What’s the most versatile piece of equipment you own? Aside from something like clips, I’d venture that it could be the umbrellas you have sitting in the back of your closet. It’s pretty usual when we start to learn studio lighting and off camera flash that we start out using umbrellas as modifiers, for a number of reasons. Then you decide to get a bit fancy and they are relegated in favour of things like octoboxes, parabolic softboxes and the like.
But the humble umbrella really can create remarkable portraits. In this video from The Slanted Lens, Jay P. Morgan shows us how he uses giant seven foot umbrellas, and tells us why they are a great modifier.
Jay starts by explaining why he likes using umbrellas so much and why he thinks that they are the ultimate bounce modifier. “You put it on a stand, you can get it close,” he explains.
He says he much prefers to use a large umbrella as a fill or bounce rather than relying on a wall or ceiling because it gives him far more control. ” You can get further away, you can get it overhead. You can use it and direct it and it becomes a modifier that you have control over,” he says. The wall or ceiling is stationary, you can’t really move those where you want.
Jay says that he loves using a seven foot umbrella because it gives such a beautiful quality of light which wraps around the subject.
In the video Jay compares three different types of seven foot umbrella modifiers. The Westcott shoot through, a white/black version, and a silver/black umbrella modifier. He continues to compare each of them, looking at the quality of light and the differences between them.
Jay admits that his favourite is the shoot through umbrella. He goes on to show us just how versatile it can be in creating different looks. It’s a beautiful very soft light, and is capable of going from a fairly flat look, all the way through to dramatic Rembrandt lighting and even a hairlight-backlight with fill look.
Now there are certainly some drawbacks to using these ultra large umbrellas. They are prone to blowing away if shooting outside, and due to their design, they throw light over a much wider area than a soft box does. But overall the pros outweigh the cons.
Now did somebody say we were gonna need some more sandbags?