Umbrella or softbox?

Umbrella or softbox? That’s the question. Whether t’is nobler in the mind to… never mind. But the question is valid: when you want to diffuse light, like in a portrait, which one do you use?

An umbrella:

  • Is light and small and affordable.
  • Can be used shoot-through (eg to get a nice round catchlight without “black blob”) or “into”.
  • Loses relatively little light.
  • Throws light everywhere.

A softbox:

  • Is not as small, light, or affordable. Does not fold into “nothing”.
  • Takes more time to set up.
  • Eats up a little more light than an umbrella.
  • Gives you wonderful light – but the catchlight is square.
  • Is more directional than the umbrella – it soes not light up the entire studio.
  • Is not necessarily square: can be long and thin, too (a “lightstrip”)

I prefer softboxes for their light quality and for their ability to selectively light; but I prefer umbrellas for their simplicity and portability.

So as so often: “it depends”. Get one of each!

And get to know them.


Special opportunity: I am teaching my “Canon/Nikon TTL Flash” in Hamilton, Ontario, tomorrow night, Friday 22 March, 7-10pm, in a wonderful studio ( The class is small, and I have a special opportunity for you: if you attend, you will get a free copy of my eBook, “Photography Cookbook”. You will learn TTL flash on camera, off-camera, remote TTL using the built-in wireless control system, and much more. See and forego hanging around in bars tomorrow: sign up now, and make your Friday night into a special one that you will remember!



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