Umbrella Lighting

Umbrellas are one of the most prolific lighting modifiers, with many photographers owning, or using, them at least once in their career. However, many photographers often quickly upgrade to other modifiers such as softboxes, beauty dishes or even parabolic reflectors without fully realising exactly what they could achieve with umbrellas.

In this show, Karl addresses common questions such as:

  • What are umbrella lights used for in photography?
  • What are the different types of photography umbrellas?
  • How to use a photography umbrella

Taking a closer look at umbrella lighting, Karl explores how these affordable modifiers work, what makes each of them different and how you can use them. This show provides comparisons between the different types of umbrellas as well as with other modifiers such as softboxes, beauty dishes and paras.

You’ll clearly see how effective these affordable modifiers can be as well as how they compare to other, more high-end, modifiers and Karl also shares his opinion on which modifier from the show offers the best value for money.

In this photography workshop we cover the following:

  • Umbrella lighting
  • How umbrellas work
  • Different types of photography umbrellas
  • The advantages of umbrella lighting
  • Lighting modifier comparisons:

- Shoot through umbrella vs reflective umbrella
- Reflective umbrella vs deep umbrella
- Umbrellas vs softboxes
- Umbrella vs beauty dish
- Umbrellas vs parabolic reflectors

To learn more about umbrella lighting for photography, take a look at our in-depth article on umbrella lighting modifiers.

If you have any questions about this live show, please post in the comment section below.

Umbrella lighting modifiers


  1. Hi Karl,
    Clear tutorial/ workshop. But now I’m a bit confused.
    I’m considering buying one of the Profoto Giant Reflector (second-hand), like the 180cm, 210cm (less panels), or 240cm. But these are hard to find and quite expensive.
    Instead I’m considering buying the Profoto Deep Silver XL 165cm. I have the Deep Silver L 130cm which I really like. But now after watching your video, I’m not sure whether it really makes sense to buy the 165cm, because you show some really nice results with the Broncolor Focus 110.
    The larger the modifier relatively to the subject, the softer the shadows. Instead of buying a larger modifier, I can also move the 130cm closer to my subject…
    In the end the choice depends on the use of the modifier, but I’m really wondering how much difference 35cm in diameter would make. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Bastiaan, yes in simple terms the larger the umbrella the softer the light but that would be if it was a white umbrella providing diffussed more even light. With the silver ones it also comes down to the shape of the umbrella and the angle the light is coming from because the light is not diffused it is more specular (reflections off of silver) coming from many places. In true parabolic reflectors such as the Para 133 or Para 222 those reflections are coming from the outer periphery of the reflector only which give a unique 3D look, other umbrellas such as the Focus 110 try to mimic this in some of it’s positions and it’s quite good but not as good, other umbrellas look good because they are big. Have a play with our ‘Comparison App’ tool in your customer home page and also watch some of our other lighting comparison videos.

  2. Hi Karl,
    I consider to use beauty dish with Siros 800 . When I looked at the Broncolor, I didnt find the 70 cm beauty dish , can i learn the brand of the beauty dish you mentioned in the video ?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Zee, I’m afraid I don’t know the brand but if you do a search for 70cm silver beauty dish I’m sure plenty will come up and then choose it in the bron fitting.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I understand these are live shows. But I am going through all the videos one after the other as a training course, I have completed the “Intro series”, “lighting theory and equipment” and now going through “Using lighting Modifiers”. These live videos are too long, It would be nice if these videos were trimmed down to shorter time periods and still provide all the necessary information.


    1. Hi, most of our members prefer to see the whole live show knowing that they see all problems solved every step of the way without anything edited out. Our live shows are unique to our platform and no one else in the industry delivers the results that we do live. It’s something we are very proud of so I’m afraid we will not be editing the replays shorter. You do have the option to play the video at a faster speed if you prefer.

  4. Hey Karl,

    I have just gotten a 150cm parabolic umbrella white reflector with a diffuser using a godox V1 to shoot into towards in the umbrella and bounce back out towards the subject. I was wondering how effective do you think it will be whilst doing a portrait photoshoot with a woman and a motorcycle and if you think I should have gone with silver instead. And if you think I’ll be able to get good effects with the white still.

    Thanks karl,

    All the best

    1. Hi Aaron, the parabolic part is irrelevant if it’s white on the inside as the white will diffuse and scatter the light not collimate it. The additional diffuser is also there to further diffuse the light so that what comes out of it is homogenous which is the same purpose as a softbox, so in physical terms what you will have is a round softbox which can be great for a lot of things but it is not the most effective type of lighting for all fashion work, especially if you are trying to reveal texture in clothing. The following classes will help you understand more:

  5. Hello, ive seen a lot of deep umbrellas with a removable diffuser. It sounds smart, like having a softbox and umbrella 2 in 1..not sure, Id like your opinion

    Thank you

    1. Hi it depends, if you can make use of the deep umbrella without the diffusor then it might be useful in that purpose but with the diffusor on (especially if it is double diffused) then it will result in light the same as a similar sized softbox.

  6. Hi Karl, I really enjoyed this umbrella lighting show, thank you for such a great presentation and comparisons! I’m very happy with my focus 110 using the Siros light bare bulb. I think you mentioned using a standard reflector for creating gradation on the background and I was wondering what size/type of reflectors you would recommend. I have 2 Siros 800 and am new to using studio lights. Thanks a million!


  7. GE,

    I wondering which kind reflector should I use with umbrellas? Specials it’s interesting with speed lights which can simulate diffrent spreading? if we use deep (parabolic) umbrellas then it¨s more important about reflektor or
    spreading from pure flash light?

    1. Hi, for deep parabolic it is better to use no reflector just the bare lamp head. For standard umbrellas then a standard/wide reflector on studio lights.

  8. Love these comparisons Karl – so well done! It would have been interesting to compare the white or silver reflective umbrella you used with a diffusion panel added in front. Umbrella manufacturers often offer these as an option. They are readily available and inexpensive. Have you tried these diffusion panels with umbrellas? If yes how do they compare to the lighting effect of the octabox?

    1. Hi Tom, that makes them very similar to softboxes of the same diameter depending on how good the diffusion material is and the bounce inside the brolly.

  9. Great information Karl,
    Showing even the small differences in the shadows that I usually don’t see is so important!
    Loved it and now it’s easier to tell the difference and make a decision on which modifier and type of look I’m gonna go for.
    Thanks a lot.

  10. Hello Karl,

    nice tutorial as always. I need to buy an deep umbrella ASAP but i have a problem because Bron 110 model is only available next month, and the other hand i can purchase Profoto 105 version in next 3 days. Do you think is there any difference between these two umbrellas as far as silver material goes, i understand that there is a small discrepancy in dimensions?

    Best regards

    1. Hi Igor, the Bron 110 model has been available for 2 years? The profoto one looks OK but I can’t tell you what the silver is like but I noticed they do an XL version that is actually 165cm across which looks good. Don’t forget independent brand options to from places like Essential Photo.

      1. Hehe Karl, no i ment it is available in stock in Croatia not until next month. Sold out at the moment 🙂

        Thanks for the answer 🙂

  11. Hi Karl

    Great show as always….. Do you recommend using the beauty dish bare bulb or with a small reflector?


    1. Hi Amit, you can only use the Beauty dish bare bulb as the beauty dish has it’s own small reflector as part of the dish.

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