Umbrella or Beauty Dish: Which is Best for Your Portraits?

With so many lighting modifiers, understanding how each one works and in what situation you ought to use them can be a little daunting. In this video, Karl Taylor discusses two of the most common and demonstrates their differences.

When I got my first external light for my very first camera, I swiftly learned that the bare flashgun was not going to create the sort of images I was looking for. The sum of all my accidentally acquired knowledge over the years told me that I ought to be using one of those umbrellas, so I bought several and the results were... better. They still weren't good, but they were moving in the right direction.

Fast forward some months and I got my first set of cheap studio lights. This is where I added softboxes to my repertoire as well as a small silver beauty dish and I started to get a feel for what can be achieved with modifiers. Over the years, my uses of different modifiers has evolved and grown, but the staples are still there. Instead of a normal umbrella I use a very large parabolic umbrella with or without a diffuser on the front. As for beauty dishes, I still bring them out on occasion, but for very specific looks.

Which lighting modifier do you gravitate towards and why?

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6 Comments

For me, umbrellas beat beauty dishes but softboxes beat both.

Walter Kovacs's picture

Is this where he agressively says "if you don't know about lighting ratios, you are hopeless, and must buy my course"?

Enrique Olivieri's picture

I used to use umbrellas, then I moved onto softboxes, which work wonderfully. It's funny this article comes out this week because last week I picked up a 34 inch beauty dish and I'm yet to try it.

Considering the photos in your profile (very nice by the way), I think you'll make good use of a beauty dish.

Enrique Olivieri's picture

Thank you for the compliment on my work!

Martin Peterdamm's picture

I personally love umbrellas for on Locations work, because you are fast and can move around with no hassle.

Umbrellas are always problematic if you have tight spaces, low ceilings and bright walls - the tighter the space the more impossible it is to direct light. On tight spaces you want to use honeycombs to direct the light.