Softbox vs umbrella product photography is a choice that each photographer that shoots various kinds of products must make. They are convenient for different types of products and if you have enough money – surely, go ahead and purchase in both. But what do you do if you do not have this money and when you do not know which is better for exactly your photo editing service and products?
What modifier and in which situations should a photographer use? Why is umbrella so big and why the softbox gives an extra direction and the ability to control the light flow? To these and other questions we will answer today in the new photography discussion devoted to the most common and popular light modifiers today. This problem is actually all about lightning, because both umbrellas and soft boxes are light modifiers. Plus, softboxes or umbrellas are most frequently applied in the production photography. So it initially depends on who and what are you shooting and what is your idea in the first place. And if you aren’t sure about your choice watch this Q&A video, that can shed some light on the whole thing.
Umbrella vs Softbox: Key Differences and points of view
In case you are amateur to all of this and you watch some professional doing a photo session or preparing a setting up for it the lightning he or she uses might seem bizarre to you. The case is, everyone is intelligent enough to understand, that it’s either umbrellas attached to the setting or those big boxes with light or even both of them together. They make a truly vital part of photography studios for any specialist in the area of photography.So, we know, that the problem is basically in the light and the ways to narrow down your choice to only one tool, and what are their strong and weak points. And your wish to spare you money and get the job done well nevertheless is totally understandable. So we are talking about your needs and the things that you need to underline or improve.
Softbox vs umbrella: umbrella’s advantages
It may look just like a totally ordinary umbrella except for the colour (most often white or opaque) and for its ability of light spreading. It’s great using an umbrella because of its variative base: sometimes you need to illuminate something very much, and sometimes – quite the opposite: to insert dimness or even darkness and that’s very easy with umbrella usage. To arrange some specific mood is now simpler due to the translucent type of umbrella because you can easily into proximity or distance from the object you photograph with ease. Although if your aim is only a creation of the uniform light amount, then you may go for the reflective type of umbrellas.The heaviest point of choosing an umbrella in the contest of softbox vs umbrella product photography is that it allows you create perfect macro shots that are so significant when you wish to demonstrate your product from each side and in details. With the lightning given from different angles – different features are underlined and thus even the smallest objects are defined in the best possible way. Umbrellas are also capable of creating a gentle light which is literally important for things we are used to think of as fragile, for example, flowers! By the way, if you are into making photographs of still life, our article “Lightning for still life photography – make everything right” will help you very much as macro shooting if commonly used in it. So, in the end, if you are planning to dive into a series of macro photo shootings, then your choice is obvious.
Softbox vs umbrella lighting: choosing soft boxes!
Maybe this is not the first advantage that crosses your mind, but they are really simple and understandable in the usage. Even the newcomers should be able to catch up quickly the lightning principles of the softboxex when they come to a studio. A soft box can easily become your starting point in the light studying before you feel ready to start working with umbrellas. Softboxes are very popular among photographers who mostly shoot in studios because the studio flash, that activates directly through the softbox produces a focused beam of light.Another easy trick is your ability to make changes in the light direction and how it occurs on the object by simply moving your softbox to any place and corner of your studio. Besides the simplicity of this act, you can alter the way lights’ and shadows’ angles shift from one form into another and it will let you learn more about the lightning in the whole. Do not forget to make test shots in the first place to ensure that everything is lighted just as you hoped it would be.Let’s imagine that you desire to illuminate your object more, but not to wash it out either. In such case you can put the softbox in front of it! You’ll watch the light become softer. On the contrary, when you pull the softbox at a bigger distance, the lightning becomes harsher and you will see much more contrast on your shots. In case the object seems too flat to you, just move your soft box around until you find the perfect angles and the shadows become a pleasant part of the whole picture.
Softbox or umbrella: on which you should stop your choice?
All of the arguments above were there to tell you this simple thing: the choice depends on your needs. When starting a new studio, the process of choosing may be difficult for you in case you don’t know what are you going to photograph in the very near future. And of course, besides the various functions, your taste is also an important argument to take it into account.If your desire to give your object more definition – choose umbrellas. The same is true in case you want to make great macro pictures or challenge yourself. This can be way more expensive and it may take you more time to learn how to deal with them, but they are totally worth it. Want something easier to get and to use? You do not have plans for the macro photo shooting? Not worried about the defined degree of your object? Choose the soft boxes and you will not make a mistake.No one stops you from trying both before you make your final choice. Play around with them. Just be sure that you know, how to make the light proper for the certain pictures and that your definitions are excellent and the shadows are striking, and maybe that the filters pass well to the object, so that people would discover it in your work with in the entirely new light!
Softbox vs umbrella lighting: which choose and the reasons why
There is an opinion, that controversies the one above: that umbrellas actually suit the amateurs better, because as an example of the artificial lightning source, soft boxes can give you more control and directionality.Some of the photography products are portraiture works and its lightning most significant characteristic is quality. In its turn, the final picture quality depends on the light’s direction, colors, and, undoubtedly, quantity. A light modification device, whether it’s a softbox or umbrella, is a priceless tool that helps you enhance your light. Of course they are not perfect and in order to do your best you may also need something like a Speedlight or a moonlight. Whatever mind of yours you are going to make up, you already know, that both devices are governed by a simple though significant rule – the proximity of the source of light affects its softness or harshness, and, of course, the picture contrast and exposure. In case you wish to find out more about it – take a bit of your time to read our article “Exposure bracketing in photography – How to use it”.
Softbox vs umbrella: main differences between them
Both tools give diffused, soft artificial lightning. If we speak metaphorically, we can compare a light of a soft box to the sunlight that comes inside through the windows, while umbrellas are “outdoor light”, because they give broader lightning which is really harder to control and to contain it. So there is a difference. And now a little bit more about each.
Softboxes or umbrellas: what’s a soft box?
This tool emulates the natural light, it’s soft and has directional lightning. It also diffuses light which comes up from the attached source of light by light transmitting through its diffusion panel. They come in all shapes and sizes, just like humans do. They may be square, rectangular or even octagonal. They might be very small and really large. Here’s an advantage of softboxes: while you’re using it your shoot rather through than rely on the reflected light memorize this: flash light needs significantly less amount of power output to acquire the needed lens’ aperture. In addition, feel free to use different accessories made to be attached to the softbox (a grid or a louver) that will help you align the light or narrow it. In order to set them up in the right way, the basic knowledge about light balancing and filling shall come in handy in case you do not feel the wish to have too much contrast produced. Soft boxes make an ideal choice to make portraits because you may control the light spill on your ground work.
Umbrella vs softbox: what‘s actually an umbrella and what types of them exist?
Umbrella is actually the most frequently exploited light modifier among the photo shooters. Why so? They are really cheap, truly portable, and not difficult to get ahold of them at all. And, undoubtedly, they’re mobile. You might always bring several umbrellas and not feel any inconvenience. It’s not too complicated if we compare it to the usage of the ordinary rain umbrellas. Provided by their work. the light is really not harsh, broad and it can be mixed up with the natural outside lightning. As opposed to the soft boxes, you do not have the directional control, though you have more unrestricted light that can reach any corner. Though, if you’re making photographs outside with umbrellas, you should be careful, if this day is windy. The camera bags may help just as sandbag weights to make your photo base secured. Indoors they take a lot of space, so consider that before starting the photo session.
Softbox vs umbrella: umbrella versus umbrella – different types of them
There are only two of them. They can be either reflective or shoot-through. Of course they have many similarities, but you can’t deny the presence of the differences as well: both in their looks and their usage terms.The reflective type is usually opaque externally and inside it’s made of special material that reflects light and is metallic. To be able to diffuse lightning with a reflective umbrella you just need to adjust the inner reflective part that way so it would face the object and after that you have to shoot into this reflective material and you will see how it results in the hard light bouncing and reflecting both broad and soft light onto your object. They shall have their shaft pointed at the object so that you will be prohibited from getting too close to it as opposed to the next type.The shoot-through ones are made in another way, from semi-translucent material that is plain and often of white colour. The diffusion of the light with their help happens when you point the outer side of your umbrella at the object and activate the flash into the opening. Thus, the light goes through this translucent material and becomes softer. On the contrary of reflective types, the lightning produced in such way is a little bit easier to be controlled. They also reduce your chances of accidentally injuring your model.
In typical positions, any umbrella gives you bounced and crooked light that might demand more output of the built-in flash, as they produce broader type of the diffused light and truly easier to be used by the amateurs. Someone points his or her umbrella at the object and here comes the soft lightning! Used together, those two types of the umbrellas can give you an unexpectedly overwhelming result.
Softbox vs umbrella lighting: more details about the latter
There is one more kind of umbrellas! It’s called versatile umbrellas. They feature the layers that we call removable so it is totally okay possible to go completely and utterly from a reflective one (with no matter what coloring: gold, black or silver) to a shoot-through one. Depending on the surface color, the photo shade gets cooler (silver umbrellas), warmer (gold umbrellas), darker (the black types) or remains the same (neutral white umbrellas). Probably the best feature of the umbrellas is that they can be afforded by anyone as their prices start at 10$ or so and they are very easy to use. Novices and amateurs often have troubles with setting up soft boxes and a rain umbrella does not differ too much from a photographic one.
Softboxes or umbrellas: which conclusions do we have to make?
Every tool you use must depend on the object or subject you are going to photo shoot, shall it be portraiture or other pictures, is there a product you have to demonstrate from all the sides in order to sell it or not, are you photographing for an online or offline catalogue, shall it be printed or not, what is the size of the objects, which studios you have or may use, what is your budget for this peculiar photo session and so on. Your skills and knowledge also play a great part in choosing a softbox or umbrella, because it will be a failure if you will not be able to coup with your equipment on your own. Besides the tools discussed above, pay attention to the special diffuser lens, mounted directly on the built-in flash. Such diffuser spreads light into the room, the light is reflected on the surfaces of the room and illuminates the object.We all have different tastes and needs, plans and projects, financial situation and a possibility to fix our mistakes later, during the post processing of the shots. Our company, We Edit Photos, have fixed many mistakes that were done both with all kinds of umbrellas and soft boxex. So it is yours only choice to make: umbrella vs softbox and why so, no one will interfere unless you ask us or any other company or someone on an online forum for advice. Just be careful and ready to learn something new, because different models of such techniques can provide you various functions even if they belong to the same umbrella or soft box family. Our photo editing prices are always available for you if you decide that you need help with any kind of product photography.