What umbrella do I need?
Umbrellas are the perfect tool for both beginners and advanced photographers. A great and inexpensive tool to experiment with lighting, they produce a soft light well-suited to wedding and portraiture photography. In this article we look at why umbrellas are such a useful tool in photography, and what the different Elinchrom umbrella offerings could add to your photography.
What makes umbrellas so interesting is their light weight, their portability, their fast opening system, and the affordable price! When buying an umbrella, it’s important to know which one to use for your photography style. Let’s take a closer look...
Size and Space
The first thing to consider is size. Elinchrom offers shallow umbrellas in either 85cm or 105cm, and deep umbrellas in either 105cm or 125cm. The choice is a matter of whether you intend to shoot outdoors, on location, or in a big studio.
If you have space and want a slightly softer quality of light, then the 105cm or 125cm options are perfect. If you shoot in your home, the 85cm will probably be a better choice, leaving you with more space to refine your lighting.
Elinchrom Shallow Umbrellas
The translucent is a great option for beginners with no experience with off camera flashes. It creates a very soft light, similar to a diffused window light.
What is so great about this kind of light is that it won’t make skin imperfections as visible as a beauty dish or a silver umbrella would.
It’s also interesting when a wide spread of light is required. For example, wedding photographers will love this for group shots, while portrait and studio photographers may use it as a fill light.
The silver umbrella is the definite fashion photographer’s choice. It’s fantastic in many ways. As you can notice with the comparative images, it offers great control over the spread of light.The light is harder than with the translucent umbrella. The shadows are well defined and the highlights are crispier with less chance of unwanted reflections.
This kind of light is important when details are key, which is why many fashion photographers use it – it makes fabrics’ details stand out like nothing else while being less harsh than a metallic reflector.
2 umbrellas for the price of 1!
As a starter in flash photography, you may want to invest in an umbrella with a removable cover. This way you can use it as both a reflective or as a shoot-through/translucent umbrella.
Remove the black reflective fabric and you have a translucent umbrella. Need more control over the light? Put the reflector back on and you have a reflective umbrella. It’s also a great tool as a backup light shaper because it’s versatile and doesn’t eat space at all!
Elinchrom Deep Umbrellas
Shallow umbrellas are extremely easy to carry and mount, but they aren’t the easiest to control the light precisely. Deep Umbrellas offer the quality of light of a Softbox, while retaining the ease of an umbrella, especially when paired with a compatible diffuser or reflection cloth.
There are six models of deep umbrella in the Elinchrom range. They all have the same easy-to-use opening system of a traditional umbrella and produce a round specular highlight. However, they do not all offer the same light rendering.
The deep umbrellas are available in either 105cm or 125cm, with the choice of either a translucent, white, or silver fabric. Each model can also be used with a diffusion panel (for the white and silver) or a reflective panel (for the translucent), essentially turning them into an incredibly portable softbox.
Silver for fashion & portrait
The Silver is our favourite. It offers a very contrasty look but can be much softer when the diffusion panel is used. When zoomed in, it creates an incredibly narrow beam of light that looks like a standard reflector with a slight fill. It’s the best choice for portrait, beauty, and fashion photographers due to its versatility and contrast.
White for soft results
The white version will be the best bet for wedding photographers. It still offers a relatively good control over the light direction and spill, but it is softer than the silver coating. When zoomed in, the contest is more pronounced but not as much as a silver deep umbrella zoomed out. Put the diffusion cloth on it, and you get a soft window like light that all natural light photographers will absolutely love.
Translucent for large scenes
A deep translucent umbrella is fantastic as a fill light or for large scenes where precise control is not a requirement. An important note as well, while the white and silver deep umbrellas can be zoomed in and out to obtain a different look, the translucent does not create vastly different looks.
What is the best umbrella for a versatile photo shoot?
If you're looking to invest in only one umbrella, in our opinion the Silver Deep Umbrella 125cm with 125cm Diffuser offers the best versatility. Let’s explore what pro photographer Quentin Decaillet can create with a single light source and a single umbrella when shooting different looks in a fast paced studio.
In this setup the light source was placed to the model’s left, and slightly in front of her at about a 45-degree angle. The diffusion cover was also used to create a soft and forgiving "window like" light.
Keeping the same setup, Quentin moved to the model’s right to shoot her profile. It yields a moodier look that is entirely different than the first image. As the model hasn’t moved a bit, the flash power doesn’t need any adjustment.
Coming back in front of the model and removing the diffusion cloth creates a portrait with much more contrast, and as you can see, any imperfections in the skin show.
The silver deep umbrella almost acts like a large beauty dish and micro-contrast is thus quite pronounced. This translates into any imperfection becoming extremely visible but also produces a unique three-dimensional look.
Be sure to lower the power by about half to one full stop when removing the diffusion cloth. Otherwise, your highlights will be totally blown out.
Finally, for the fourth and last look, Quentin moved the umbrella behind his shooting position and zoomed the umbrella all the way in, to get get an extremely contrasty look. This last lighting setup is one you either love or hate, but it’s one that is fun to use now and then.
No matter which umbrella you choose, you'll undoubtedly love it! Umbrellas excel at providing soft light, making them a simple yet fantastic choice for illuminating your subject. Their portability ensures you can take them anywhere and set them up easily, much like unfolding a regular umbrella.
If you're not sure which umbrella to go for, we suggest the 125cm Deep Silver Umbrella with the additional 125cm Diffuser. It's ideal for engagement sessions, weddings, and offers the versatility in portraiture of a Softbox. Grab a deep umbrella today and enhance your photography experience. Have fun, be creative, and capture exceptional images!
This blog is adapted from three articles written by Quentin Décaillet via Elinchrom.com. Read the original articles at the links below: