How to Use an Umbrella in Photography

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Umbrellas serve an important purpose to people. Apart from protecting them from the heat of the sun, they also keep them dry when it rains.

But not many people are aware that the umbrella also serves photographers well. This tool helps them in the lighting aspect of photography particularly when shooting indoors.

using an umbrella in photography

"Umbrellla Sunset" captured by Keith Willette (Click Image to See More From Keith Willette)

Using this sun and rain protection tool is a great help for those serious in their photography hobby. In particular, it assists photographers in achieving professional images.

What the umbrella does is diffuse light to enable you to achieve a softer lighting in your images. So instead of letting light directly focus on the subject, the umbrella bounces of the light in different directions. The result is a clearer image with softer shadows or no shadows at all.

Basically, there are two colors of umbrella you can use when shooting. These are the black/silver and white, each with its own purpose.

A white umbrella is normally best to use for indoor photography. This needs to be open when using it to achieve a softer glow. To use it, you have to shoot light directly through the umbrella for a softer appearance.

There are also other techniques that you should keep in mind. To get rid of shadowing, for instance, you need to angle your light. What you have to do is to put the umbrella in a position that will put the shadow behind your subject. This tactic is usually best for shooting portraits.

The black/silver umbrella, on the other hand, is utilized to brighten your subject. This is not just pure black as it’s a combination of black on the outside and silver on the inside. What you do with this type of umbrella is direct light on the silver or inner part of the tool so that it brightens your subject. Take note that despite light directed on the subject, the umbrella helps in preventing a washed out image.

For a brighter image, the best technique is to use a combination of the white and black/silver umbrella. This will enable you to eliminate the shadow and make your subject look glowing. A good tip is to use the black/silver umbrella as your main source of light and then use the white one to diffuse the light for a softer appearance.

It’s important to note that for those of you who want to be more creative in their images, just using the built-in flash may not be a good idea. The reason is that it can create shadows and can make your subject a bit one-dimensional. But if you try to move the light source away from your subject and use an umbrella or any other type of diffuser, you can create softer light and achieve a clearer photo.

Keep in mind that the size of the subject and the source of light affects the harshness of the shadows. In other words, a harsh light is the result of a small subject and a small light source while a big lightsource will provide softer light to your subject.

If you’re after energy efficiency, you can use LEDs and flourescents. They are great alternatives to the hot lights and are ideal for HD video and digital stills.

About the Author:
For information about digital camera accessories, visit 42photo.com, New York’s legendary camera store in business for over 40 years.

For Further Training on Using Off-Camera Light Sources, PictureCorrect Suggests:

Check out Making Light I & II by Piet Van den Eynde; they take an in-depth look at how to get the most from your off-camera flashes. The author goes beyond sync speed and softboxes and gets into the details of working with multiple flashes, modifiers, and triggering systems. Learn how to fill in harsh shadows, balance ambient light, rescue fading evening light, or substitute for a complete lack of light. Very useful eBooks.

They can be found here sold together at a discount: Making Light I & II

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One Comment

  1. Gerardo says:

    Hello, thanks for your post.

    I would like to make HD videos inside my office. what is the better combination, 2 white umbrellas or 1 white and 1 black/silver?

    Thanks so much

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