The umbrella is one of the most underrated modifiers in photography, I think. It’s one of the first that many of us usually encounter once we start working with speedlights or strobes, and Bowens even used to include umbrellas in their strobe kits.
But we often feel that we “outgrow” them, in favour of softboxes and beauty dishes. This video from photographer Miguel Quiles, however, demonstrates that we shouldn’t be so quick to discount umbrellas. He shows us five ways to use umbrellas to get some pretty amazing results.
Miguel talks about the properties of umbrellas used in different ways (such as bounce vs shoot-through) and the variety of uses they can offer. They are a very versatile modifier, and if you need to travel with kit, then they’re very lightweight, too.
The best thing about umbrellas for me, and what kept me using them on location for such a long time, is that they’re pretty cheap (I favour the silver/white convertible umbrellas). They’re certainly cheaper than softboxes. Sure, they can’t replicate the look of a softbox exactly, but they can still offer very attractive presentation of light on your subject, and if they get damaged on location, they’re easy to replace. And they can damage quite easily at certain types of location. I typically photograph people in rivers, woodland and other natural landscapes. At one point a few years ago, it almost felt like umbrellas were a consumable they were dying that often.
If you’ve not pulled out the umbrellas for a while, or if you’ve never tried umbrellas before, have a watch of the video and see if it sparks some inspiration.