Rethinking the Umbrella

Umbrellas are a staple of small-flash photography. Back in March of 2006, when I wrote the original post on umbrellas for Lighting 101, my go-to choice on umbrellas was the classic, reflector variety. I have done a complete 180 in the last two years, and now use a shoot-through almost exclusively.

I was going to just update the original L101 post, but decided the reasons were worth revisiting the subject.

More on why I am now a shoot-through guy, after the jump.

Back when I first started using umbrellas, I used silver, reflective umbrellas on the logic that they were more efficient way to get the small amount of light coming from my flash back to my subject. And technically, I guess that is true in an apples-to-apples comparison.

But when it comes down to the way you are more likely to actually want to shoot, you can more -- and better -- light from a shoot-through umbrella than a reflective one. It all comes down to distance.

As you know, the intensity of a light source can vary greatly depending on its distance from the subject. Without trotting out the Inverse Square Rule (which I am loathe to even think about) suffice to say that the closer a light is, the more powerful it is.

This alone can be reason to use a shoot-through.

Why? Because you can position a shoot-through much closer than you can a reflective umbrella. If I am shooting in close, I can get a shoot-through in a couple of feet from someone's face and still keep it out of the frame.

This photo of UK Photographer Ant Upton from last year is a good example. The umbrella is about three feet away from him. This proximity gives me power to spare, which means I am able to shoot at a low power setting. Which also means not having to even think about recycle times.

If I was shooting with a reflective umbrella at a distance of three feet (that is to say the actually umbrella was three feet away) the shaft of the umbrella would be sticking well into my frame. But with a shoot through, I can bring it in much closer, which not only means that my light source gets more powerful but it gets much softer.

But I didn't want the light to be too soft on Ant's face. So I "choked up" on the shaft a little bit to make the light a little less soft. (The flash was not lighting the entire umbrella.)

But that proximity also gives me another advantage. When my light is this close I also have lots of control over the amount of light reaching my background, which in this case happens to be a grey room divider.

This means that it goes dark so I can now create a nice backdrop by shooting a blue gelled flash through a stack of drinking glasses to make a nice, subtle pattern.

In short, the shoot-through umbrella typically gives you more power, better light quality and better background spill control than a reflective umbrella.

Not that you should throw your reflective umbrellas away. They are very useful for shooting subjects where you have to back your light source up a little -- light small groups, etc. But find that nine times out of ten, when I set up an umbrella these days, my light is more likely to me going through it than bouncing off of it.


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Blogger Doug said...

Very nice shot. Can you elaborate on your technique for shooting through drinking glasses?


March 29, 2008 12:09 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

For these close portraits I can understand that you'd rather use a schoot-thru umbrella than a reflective one. But why not use a softbox instead? Or is the effect about the same?

March 29, 2008 12:36 PM  
Blogger Carlsen said...

I'm still very much a newbie here, so bare with me.
Heading off with some mates tomorrow to shoot them while they are out kite surfing - finishing off with some single shots and a group shot on the beach.
We'll be doing this around dusk, using the setting sun and a kite as a background. My first choice would be the silver umbrella, since I'll need some distance between the subject and umbrella - so I'll need all the power I can get, no?

Pardon the choppy grammar.

March 29, 2008 12:37 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

David, does this effect the way the umbrella is going to be mounted on the umbrella adapter??

I knew we had to mount the umbrella adapter on the light stand so that the shaft of the umbrella is pointing up. But now if we are using the umbrella as shoot through, does that mean we need to flip the umbrella around so it's going to be angled down?? since the subjects are always going to be lower than the light stand (well, if they are sitting...)

Thanks for sharing this great knowledge!

March 29, 2008 12:42 PM  
Blogger t0nyxgq said...

I've seen been shooting shoot-through for portraits, I feel that it's easier to control where the light is pointing at because it's essentially point the center of the umbrella to your subject. But for the reflective umbrella, I would have to adjust it a couple of times to get it right. Plus a closer light source definitely gives a more diffused look.

March 29, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Giles said...

@ Rob...

For what it's worth, I have never been a fan of silver umbrellas, instead choosing a shoot-through every time.

When working in the studio (with Bowens lights), I alternate between 1-metre and 5-metre softboxes, depending on subject.

Using shoot-through umbrellas with my SB-800s on location, I aim to replicate the studio-light effects (roughly speaking, and within power constraints) by moving the light source closer or further away from the subject.

Of course, it's all down to trial and error, and everyone has his/her own approach - you just have to find out which arrangement works best for you personally and your kit.

March 29, 2008 1:34 PM  
Blogger n506 said...

I wrote a short entry on my blog about filling/choking a brolly. More from the direction of answering the old forum question "how wide angle to fill my brolly?"

Of course, if choking the brolly is the object, then you can move the brolly progressively closer to the flashgun almost literally till the flashgun touches the brolly and you have a light source which is diffused a touch, but no bigger than the flash. Little point to that, but it's the limit of choking the umbrella.

The images on the entry might be of interest to people reading this to see what the umbrella being choked actually looks like.

Light-Studio: Filling the brolly

March 29, 2008 1:34 PM  
Blogger christopherbautista said...

I agree strongly, I have a number of umbrellas, but I almost ALWAYS use my shoot throughs.

March 29, 2008 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


No need to mount the umbrella differently, just angle the bracket downward and raise the stand accordingly.

The general theory here works as long as the subject is smaller than the umbrella (your basic headshot). When the subject is larger than the umbrella (group shots), not so much.


March 29, 2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger SeanMcC said...

David, it's funny because I was exactly the same, and made the same change. Thanks for the post, it makes for interesting affirmation.

March 29, 2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I started with the silver reflective based on Lighting 101; though I doubted for what I shoot it would be better than a shoot-through I appreciated that it would be more efficient so it sounded like a good idea.

I think it works fine and the advantages are there - but a few weeks ago I decided to try a shoot-through and I haven't used my silver one since. Honestly, excepting group shots, I can't think of a situation I would shoot where the silver would be better (issues regarding light power aside.)

So I'm glad you addressed this - I noticed that you were mentioning the use of shoot-throughs over reflective in recent posts and I wish that part of Lighting 101 was different. Not that an extra $20 is too much of a big deal to try both for yourself, but shoot-throughs are really discouraged in Lighting 101 - those that are really brand new to it like I was are not likely to try one until they already have a reflective one. So I really support an update of the 101 section.

On an unrelated note, you added one of my photos as a favorite on flickr and it drove over 200 views to it in the past two days - thanks for the exposure, and it's encouraging that you liked my photo (I must be doing something right?)

March 29, 2008 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Gabriel Cain said...

I've had the same feelings about shoot-through vs. shoot-and-reflect in umbrella usage. So much so, that I made a device to make my life easier doing "Guerrilla Portraiture". I've made a hand-held fixture attached to one of my flashes that holds a shoot-through umbrella:

my blog, hand-held flash w/ umbrella

Doing it this way has made it pretty easy for me to go to events and take good looking portraits without any setup. I can put the light wherever I want, and it's easy to carry around.

March 29, 2008 2:31 PM  
Blogger Isaac said...

I completely agree with you. The shoot-through does give much softer light. I cannot say that I actually own any umbrellas, but in my times at camera shops, trying things out, I've found that the shoot-through was a much more durable option.

March 29, 2008 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Thiago Silva said...

On the other hand, wouldn't the spill from the reflective be easier to control, if you want to "feather". I think the reflective gives a more defined edge to the area being lit than the shoot trough (bowl vs. dome), doesn't it?

March 29, 2008 3:30 PM  
Anonymous dan c said...

I'm glad to read this. After shooting a couple of portraits with reflective umbrella's and being very disappointed with the quality of light, I switched to using shoot throughs and have never looked back. If I want a harsh light, I shoot bare or with a snoot, but if soft, flattering light is the goal, then a shoot through just makes sense to me.

Just last week I had an arguement with somebody who swore up and down that silver reflective umbrellas were the way to go--and he used you as his main reference. Can't wait to forward this article to him!

March 29, 2008 3:51 PM  
OpenID stephenzeller said...

David, thanks for the great info. as always. When I use my Westscott silver reflective umbrella and I need to get in close, I simply use a boom arm. This works well for me for several setups, including the classic "clamshell". I love my reflective umbrella, but will be adding some shoot-through umbrellas soon.

Take care,


March 29, 2008 4:19 PM  
OpenID stephenzeller said...

David, thanks for the great info. as always. I have found that if I need to get my Westscott silver reflective umbrella in close, I simply put it and my flash on a boom arm. I really love my reflective umbrella, but plan on adding some shoot-through umbrellas to my gear bag soon.

Take care,


March 29, 2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the light of a shoot-through umbrella, but since I always position my light close to the subject, and often feather it away from the subject toward a reflector, I always have a big lens flare problem because the convex shape of the umbrella is kicking light out at 180 degrees. Short of shooting through a flat reflector disk (which means having to use another light stand), how do those of you shooting through an umbrella deal with the flare issue?

March 29, 2008 4:23 PM  
Blogger Rowlock said...


You will want to mount the umbrella in exactly the same way as you do when you use a reflective one.

The whole up/down thing has nothing to do with the relationship of your subject to the light. It just governs the angles between the umbrella and the flash, which are the same whatever type of umbrella you use.

You may have to adjust the swivel bracket to point the umbrella in the right direction, but don't mount it the other way or the flash will not point to the middle of the umbrella.

March 29, 2008 4:51 PM  
Blogger Andrew Smith said...

Another vote for shoot-through here. The first time I used a reflective umbrella for a location shoot (here) I found it very difficult to get the light coverage I wanted, height-wise. I spent more time positioning and re-positioning the umbrella than I spent doing anything else on that job. Next time I tried a shoot-through and I've never looked back.

March 29, 2008 5:17 PM  
Anonymous seri_art said...

I've only really tried a "strobist" shot once as yet, but I used a one-light shoot-through umbrella based on what I had read here and it worked perfectly (to my eyes). I need to take the time do do more!

March 29, 2008 5:53 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

I would also like to hear more detail about shooting through drinking glasses, etc. for use as a cookie.

March 29, 2008 6:39 PM  
Blogger Aflredo said...

shooting through is like "similar" to softbox but:

How to avoid the light that go back all around the room where you are shooting and return to the background even if you use the flash near in the shaft to the umbrella?
(please don't tell me that the solution is painting the walls with black)

March 29, 2008 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Gijs said...

Very interesting read, as I have been experimenting with reflective versus shoot-through umbrellas myself the past few weeks. I decided to get a set of both types, because shooting conditions can favour one or the other.

@Joe: yes, with the shoot-through umbrella you point the shaft down. This reduces the maximum height at which you can position your light compared to a reflective umbrella.

Another point I'd like to make is that with a light source positioned closer to the subject, the fall-off (the relative difference in illumination) from the face to the body is much stronger. This can clearly be seen in the example photo. This makes me choose a greater distance to the subject at times and then I often use a reflective umbrella to save power.

March 29, 2008 6:58 PM  
OpenID said...

That's exactly why softboxes are popular. Though umbrellas gives you more space for creativity with less bucks. In contrast, creativity with softboxes are greatly limited if your budget is limited. It's not easy nor cheap to do the same tricks with an AC studio strobe and a softbox.

Umbrellas FTW!

March 29, 2008 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Derek said...

Guess I should have read the entire site before buying my set-up instead of just the 101 sections and the specific umbrella post.

I guess I at least know what to buy for my next umbrella.

March 29, 2008 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great. Just flippin' great. I have read '101, and just took delivery of my reflective on Friday. Now shoot-through is in.
Just having fun with you. Looking forward to using both.

March 29, 2008 11:24 PM  
Blogger Austin said...

An English lesson:

You may loathe the inverse square law, but you are loath to think about it.

According to, loathe is a verb that means to feel disgust or intense aversion for. Loath is an adjective that means to be unwilling or reluctant.

They can be pronounced the same way, so I understand the confusion.



March 30, 2008 12:33 AM  
Blogger phil said...

I just followed 101 and bought a silver a few days ago... hehe. Ill have to go back and grab a shoot through as well now....

Perhaps Ill just play with the toys I have now, and then decide later... Would definitely recommend updating the 101 section.


March 30, 2008 2:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so the lesson here folks is that strobist is not always the end-all authority on flash-related equipment info. how many newbies went out and bought silver umbrellas when L101 was published? how many of those same people are going out to purchase white shoot-thrus now?

silly sheep :-)

March 30, 2008 5:35 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

There seems to be a rise in the use of portable softboxes, as they give a softer, better diffused light. Was wondering why these were not the "tool" of choice as opposed to the shoot-through?

March 30, 2008 6:12 AM  
Blogger chadw said...

And queue price jumps and unavailability of shoot-thru umbrellas while reflective umbrellas go on sale for lack of demand and rot in photographic warehouses everywhere...

March 30, 2008 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Matt Hagen said...

Watch out for light spill. If you're stuck in a small, light-colored room and still need a darker background, then mask the back of your shoot-through bumbershoot so the reflected light doesn't bounce all around, ruining all that beautiful darkness.

One strong point of the softbox or reflective umbrella is that they're more spill-proof, though the softbox is more trouble to put together in a hurry.

March 30, 2008 12:54 PM  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

I've tried both for on location portraiture, and I found the shoot through option gave much better results, but is less efficient in terms of light power. For really fast paced work, and for far better control of light, I use a small 12" x16" softbox that can be easily held in the left hand while shooting with the right.

Nick Davis, Cycle 61 Photography

March 30, 2008 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Brandon D. said...

Hmmm, there is something about the lighting produced by my reflective umbrella that I really do like. Plus, I plan on doing a lot of group shots in the future, so I'll probably have it with me just as much as my shoot through.

And for an "aspiring strobist (i.e., a newbie)," all you can really do is base your decisions on what others say and do, not based on any actual experience of your own. Because before you start out lighting, you have no lighting equipment of your own to test out. You usually have to make a "buying decision" before testing out the results of each piece of equipment for yourself, and then you cross your fingers.

The best you could probably do is check out a good, local photography supply store and ask them if you can "test out" their umbrellas. But that's only if you actually have a good photograpy supply store nearby which isn't always the case.

For me, I started out with a reflective umbrella at the advice of Lighting 101 and based on what others have proclaimed about its efficiency, too. After buying a Westcott shoot through, I learned how great shoot throughs perform at medium to close distances for portraits. I use my shoot through a lot more than I expected to in the beginning.

So, shoot throughs seem to have been "underrated" to an extent. Perhaps some comparison examples of the different types of lighting shoot through umbrellas produce in comparison to the types of lighting reflective umbrellas produce, added to Lighting 101, would lead people in the best direction.

March 30, 2008 4:20 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I saw a couple of posts relating to the issue of reflected back spill from shooting through an umbrella.

I assume the primary concern is due to shooting in close quarters. This should be relatively easy to correct with some dark cloth (muslin, duck cloth or canvas should work well enough and beats painting the walls black unless that is what you are into). I can think of numerous ways to support this but the easiest would be to pinch the cloth with a clip or grip above the umbrella (using a boom, pipe or other environmental support or another umbrella stand if you can get them close enough to each other). You could also use another umbrella mounted to the side if you do not mind some seepage. If you want to have a more professional looking setup, I am sure that some of you are creative enough to construct a frame but I would probably use the pinched cloth method myself.

I hope this is helpful.

P.s. I apologize if this gets posted twice. The preview mechanism coupled with the moderating of posts seems to make this process awkward.

March 30, 2008 7:05 PM  
Blogger Will Hore-Lacy said...

Been a lot of people say 'why not softboxes' and I think the main two reasons are size and cost. A lot of the stuff on this site is based around making you set-up cheap, easy and small/transportable (photojournalism/on-site focus). Softboxes are designed to give you better control of your light but with less focus on size and set-up time. That said I very nealy purchased one of these when I got my last umbrella:

March 30, 2008 8:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Seems to me that the only difference between a shoot throuigh umbrella and a softbox (size issues aside) is the spill.

I dropped a note to Moishe at MPEX wondering if anyone makes a shoot-through with a velcro'ed hole on the black backing. This would allow for the backing to be used on the reverse side of the brolly when shooting through it and control the spill reflecting back.

The hole would have to be big enough for the flash head and shaft to fit through. If I'm ambitious enough, I might ask the Mrs to have a go at either modifying the backing I already have, or, make me a new set.


March 30, 2008 8:00 PM  
Blogger Will Hore-Lacy said...

@ Scott
I just put a little "preview" on my blog about Umbrella Softboxes with some links and pictures. I haven't used them but it looks like an interesting product:

Will's Photo News

March 31, 2008 12:34 AM  
Anonymous James Rubio said...

I totally agree. I leave the black cover at home and use shoot-thru exclusively when I shoot weddings. In addition to the advantages you mentioned, a shoot-thru umbrella is a lot easier to carry around and accurately point to the subject, especially with weddings. Great post.

March 31, 2008 3:49 AM  
Blogger mtreinik said...

For me the biggest drawback of a shoot-through umbrella close to subject is that the lens can see the light source, which sometimes produces flare.

A softbox solves that problem, but they are more expensive and less portable than umbrellas.

March 31, 2008 4:08 AM  
Blogger bryannoll said...

@ Scott
I bought an umbrella a little while ago that came with a diffusing cover that goes over the open side of the umbrella. It's designed to make the umbrella into a big "soft box" without removing the black cover (which it also has). it wouldn't eliminate the spill, but would diffuse it well. BTW half of the shaft unscrews after you open it up to allow you to get it closer to the subject. "Check here"

March 31, 2008 5:29 AM  
Blogger phatphotographer said...

I've always enjoyed using a shoot through when photographing babies/infants. Besides the above stated benefits, it can act as a diffuser against the sun by placing aforementioned child in the shade of the umbrella. Works for head shots of people too... unless their head is unnaturally large...

March 31, 2008 11:38 AM  
Blogger Giles said...

@ mtreinik (and everyone)...

If the issue of light spill is there with you, don't forget that most simple of devices - the gobo! They apply not just to the light source, but to the camera/lens too.

It's worth reminding ourselves by checking out David's piece in Lighting 101, entitled "Cereal Box Snoots and GoBo's".

Remember - a gobo can technically be any size you like, and made of any material which will block the path of the light (eg cereal packets, a book that happens to be close by, 'black foil' which can be stored in your kit back and shaped as/when needed).

March 31, 2008 11:53 AM  
Blogger Brett said...

As an engineer for satellite antennas, I had to chime in because I live with the inverse square law and even wonder where the focal point of a flash umbrella might be. Anyway, I sketched up a diagram to help explain this. This should corroborate the claim of a larger apparent light source. As for light falloff, the light travels an extra 2-3 feet round trip from the flash to the reflector and back to the flash which, along with blockage from the flash itself, reduces light intensity on the subject.

As the distance to the subject increases, this extra light travel gets canceled by the light blocked/reflected of the white material and then a reflective umbrella becomes more efficient.

March 31, 2008 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoot-thru umbrellas have another advantage when using a light-wave based system (such as the Nikon CLS) to sync the remote flash.

Assuming the strobes are between the camera and the subject, bounce umbrellas block the light pathway. Shoot-thru umbrellas allow the controlling light from the camera to reach the remote flash.

March 31, 2008 10:55 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

What about ditching the brolly and soft box and using an omnibounce instead? Tried that yet? I'm prefering to use it more and more, rather than dig out a brolly and mess around.

April 01, 2008 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Hexfire Photography said...

I tend to shoot with a shoot through umbrella more and more myself. I find that it allows me to get a better level of quality light then a bounce does, and it lets me get up close with the light. Last thing I want to do is bounce a light fifty feet over a wall and back down a stairway.

April 01, 2008 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Serge said...

Lately, for portraits, I mainly use a small collapsible Lastolite softbox which gives me great results. My shoot-through umbrella is sometimes to bulky to set up and move in a small room.

April 03, 2008 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, and thanks for the wonderful site. I'm just starting off-camera lighting and finding your articles most useful indeed.
I just got a set of four umbrellas on eBay - 2 x 40" silver, and 2 x 30" shoot-through - for $26, including shipping. That can't be bad, and I'll have the best of both worlds.
Thanks again - john

April 05, 2008 1:52 PM  
Blogger whiterabbit said...

While I'm very grateful for all the inspiring articles here, some of the comments are a bit disconcerting. Sounds like many readers rushed out to buy a silver umbrella because the "gurus" told them to. Now they are running out to buy a shoot-through because the "gurus" have changed their minds. Instead of miming everything the gurus say, how about simply playing around with your gear and experimenting on your own? Then you can decide for yourself how different gear produces different results.

Just get a model and whatever gear you have an play around. Use natural light, use a flashlight, use a reflector, use an umbrella. Experiment with shutter speeds and aperature, experiment with distances. Play around. There is not right or wrong or magic numbers or ratios--don't worry about getting things "right" just create compelling images.

I bought an umbrella and light stand last week and finally got a friend to come over and model for me yesterday. The first 2 dozen shots were terrible, but I kept experimenting and things started looking better. Here are some of the better ones, maybe not the best portraits in the world, but I sure learned a lot by playing around:

Several readers posted questions about the act of shooting the flash through a stack of glasses. There's no magic to it: simply setup some glasses or a pitcher of water and shoot your light through it. If you want to color the light, you can use a gel on the flash. I threw some lines up on the background in one of my shots by shooting through a laundry basket.

The writers here COULD tell you ever detail of their lighting setup, camera settings, flash power, etc, but how useful is that? You learn a lot more--and build confidence--by playing around. have fun!

April 06, 2008 8:11 PM  
Blogger JMorton said...

I've learned a lot from the articles and comments on this site. I received a silver/gold umbrella with an AB800 a while back and did not like the effect at all. A couple of weeks ago I ordered some shoot-throughs and really like the effect. I still have a lot to learn but I do like them better. When I received them in the mail my six fear old graddaughter was visiting. She taught me another way to use them. You can see her method at
Thanks for all the information that you provide simply for the taking.

April 07, 2008 1:10 AM  
Blogger planetnikonia said...

You did not mention exactly which umbrellas you are now recommending:
size, model, etc.

April 07, 2008 5:20 PM  
Blogger Doroga said...

Maybe it's time to include shoot-through umbrellas instead of reflective ones in Strobist Kits from Midwest?

April 11, 2008 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Severin said...

Just a quick remark on the topic: The closer you move in with your light source (umbrella) the higher the relative brightness falloff on your subject. So if you're aiming for most homogenous light moving in might not be the best solution!

April 18, 2008 4:19 AM  
Blogger Travis Minnig said...

Well, I am new to, but not really all that new to what you are doing. Although I have a lot to learn, I also have some advice that I hope helps to clear up some of the discussion and questions that have been posed here. Which umbrella to use? Well, if the reflective ones were so bad, then why did the author swear by them for so long? Of course there is a great use for both, and ultimately you will probably have need of both. Take heart in the fact that you are closer to completing your kit. I started with shoot-through umbrellas, I also use them as a reflective setup (yes, that's possible). There are several reasons for white reflective as well as silver reflective; and the shoot-through style is definitely a technique that should also be utilized. All tools and techniques are a means to an end. Use the tools you have to create your art as you would see fit, following the guidance of others for obtaining mastery. If you already bought a silver umbrella, learn to use it and to use it well. When you find yourself in a situation that calls for a shoot-through, buy it and use it. Again, you will eventually have a use for both, and probably several of both, and probably in different sizes. So just keep moving forward and don't feel like anything has been wasted or lost. I do agree that if the author is to maintain his credibility, he should update the courses to reflect his current working methods; but that doesn't mean that there is anything inherently wrong with what is in the course, either. Many strobists have become good at this technique with the previous instruction.

Also, there have been some questions posed about softboxes vs. umbrellas. Again, much of it is up to what the artist wants to create. They both have a different effect on the final image. I would think that if you wanted a 'Best of both Worlds' product at a reasonable price and more control of the light spill; this may be a product worth looking into: [url][/url] It has a silver lining inside for efficiency, black cloth to control the spill, velcro (I believe) around the light source, and will provide a light source that will resemble a softbox or shoot-through umbrella.

Hope this helps someone.

Travis Minnig

April 26, 2008 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a newbie, and I've been investigating the different possibilities with regard to umbrella vs softbox vs diffuser. I am especially interested in a DIY diffuser shown by Charles Gardner at . It seems that this might lead to a softer light than a reflective umbrella but with less loss of light than a shoot through, but with more efficient forward light projection than a dome diffuser. I also like the cost and size benefits. Any thoughts? Thanks.


May 13, 2008 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm a total noob and know nothing about lighting so please forgive my ignorance. i just bought my first dslr and am looking at lighting options. i read the lighting 101 and was ready to make my purchases until i read about softboxes ( would this option be just as good as the shoot-through umbrellas you've mentioned? are there any photos of what the results of shooting with a softbox vs a shoot-through umbrella would look like so that i know which i should purchase?

May 26, 2008 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

That softbox is about $250, whereas a shoot-through umbrella is about $25.

June 04, 2008 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, about the shape of the light source... shot-thru has got the center nearer to the subject, so that could be the explanation for the /beautiful to me) light decay on the border... On the opposite, reflected umbrella could produce the opposite, with edges slightly lighter than the center... Does this reasoning has some point?



June 08, 2008 6:18 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

What about a shoot through brollybox? I love brollyboxes myself - they combine the ease of setup of an umbrella with the higher efficiency of a softbox. There are also reflective styles which are closer to a softbox - both can be seen here:

January 24, 2009 5:44 PM  
Blogger katie said...

2 Quick questions about size benefits/setbacks of shoot through umbrellas.
1) How small of an umbrella can you use to evenly/smoothly shoot a group of say roughly 10 people? I plan on using two speedlights one on either side of the group.
2) How large is too large to use with a speedlight? At what point does the umbrella overpower the flash.


June 02, 2010 8:51 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

I would use a larger umbrella - over 40" for a big group like that. To get the required coverage from a smaller umbrella it would need to be well back which reduces the softness of the light.

A 60" umbrella is even better, you can move it nice and close and still get the coverage you need so it will be very soft and help fill in shadows. With a small light source you often get unattractive shadows from people in the front falling on the people behind.

The biggest problem with a 60" brolly is wind, you'd really need two assistants to use these outdoors. Outdoors I'd stick to 40 something inches....

Unless you are fighting full sun your speedlights will have sufficient power for large modifiers. They don't make a huge difference to power levels... after all you're still lighting 10 people regardless.

June 02, 2010 5:21 PM  

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