Umbrellas have been a staple light modifier for decades. But if you’ve ever wondered why there are so many types, or how the light quality from your strobe is affected by the size, lining, fabric or shape of the umbrella, then this post is for you.
Last year I was helping a photographer clear out their studio and rearrange some of their gear. The number of umbrellas he had collected over the years was staggering. With sizes ranging from 20 inches to 10 feet, different shapes (parabolic, regular or even those with soft box-like diffusers) and all sorts of different fabrics and linings, there’s a lot to think about when applying a given umbrella to a particular job.
I remember thinking it was strange that I hadn’t seen a single resource where someone had just grabbed a whole bunch of different umbrellas and put a bit of scientific analysis behind the affects of some of them. Lo and behold, Jay P Morgan of The Slanted Lens has done exactly that with his new video appropriately entitled ‘Umbrellas 101’.
In about 10 minutes, Jay shows you how different sizes, fabrics and shapes can affect the spread and quality of light. Although we hear the word umbrella mentioned approximately 638 times, the video is a brilliant resource for anyone who might be curious as to why we have so many different types of umbrella out there, and when you might want to grab one over another. He not only demonstrates metered light spread and fall off, but demonstrates how the size, fabric and use (shoot through versus bounce) affect the overall look of the light on a subject.
The umbrella is a comparatively cheap modifier and as you can see, produces a variety of different results.
Hopefully this has inspired you to get out there and experiment with them. What do you guys think of umbrellas? Any tips or tricks you’ve come across in your time that you feel worth mentioning? Please leave a comment below and share with the rest of us, I’d love to hear your thoughts.