Of parabolic umbrellas


The age old question, Softboxes vs Umbrellas…which is better? The answer is of course neither, they each have pros and cons depending on the situation. They each have a distinct quality of light, and with experience you can guess how the properties of light will effect your subject just by looking at one you’ve never even used before. That’s the beauty of it, once you’ve used one or two you can grab another and use it well without much practice, like riding a friend’s bike. But then enter the parabolic umbrella…a real paradigm change in how it modifies light. You can’t really guess how it will react to light until you have tried one for yourself. There are so many strange qualities that I could post 50 pictures to explain it. For one, with a highly reflective silver one, you don’t lose any light at all versus just aiming your strobe straight at your subject.  That practically defies the laws of physics in light modifiers. How can you bounce a light without losing power? It’s mind boggling. I’m talking easy f/64 power at 100 iso with a 1,200ws strobe at 10ft. Need to overpower the sun at noon, no problem! Then it gets stranger. Depending on how you focus it (ie, distance from strobe head to umbrella) the beam can be as tight as a gridded strobe, way softer, more powerful, and magically remove any shadow behind a subject on a wall. All at once mind you. Just bizarre. The whole lack of shadow thing really confused me at first. It was like I was taking photos of a vampire. The subject was 3 feet from a white wall, and the umbrella was 45 degrees to the right, and bit above. With every other light mod a huge shadow hung on the wall, even the 5ft octa. Of course it is a harder light than the 5ft octa, but with all of these strange properties I may be using this umbrella much more now. I thought I was strictly a softbox guy until I got a parabolic umbrella. Anyway, here is a photo of me using it on a recent shoot…