How to Set Up Umbrella Lighting for Photography

Photography lighting is the most important part of photography. You may ask, “how important is it?” What do you see whenever you close your eyes? Nothing… Right? Without lighting, photography is also nothing. If you want to be a good photographer you have to learn about the lighting and be able to use it to enhance your photos.

We can use different types of photography lighting equipment but all of them are not budget-friendly. If you are a beginner you shouldn’t go for the pro equipment right away. So today we will be talking about a photography lighting setup that will fit into your pocket easily.

It is called umbrella lighting. If you are planning to start your career in photography then you have heard about this. It is considered one of the basic photography lighting tools everywhere. If you ever wondered, what is a photography umbrella? Or how to use a photography umbrella? If yes, then today is your lucky day because we will be talking about umbrella lighting for photography. We will be discussing, “how to set up umbrella lighting for photography?”

The appropriate answer of what is a photography umbrella will be a photography umbrella lighting is a compact and cost-effective way for a light source. But, since there are so many sizes and colors, it can be a little intimidating to choose one. It’s a modifier form of lighting. Umbrellas fall within the diffusion group. All diffuses create a bigger light source that spreads the light across a large area and makes the light weaker.

Umbrella lighting produces a more progressive transformation in light and dark. Sometimes you don’t want harsh light or shadow in your images as the strobe does.  Photography umbrellas are more effective in portrait photography and studio photography. In portrait photography, if you use a strobe or flash head directly, there will be strong light on the model’s skin. Harsh light is a ruined for close up shot photography.

On the other hand, in a photography umbrella lighting setup, the light spreads and helps to soften the light on the skin. It helps to spread even lights everywhere and covers a larger area than the flash head. The Difference between photography umbrella vs softbox? Where the light falls exactly softboxes can be a little easier to control. Yet umbrellas are typically easier to set up and more affordable.

Types of Photography umbrella lighting


There are different variations of diffusers. Photography umbrellas are no exception. These can be white or black or both with a white or silver lining. The white one can be used for the shoot through image capturing and the black one for reflective light for the photoshoot. A shot through umbrella lighting defuses the shade and spreads the light across a bigger area. By reducing the light intensity that requires power on your flash or strobe.

On the other hand, Reflective lighting can keep the power from the light a little better but doesn’t seem to distribute light all over like a shoot through does. In the third section, you can convert your umbrella to both whenever you want. So according to your requirements, you can use either shoot through image capturing or reflective one.

Umbrellas are also available in various sizes. Larger means stronger light, as with every diffuses. The way the parachute works affects both the causes, size, and form. And which one you’re going to want to buy.

How to use a photography Umbrella?

Umbrella lighting for photography is mostly used because of its easy to use and affordability. If you are a beginner in photography then you may face minor issues with your umbrella photography lighting setup. Let’s see how to use umbrella lights during studio photography so that you can easily do your photography lighting setup.

Mount the Umbrella

Mount-the-Umbrella for photography

Mounting the umbrella accurately is the first thing to set up the lighting effectively. Whether you want a soft light on a large area of your subject or you want to light up a small area, it all depends on mounting.

You can mount umbrellas in two ways. One is with the strobe or flash head and the second one is using the camera flash. In both situations, you have to have a holder for the umbrella. Studio strobes have a small hole and a knob into it to handle the umbrella. All you need to do just insert the umbrella into the hole and tighten it with the knob.

On the other hand, if you use a camera flash you need to buy a flash bracket that has an umbrella holder to hold the umbrella. Just like a strobe, the handle of the umbrella will slide into a small hole on the bracket. It’s got a knob on the side to close it up.

Be careful how close the light is to your parachute. When you place the strobe or flash near the shading, the light is too close to filling the whole shading.

Place the Umbrella to Light

Place-the-Umbrella-to-Light for better photography

To get the perfect balance of light and shadow, placing the umbrella can be effective here. If you are a beginner in photography you may end up placing the umbrella in the wrong way. Such as if you point the light away from your subject you won’t get the creative look you are looking for. Depending on the placing of the umbrella lighting for photography creative patterns vary.


In a shoot-through umbrella, if you point the light towards the subject it will get strong and harsh light over it because light goes straight through the umbrella. On the other hand, with a reflective umbrella light bounces from the umbrella and falls over the subject. This creates a smooth depth of light and shadow.


There are two ways you can place your umbrellas during photography lighting. If you use a shoot-through umbrella then place the umbrella towards the strobe and point the strobe towards the subject. For reflective umbrellas, just point the umbrella towards the subject and strobe towards the umbrella.

Light the Rest of the Image

Before talking about the light ensure the mounting of the umbrella is right or not. Determine which type of photography lighting you need on that day. The use of an umbrella is identical to the use of any other lamp. Adjusting the light angle to the subject creates different artistic lighting patterns. These are split colors, Rembrandt, loop, and butterfly.

Bring the light closer to the subject to get a softer effect and move further to get hard light. Should not forget that the light height can be changed also. Go up to more dimensions, lower to still more light.

Use Multi-Light Setups

Use-Multi-Light-Setups for professional photography

One lighting setup is good for small area photography or portrait photography but if you do group photography or if your photo studio is large then you need multiple photography lighting setups. So in a multi lighting setup, you can use the umbrella in your main light as a modifier or use umbrellas for the fill light.

Which Photography Umbrella To Choose?

The reason behind so much usage of photography, umbrella lighting is the budget-friendly feature of it. It is the cheapest of many photography lighting kits. It is common to have it in the list of the first things to get for the start-up photography studios along with the camera flash and strobe. So as a beginner you need to know all the use of the umbrella.

Only then you will be able to choose which one is best for you. Usually, umbrellas are mainly two types but they have a third one which is basically the combination of the main two. The first one is a shoot-through umbrella which passes through all the light and covers a larger surface. It is useful when you are shooting with a group of people and use umbrella lights during studio photography.

The second one is a black umbrella which is also called a reflective umbrella. In this umbrella, the outer part is black and the inner part is white or silver. It reverses all the light you shoot at it and gets more powerful but the light doesn’t cover large areas.

Photography Umbrella vs Softbox


Softbox and umbrella both do the same thing in photography that is providing the light and shadow when needed.  Then what is the difference between them?


Comparing both the photography lighting kits, we can say both of them are portable enough but the larger softboxes are not so portable. Both are easy to carry, but softboxes are made of more material as both work as a diffuser of the light. Small flat-folding softboxes are easy to bring in and do not take up additional space.

Easy to setup

Softbox and umbrella both are very easy to set up whereas a softbox folds open and close. Photography umbrellas are more easy and quick to setup.


Small softboxes are more lightweight than the larger ones. On the other hand, umbrellas are very lightweight and easy to carry wherever you want.

Ease of use

In the softbox, all you need to point and shoot. Umbrellas are the same but it has less accuracy. The setup time for a softbox is longer, but it will last longer also. In the softbox, the white material stays smooth.


Softboxes are more expensive compared to photography umbrellas but it will provide a more professional way of working with the photography lighting setups. Small softboxes are almost the same price as umbrellas but bigger ones are sometimes three times more than umbrellas.

There is no comparison between Photography Umbrella vs Softbox because what you choose totally depends on you.

Final Thoughts

Despite a few drawbacks, umbrellas are very good at what they do. If you have basic photography lighting knowledge then you can choose the right umbrella lighting and set it up effectively.

If you didn’t know how to set up umbrella lighting for photography then after reading this article I hope you know something.

Emma Rivett

Emma Rivett


“Emma Rivett is a brand photographer and copywriter who has a strong tendency to prepare, change and teach. Her photographic works were published in Uppercase, Travel + Leisure, Gayot Guide, Paula Deen Cooking, Design Guide, the NHOME Magazine, Urban Home, etc. Helping creative businesspeople create an online brand and PS”


March 30, 2020 1:08 am

Thanks, this site is extremely beneficial.

April 27, 2020 3:05 pm

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May 1, 2020 9:19 am

Thanks for the feedback

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