

Ask your questions

Available on replay

Everything you need to know about umbrella lighting

In any photography studio — amateur and professional alike — you’ll probably find at least one or two umbrellas. These lightweight and affordable modifiers can be used to achieve a number of different results, which is part of the reason they’re so widely used.
Umbrellas, a popular lighting modifiers
Umbrellas are popular lighting modifiers that come in three different variations — shoot-through, reflective or deep.

In our 'Umbrella Lighting' live show, I took a closer look at these popular modifiers, exploring the science behind them, demonstrating how they work and show you exactly how to use them. But for those of you who haven't yet watched the show, below is some of the key information you need to know about umbrellas (all of this is covered in much more detail in the show).

Umbrella lighting modifiers how they work illustration
Types of umbrella lighting.

What are umbrella lights used for in photography?

If you’ve ever bought a studio lighting kit, chances are a couple of umbrellas were thrown in too, which means you’ll have at least some knowledge of what they are and how to use them. If you’re totally new to studio lighting, umbrellas are lighting modifiers that are compatible with both studio lights or speedlites and can be used to achieve a few different looks.

Available as shoot-through, reflective or deep, umbrella modifiers are most commonly used for portrait or fashion photography due to the soft, diffused light the shoot-throughs produce and the more contrasty sparkle on reflective silver umbrellas (though I did use an umbrella to mimic natural sunlight in this food shot).

Umbrellas lighting food photoshoot in home
Umbrellas are a popular choice of modifiers for many photographers as they can be used in a number of creative ways.

Different types of photography umbrellas

As I’ve already touched on, there are a few different types of umbrellas. These include shoot-through, reflective and deep (sometimes referred to as parabolic) umbrellas, each of which are often available in different sizes.

Umbrellas illustrated diagram

Shoot-through umbrellas, as the name suggests, are made of white, translucent material which allows you to shoot the light directly through them. Reflective umbrellas have a black outer material and either a white, silver or gold interior lining. Deep umbrellas are similar to reflective umbrellas in that they have a black outer coating and a silver inner lining but are slightly deeper and more parabolic in shape.

In the show I show you how the different types of umbrellas work in the live show and explain the benefits of each, showing a clear comparison of their results.

shoot-through umbrella
silver reflective umbrella
silver reflective umbrella
Each of the images above were taken using a different umbrella, but can you tell which was which?

Do you know the difference between shoot-through, reflective and deep umbrellas? Each of the images above were taken using a different umbrella, but can you tell which was which?

How to use a photography umbrella

There are endless ways to use photography umbrellas — from creating high-key fashion style images to bright, punchy lighting for portraits. In this live show I not only show you how to use umbrellas, I also explain when to use umbrellas and outline some creative techniques for using them.

In many of our courses you’ll see me use modifiers such as softboxes, reflectors and grids and even more expensive light shapers such as ring flashes and paras. But what if I told you that instead of using a $3000 ring flash, you could use a $200 umbrella and get even better results? That’s exactly what I demonstrate in this show — explaining the advantages of umbrellas and how they can be used to get the best results (and what I proved in this past live show).

Remember, the information in this post only touches on a part of what there is to know about umbrella lighting. To learn more, sign up to Karl Taylor Education and get access to thousands of courses and live shows, where you’ll learn both the theory and practical of studio photography.

Studio portrait using umbrellas


Umbrella Lighting

Recorded Live: Now Available On Replay

Umbrellas are often one of the first modifiers many photographers work with. They’re affordable, portable, versatile and easy to use. In this live workshop Karl takes a closer look at when and how to use them.

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