For many, the 7’ parabolic umbrella seems like a one-trick pony. The textbook move of sandwiching the camera between the subject and the light for an edgy, high-key look is quickly growing old. In this video, commercial photographer Joel Grimes shows a different way of using the 7’ parabolic to create soft, high-key images best suited for beauty photography.
To get this effect, Joel starts by outfitting the 7’ para with a diffusion cover and positions it adjacent to the camera. He then gets it close as possible to the model just outside of the frame. The shear size of the para in relation the model helps in creating a super soft light that wraps around her face with smooth and subtle falloff points. The light falling off the white wall acts as the perfect fill and collectively this creates a very attractive and radiant glow to the overall image.
Obviously this video was created to promote the Westcott 7’ Parabolic and its diffusion cover, but the simple setup demonstrated by Grimes can be applied with or without the mentioned gear. To achieve the same or similar effect, keep in mind one important thing: the larger the light source is in relation to your subject the softer it will be. Knowing this, you don’t necessarily need a 7’ parabolic if you are shooting kids or smaller models. For the same or similar effect, a diffused 43” umbrella or octobox may just do the trick. Once the light source is considerably larger than your subject, you'll find yourself at a good starting point.
Another key takeaway would to use the environment to your advantage (the wall in this case). Great images can easily be created even with the limited gear that you may have.