Umbrella Lights: How to Operate

For photographers going pro, umbrella lights are pieces of equipment which are versatile and extremely helpful. This looks just like an umbrella, but with a reflective surface inside. The way it works is that you bounce light or strobe into it, and it reflects the light back in a more diffused manner. Umbrella lights are most useful in portraiture and studio shots. It gives you more control in terms of lighting, and it eliminates the problem of harsh lighting sources.

Types of Umbrella Lights

There are different types of umbrella lights that you can use for different lighting situations. Umbrella prices can range anywhere between $20 to up to $150, depending on the material and the brand. Some umbrellas have a white satin surface; this is best for very soft diffused light. Most have a silver surface, which reflects brighter light. This is the most common and most versatile type. If you have the need for a softer light, you can simply move the umbrella further away from the light source. You can also find umbrellas with a gold reflective surface. This is used for giving off warm light.

Setting up Your Umbrella

C-Stands or Century Stands often have an umbrella bracket. This is where you can insert the umbrella securely, and angle it accordingly. Then, with the ball head, attach your strobe or your light source. Direct it towards the umbrella so the light can bounce back. Fix the angle and distance of your umbrella depending on how diffused you need your lighting to be. The basic rule of thumb is, the closer the umbrella is from the source, the more concentrated the reflection is. Bridge the gap if you’re doing close-ups. If you want to light up a wider area, then distance your umbrella from the light source for a more spread out reflection.