How to Create Eye-Catching Portraits With Just One Light and an Umbrella

There are a ton of different modifiers available for working with artificial lighting, and it can be a bit overwhelming (and expensive) to pick one when you are just starting out. Umbrellas are some of the cheapest modifiers out there, and as such, they are a fantastic tool for learning how to work with artificial light, and they can do a lot more than they often get credit for. This excellent video tutorial will show you how to create compelling portraits using just one light and an umbrella. 

Coming to you from Jay P. Morgan with The Slanted Lens, this great video tutorial will show you how to create interesting portraits using one light and an umbrella. Most photographers move on from umbrellas fairly quickly, but that is not because they can't create nice light. Rather, umbrellas tend to throw light eveywhere, making it tricky to control the spill or combine them with other sources precisely. However, if you can deal with the spill, they can be quite effective, particularly for the price (just don't take them outside on a windy day), making them an ideal tool for learning the properties of light. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Morgan. 

If you would like to continue to learn about lighting for portraiture, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I love umbrellas. Inexpensive. Light eight. Easy to store. A shoot true umbrella gives a beautiful soft light, like from a large window. The secret is to bring the light so close to the face that light just washes and brings out the color in the face :) And a umbrella with a black backside and diffuser don’t spill light. Only if you want something narrow, like a grid, you need to look for something else.

I started practicing portrait shoots with umbrellas because of the low costs and easy portability, still practice with them 2 yrs later.