Three Ways to Use a Reflective Umbrella

In this simple lighting tutorial, I discuss three different ways to create softly lit and dramatic images with a single reflective umbrella.

A couple of weeks ago, I released a fairly simple and straight forward tutorial on how to use one light overhead in your portrait photography using a parabolic umbrella. Many of you wondered what those images would look like if I used a reflective umbrella instead of the parabolic softbox, and in the video above, I'll show you those results.

Remember that every modifier will have a different way of modifying your light source. The modifier you select will directly influence the overall quantity, quality, direction and, color of your light. To make things easier to see, I've included three example images below using the same camera, lens, approximate position/angle of light, and the subject/light being placed approximately the same distance from the background. Each image was using a different modifier, but exposed for approximately the correct exposure. Subjects aside, you can see that the quality of light is quite different with each of those light sources.

Parabolic Softbox With Diffusion Versus 3x4-foot Softbox With Diffusion

Profoto D1 500w w/ 59-inch Parabolic Softbox with 1-Stop Inner Diffusion and 1-Stop Outer Diffusion.


Profoto D1 500w w/ Profoto 3x4-foot Softbox with 1-Stop Inner Diffusion and 1-Stop Outer Diffusion.

Parabolic Umbrella Versus 7-Foot Reflective Umbrella

Profoto D1 500w w/ 59-inch Parabolic Softbox with 1-Stop Inner Diffusion and 1-Stop Outer Diffusion.


Profoto D1 500w w/ 7-foot Westcott Umbrella (Silver) with 1-Stop Outer Diffusion.

I hope that you guys enjoy the video. Please let me know if you guys have any questions in the comments section below.

Jeff Rojas's picture

Jeff Rojas is an American photographer, author and educator based in New York City. His primary body of work includes portrait and fashion photography that has been published in both Elle and Esquire. Jeff also frequents as a photography instructor. His teaching experience includes platforms like CreativeLive, WPPI, the Photo Plus Expo, and APA.

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Nice video Jeff, great shots! It's pretty amazing what you can do with one light modifier

Thanks so much Brian. :)

amazing work jeff. Love the way you play and work around light with those modifiers. it's great to see how easy to pack it can be too.

Thank you so much Olivier! :)

Awesome!...Thanks for sharing Jeff...going to try these simple techniques on this week's shoots

Which do you prefer, the para or the softbox? From the examples, the softbox produces more even lighting, whereas the para creates a little hotter areas on the forehead and under the eyes? Great video as always!