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Underrated Umbrellas: Simple Lighting Setups

Umbrella Portraits
Lighting Blueprints + Concept Inspiration

Yes, they spill light all over the place. And an umbrella’s beam is hard to control, and modifying the light’s (or shadow’s) characteristic is impossible. Especially the basic, generic white shoot-through fellow presents himself as a dull tool.

But, besides being a criminally cheap modifier – the small generic umbrella, that is – it’s also the most underrated one. And almost all of us have some of them lying around.

So, as always, let us take you on a short journey through different lighting setups. The intent is to nurture your inspiration and convince you to try to shoot an umbrella light setting yourself.

Our community (more information about the community can be found here: https://youtu.be/OBiIYhbwvY4) members masterfully created every set provided in this post. Thank you, legends!

From beauty to low key to undershirt: Posing, framing, casual styling – and light setting (obviously 😉).


Set 1: “Highlighting Beauty”
Jordan Berg – Set ID: 11037768


Set 2: “Confident w/ Casual 2-Light Setup”
Duncan Walker – Set ID: 11038930


Set 3: “The Girl Next Door”
WalterK – Set ID: 11032196


Shooting With Umbrellas: Why + Is It Worth It?

Umbrellas provide you with a broad and soft light source that closely emulates outdoor lighting. Unlike softboxes, which give you directional control, umbrellas produce a more unrestricted type of lighting that will pretty much go everywhere (as mentioned earlier). 

Umbrellas also come in a variety of different sizes. Like any diffuser, larger means softer light – if you don’t move the umbrella 20 meters away, that is. 

Now let’s make the case: a small shoot-through fellow costs you around 12 bucks – which is great because they break and get damaged all the time. That wasn’t precisely the argument; the point is: add some cheap umbrellas to your arsenal for experimenting with other lighting qualities. Or, if you are just starting, buy one umbrella (well, 2) and use just one strobe. Start exploring lighting directions and shadow quality when shooting portraits.

Need more convincing arguments? Or just some additional inspiration on how to create simple umbrella lighting setups yourself? Here you go, over at our friends on ISO1200:

Female Photo Shoot: “The Underrated Umbrella: Studio Lighting Made SIMPLE”
Male Photo Shoot: “Portrait Lighting in 10 Minutes: 1 Light – 5 Setups”


Set 4: “Clamshell Lighting on Black”
Phill Jones – Set ID: 11039904


Set 5: “Noir Look w/ Low Key”
Omar Torres Foto – Set ID: 11034727


Set 6: “Strong Pose, Negative Fill”
Rodolfo Giacco – Set ID: 11037141


Set 7: ”V-Flat Beauty Bounce”
Jordan Berg – Set ID: 11037766
Using a white surface – aka as a v-flat/wall – to bounce off light is a perfect economical way to shoot with one flash only. The umbrella needs to be of a larger diameter, but otherwise, it’s a perfect example of what you can achieve with a pretty simple setup.


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This post is also available in: German