Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox: Which Is Best for You


Both Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox lighting is a popular lighting option for photographers. But your choice of lighting will depend on many factors. These include the type of photography you want to do, your budget, and more. This article will take a closer look at lighting umbrellas vs. softbox lighting. Also, we’ll help you decide which lighting option is best for you.

What Is a Lighting Umbrella?

A lighting umbrella is an umbrella with lighting fabric. The fabric is across its frame to diffuse and soften the light spill from your flash.

It might look like a traditional umbrella. But lighting umbrellas are made of reflective materials with diffusion panels inside. Also, they are thin and lightweight, so they are easy to set up and transport.

Studio lighting umbrella

Studio lighting umbrella

What Are the Different Types of Lighting Umbrellas?

Umbrellas come in various shapes and sizes, each with benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a quick overview of the most popular types of umbrella lighting:

Shoot-Through Umbrella

As the name suggests, shoot-through umbrella light allows light to pass through them. This translucent material makes them ideal for flash photography as they can help soften and diffuse artificial light.

Yet, shoot-through umbrellas are not without their drawbacks. They can be more difficult to position than other types of umbrellas. Also, they offer less protection from the elements.

Lighting umbrella 

Lighting umbrella 

Reflective umbrellas

Reflective umbrellas bounce artificial or natural lighting back toward your subject. Bounce umbrellas are ideal for portraiture, as they help create a soft, flattering light.

Also, they offer more protection from the elements than shoot-through umbrellas with this reflective surface. It is because the lighting fabric is in a special white paint that reflects light. But don’t confuse it with a parabolic umbrella.

Collapsible Umbrella Softbox

Collapsible umbrella softboxes are a combination of an umbrella and a softbox. They offer the benefits of both types of artificial lighting modifiers, Which makes them versatile.

You can even fold them up and take them on the go; This makes them perfect for photographers who want to work on location.

How Do I Use a Lighting Umbrella?

Using an umbrella is quite simple. Open it up and stick it in the ground. But there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First, ensure that the area you’re setting up in is clear of any obstacles in front of the lighting equipment. Second, open the umbrella to its full before inserting it into the ground.

And finally, be sure to use the appropriate size umbrella for the area you’re lighting. With these tips in mind, using an umbrella will be a breeze!

What Is a Softbox?

A softbox is a light modifier that scatters the light from a flash or studio light. It contains two panels of white fabric sewed onto a frame with velcro lining material. The frame’s bevel has this lining material attached to it.

You can use softboxes in portrait photography to create a more flattering light. But you can also use them in other types of photography, such as product and food photography.

A softbox

A softbox

What Are the Different Types of Softboxes?

There are many different shapes and sizes of softboxes available on the market. But they all serve the same basic purpose. The most common softboxes are rectangular, strip, and octa-box shapes.

Each has unique advantages that can make it better suited for certain tasks. Let’s take a closer look at each option to help you make the best decision for your needs.

Rectangular Softbox

Rectangular softbox studio lighting kits are the most versatile type of softbox available. They come in various sizes, from small tabletop units to large studio-sized boxes. Rectangular softboxes produce even light (similar to using a beauty dish) that you can soften or diffuse as needed.

Also, they create natural light. And this makes them great for portraiture, product photography, and more.

Rectangular softbox 

Rectangular softbox 

Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox: Strip Box

Strip softboxes are long and narrow. Thus, they are ideal for lighting subjects such as headshots or food photography. A strip box’s long, the thin shape helps to create focus light. It can be very helpful when trying to avoid hot spots or glare.

Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox: Octabox

Octabox softboxes offer a unique lighting effect. The box shape helps to create less harsh light than other types of lighting modifiers. Plus, the octagon shape wraps the light around your subject, creating beautiful lighting effects.

Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox: How Can I Use a Softbox?

A softbox is a great way to diffuse light and create the softest, most flattering light for your subject. Here’s how to use one:

First, you’ll need to set up your softbox. You should attach it to a light stand and mount your flash or strobe head inside the softbox. Once you set the softbox up, you can aim it at your subject.

Next, you’ll need to adjust the power of your flash or strobe. If you’re using a flash, set it to a lower power setting, so the light is not too harsh. Using a strobe, you can leave it at full power.

Finally, adjust the distance of the softbox from your subject. The less far the softbox is, the softer the light will be. The light will be harsher if you move the softbox away from your subject.

Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox:  A Speedlight with a mini softbox

A Speedlight with a mini softbox

The Verdict: Ring light Vs. Softbox

Here are some of the key differences between a ring light and a softbox:

  • A ring light produces more intense lighting than a softbox. And this makes it ideal for lighting certain subjects, such as jewelry or food.
  • A softbox provides softer, more natural-looking lighting than a ring light.
  • You should place the ring light in front of the subject. But it would be best if you positioned the softbox to the side of your subject.
  • A ring light is cheaper than a softbox, which makes it an affordable lighting option for photographers on a budget.

When to Use Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox:?

Here’s a look at the ideal use scenario for each type of light:

Umbrellas are best for widespread, even lighting. They’re great for general-purpose photography, including portraits, product shots, and event photography. Umbrellas provide a wide, soft light that is flattering to most subjects.

But, softboxes are better for more focus on lighting. They’re ideal for close-up shots or photos to highlight specific details. Also, they create a narrower, more directional control of light. It can be very effective in showing off texture or dimension.

Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox:  Studio with lighting equipment

Studio with lighting equipment

What Should I Use for My Session, an Umbrella or a Softbox?

If you’re a photographer, you may wonder about the best lighting option for your work. Here are some key considerations to compare between them:

  • A softbox is ideal for lighting specific areas of your subject. It can be helpful when you need to highlight particular details or darken other areas.
  • An umbrella provides a softer light effect than a softbox light. It is ideal for portrait photographers as you want to avoid harsh shadows or unflattering lighting effects.
  • If you’re looking for flexibility in lighting, a softbox is better because it provides more directional lighting than an umbrella.
  • The umbrella is much cheaper than a softbox, making it a cheaper lighting option.
Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox:  Modern photography studio for object shooting

Modern photography studio for object shooting

Lighting Umbrella Vs. Softbox: Which Is the Better?

Softbox vs. umbrella lighting both have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is difficult to say which one is better.

Depending on what you need your lighting for, either a lighting umbrella or softbox lights can be a good choice.

If you are looking for even, wide lighting, then an umbrella may be a better option. This type of lighting is ideal for product shots, portraits, and event photography.

If you need more focus that will highlight details in your photos, then a softbox is a better choice. This type of lighting is ideal for close-ups or shots where you want to create texture or dimension.


Phew! It has been quite the lighting debate – lighting umbrella vs. softbox. At the end of the day, it comes down to what your needs are.

Whether you are looking for it, there are always the right lighting options. And you will create the best key light quality for your projects.

We hope this article helps you. If you still have questions, feel free to contact us.

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