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, 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!


  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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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