What Kind of Photography Umbrella Do I Need?

A common piece of equipment that many in product photography will have in their studio, but it can be difficult to know the most suitable kind of photography umbrella you need. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography and getting the right equipment can transform your product photographs.

As a result, we’ve put together this short guide to what a photography umbrella is and the types available. You can then decide what type suits your particular brand of product photography (e.g. jewellery photography).

So what is a photography umbrella?

Put simply, it is a light modifier that allows a photographer to create soft light, diffused light or both. The type of photography umbrella defines whether it diffuses light, reflects it or causes it to bounce.

The types that you can buy

Here is a breakdown of the main types available to those working in product photography:

Shoot-through

The most traditional style, having been the first to be developed. They are made from translucent fabric that helps to diffuse the shadows around the edges of a subject. With this type, you can get different levels of softness and this is based on the size of the umbrella you buy. The smaller the umbrella, the harder the light.

Silver

Silver photography umbrellas are fantastic at reflecting light and reducing the spread of light. This is because reflecting is a more efficient way to direct light in a shot. Often a favourite for those working in product photography, in smaller sets they do provide harder light so this is something to be aware of.

White

A white photography umbrella requires light to be directed into it, after which it bounces into the modifier and then exits on the same side. That is why it is classed as a light that has been bounced and diffused. With a greater spread of light compared to other types, this is a popular choice for those working in fashion photography.

Other shapes

Just to add a bit more confusion to the world of lighting in photography, you can get special-shaped umbrellas such as rectangular ones. The general advice for anyone working in product photography, whether food, fashion or jewellery photography is to start off with the standard types. Once you become more experienced, you can start to explore more complex products.

Should the umbrella be deep or shallow?

It is important to take the time to think about this question, otherwise, you could be getting the wrong type of photography umbrella.

  • A deep umbrella has more direction and focus, making them a great choice if you want greater contrast in your shots.
  • A shallow umbrella creates a wider spread of light and this is great for larger product shots or those involving groups of models.

Summary

Ultimately, no matter the type of photography umbrella for you it is important to make sure it works with your chosen set-up and style. If you work in jewellery photography, it is likely you will need a very different studio set-up to food or fashion photography.