3 Reasons Why You Should Own the Westcott 7-Foot Umbrella

3 Reasons Why You Should Own the Westcott 7-Foot Umbrella

I have always preferred simplicity when it comes to lighting portraits. When connecting with a model or subject, especially when working without assistants, I hate having to deal with several lights or various flags, cutters, and bounce cards. This way I can work the camera and move around without having to worry about tripping over my whole setup, and my subject feels more comfortable without obtrusive equipment crowding them. Also, if the model can move around a little, I feel that I can get far more natural poses when they aren't confined by specific lighting. My favorite lighting tool to "keep it simple" with is the Westcott 7-foot Parabolic Umbrella.

Size and Quality of Light

The 7 foot part of the title might be a shock initially as there aren't many modifiers with this sort of size. As far as I can tell though, it's likely to be 7 feet around the curve. This still makes it a massive source of light but not as absurd as you might have imagined. Size is the whole selling point of this modifier, however. With this sort of size and a hefty strobe like the Alien Bee 800 or Profoto B1, it can almost light an entire cyc wall on its own. If you need room to play around with a lot of motion, this is perfect. For close up portraits, the 7 foot will provide a softness like no other modifier because of its relative size. Big modifiers aren't just for soft light, they're also great for light large objects. If you shoot cars, products, furniture, or even interiors, the 7 foot provides wide, even coverage.

This light isn't very directional. The 7 foot isn't what I would call a deep modifier, meaning there is a lot of spill. If you need fine control of the light, either bring flags or buy a different modifier. Think of the 7 foot as a portable, fake window light.

Build Quality

The Westcott 7 foot is an umbrella, not a softbox. To me, this is a major bonus as not all manufacturers have great speedring systems, and I don't always have multiple speedrings in my studio to have two or three different modifiers set up. Using a standard umbrella shaft, it fits into everything from speedlight umbrella brackets to monolight umbrella holders. Having a modifier that can fit onto virtually any light is awesome, as I never have to worry about not being able to get my hands on something compatible. The umbrella itself is comprised of the usual nylon material found on Westcott's other umbrellas and lined with the usual white or silver. Also like the other Westcott umbrellas, the rods are fiber glass. Even though the 7 foot is a huge modifier, it hardly weights anything. If you boom your light often like I do, you'll love this. Fiberglass is also less likely to snap like the metal rods are, giving the product more longevity.


You might be thinking about how unattainable the 7-foot Parabolic should be considering that it's a 7-foot modifier. You may be surprised to find that it's only $100. It even comes with a shoulder bag for easy transportation. For an extra $30, you can (and absolutely should) get the diffusion cover that turns the umbrella into a massive softbox. The diffusion cover softens the light even further, creating an extremely unique look for next to nothing.

For the money, I don't think there's a better modifier out there. And while it certainly isn't for every shot, I use it almost anytime I'm in my studio. Have you used the Westcott 7-foot Parabolic Umbrella? If so what are your thoughts?

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

Spencer Lookabaugh is a lifestyle and portrait photographer located in Columbus, Ohio, as well as an employee of Midwest Photo Exchange. He is a firm believer in printing, shooting film and digital, and the power of photography. He also shoots landscape work in his spare time.

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Just curious, how do you use the 7 foot parabolic for car shoots? Mainly, how do you deal with the reflections? Do you just use it for detail shots?

Yeah, I'm guessing he doesn't shoot many or he'd already know that a round umbrella is one of the worst things you can use to shoot a car.

i dont shoot cars, but would it be good for an overhead light or rim light?

Umbrellas by their nature are just bad for cars. Would you use a bare umbrella to shoot a very shiny object, like a glass bottle, or a metal bowl? No, because their specular reflection is generally very bad -- you can see the changes in light from where the ribs are as well as well having a round reflection on a car doesn't highlight the lines of the car. Softboxes are the way to go, and strip boxes usually. While yes, it could work in some of the areas where there are no spectular reflections back to the camera, but in those areas a bare light works just fine as well. Using it with the cover that turns it into a generic softbox could work for overhead lights on something smaller, like a motorcycle.

Anything so refelctive as cars would be way better photographed with a big giant softbox or scrim. I did a car shoot with a octabox and it took a lot of time in post to make it usable.

I have one floating around the studio. Haven't used it for a client shoot, but love the test shots I took with it.

It is a great modifier and an absolute bargain of a deal. I do find that it is pretty heavy for relying on just an umbrella mount for support. I also wish that the umbrella rod had a removable end (similar to a Photek softlighter) to make it easier to bring in close without poking out an eyeball. It is not as nice or solid as say, a 7ft Elninchrom octa bank, but at roughly a 10th of the price, you can't beat it.

Aye the Octabank is pretty hard to beat for light quality, one of the reasons it's always proved popular with photographers even if they don't use Elinchrom lights. Leibovitz uses it for many of her shoots going by the BTS images released.

This umbrella could be a great scene filler with other lights handling accent and detail lighting. The great thing about the Westcott is that it comes with the a 7mm shaft which is ideal to work with Elnchrom heads.

I've used it a lot and I absolutely love it! :-)

So i must ask- with the entire article being about this umbrella... Where's the photo of it? This is the first time i've ever seen a product review where everything but a photo of the product itself was included. (Yes, i know there's a link, but it's still bizarre it was neglected)

It's one of those "look at me" articles on fstoppers...

the "look at me articles" arn't bad if they are actually doing cool things. but a 7 foot umbrella is not a cool thing.

It's a big umbrella. I'm not sure that a photo whould add anything to the article. In fact, I guarantee the comments section would probably be filled with "It's an umbrella. I know what one looks like."

A photo of the umbrella and a subject would definitely be helpful for scale.

I have a Balcar Jumbo 1.5 meters white. Very useful if you have room to use it.

OK...I'll buy a 7' umbrella.....but will that make all the girls I shoot with it have Duck Lips?!!

I am afraid so...

I would not say it is parabolic. It is just a Big Umbrella. Nothing really special and throws light everywhere if that is what you want or need. Parabolic is from Broncolor or Brieses, Much deeper and a heck of a lot more expensive, But the light is different than these giant umbrellas.They kind of ripped off the name Parabolic. Even the Westcott Zeppelin is much deeper like a real Parabolic.

Umbrella doesn't need to be deep to be a parabolic reflector. It is all about how does it focus the light.

Yes indeed if you go by the Marketing BS. But there is a BIG difference with a real parabolic umbrella like Broncolor and the Brieses. A 100.00 umbrella is NOT going to focus the light like a "real" Parabolic period.

Why is that so? Do they have a pattent on a paraboloid?

The Westcott is nowhere near a Parabolic, why they call it such is beyond me. Having used true parabolic modifiers, I can say the difference is huge. Sadly, so is the price.

Roman, Not sure what planet you live on. Something tells me you might work for Westcott. IF you do not understand what I am talking about, it is obvious you never have used a Parabolic type modifier and the benefits it has compared to just a Big umbrella.

Eric, why are you taking it so personal? The only obvious thing is that you have ego issues. I am sure you have used high end parabolic reflectors. Good for you. But it doesn't look like you know what "parabolic" means nor you can understand what I have written. Nowhere I stated that, this specific modifier is a parabolic reflector. I said only that the umbrella doesn't need to be "deep" to have parabolic properties. If this one is parabolic or not, I don't know because I have never used it. I wouldn't discard it just because of how deep it is or because of it's price. Compering two modifiers is totally different story.

Your arguing with yourself, I am not taking anything personal my friend. Just giving my opinion and anyone in here knows what I am talking about if they have used one.. And you say you have never used one? That is obvious because there is a pretty Big difference between the Umbrella in this post and a PARA type Umbrella. That is all I am saying. One day you'll get it.

I will repeat myself:
"Nowhere I stated that, this specific modifier is a parabolic reflector."
"Compering two modifiers is totally different story."

And btw, I didn't say that I haven't used one... :D

You just cannot understand what you are reading, can you?

You are not making rational arguments that is why I think you are taking it personally. If you had reply something about why the umbrella should be deep, than it would be correct response to my first comment...

Attached is parabola graph. As you can see, part of parabola is not deep, yet it is parabola. That is why this umbrella can be possibly a parabolic reflector. It may be not as efficient as deep umbrella, and will not give you light quality of broncolor para but I said it twice: I am not comparing it to anything.

I love my 7' umbrellas (I have the westcott silver and a couple of PCB shoot throughs).

I usually us an octo in the studio, but I seldom take one on location anymore. It's just so much lighter, smaller, and easier to use a large shoot through or difused umbrella.

I agree with other comments that the only draw back is that the rod won't let get as close as you could with an octo.

No mention or comparison of other brands here. Is the Wescott unique for some reason not stated in the article ?

"The 7 foot isn't what I would call a deep modifier, meaning there is a lot of spill."

The depth of a silver indirect reflector is mostly uncorrelated with its ability to send light at a narrow angle. Here's a shallow silver Cactus 105cm umbrella vs. a 20° grid, with a B2 head. It's the actual shape that matters (usually in the form of a paraboloid for long distances - and paraboloids can be shallow, as Roman Kazmierczak wrote) and the directionality of the silver material used (see for example the difference between Paul Buff's extreme vs. soft silver PLMs).

I would also like to add that I hope an umbrella / spill kill reflector was properly used (if required) to kill bare flash tube spill before making this comment.

Way to prove your point!