In this short tutorial, well-known portrait and fashion photographer Lindsay Adler will show you how to use “the most inexpensive and under-appreciated” lighting modifier to capture beautiful studio portraits. She’s talking, of course, about the lowly umbrella.
“For years and year I hated the entire category of umbrella modifiers, and that’s because I didn’t understand them,” says Adler. “Nowadays I don’t just like umbrellas, I love them, and I love them for three important reasons.”
Those reasons are portability, affordability, and versatility, which Adler goes through one by one in the video before explaining the three most common ways that she chooses to use umbrellas in her portrait work.
- Main Soft Light Source – The larger the light source, the softer the light. A large umbrella with some diffusion material over it generates an extremely soft light and flattering look.
- Fill Light – The reflector is the “affordable fill light” of choice for most beginners, but a cheap umbrella (with some diffusion) can give you much more control over your results.
- Evenly Lighting a White Background – Using two umbrellas (one on either side) is a great way to get a smooth, even illumination across a white background without creating any hot spots.
Check out the full tutorial to see how each of these setups works, and hear more from Adler about her love of this cheap and versatile modifier. While there are definitely advantages to using a more expensive modifier like a softbox, the video should help convince you that you can still generate great work if you know how to use your umbrellas right.