Umbrella lighting – lots of people have it, few actually know how to use it well. Even fewer know how to get the most out of your umbrella lighting set-up. But you will in just a couple of minutes.
Umbrella lights are one of the best investments for new videographers. They’re inexpensive, portable, and easy to set-up. There are probably thousands of umbrella light kits on Amazon with three lights for around $50. This makes umbrella lighting accessible.
The problem is that those kits don’t come with any training. A lot of kits don’t even tell you how to assemble them. Enter all the problems stage left.
WHAT MAKES AN UMBRELLA LIGHT?
I know this sounds like it’s redundant, but trust me, this needs to be written in stone. I’ve seen so many people using something they call an umbrella light that just isn’t.
The basics. An umbrella light used for video just has an expandable umbrella of diffusion material between the light and the subject you want to light. It’s usually set-up like this.
There are some umbrella lights that are reflective on the inside. While technically those are umbrella lights, they’re generally used for strobe photography, not video. If you have the reflective umbrella lights, you can point to umbrella away from the subject and let only the reflections shine out.
HOW UMBRELLA LIGHTS WORK
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about using an umbrella light. The goal of an umbrella light is to soften the light on your subject. It does this through a diffusion silk. The diffuser really just makes the light bigger. Here’s how that works.
When the light source projects all that light, it’s the size of the bulb (or bulbs if you have a multiple bulb source). The umbrella is much bigger than the bulb, so when the light from the bulb hits the umbrella, light permeates the diffuser, making the diffuser the size of the light instead of the bulb.
The size of the diffuser creates soft shadows that most people prefer for videos. This is the reason umbrella lights work.
HOW TO USE UMBRELLA LIGHTS
The biggest change you will see in umbrella lights will come from movement. Most of the time, simply moving the umbrella closer to the subject will change the light. The closer the umbrella is the the subject, the less soft the shadows will be and the brighter the light will be.
You can also change the distance from the bulb to the inside of the umbrella in most lighting kits. Changing the distance between the bulb and the umbrella changes the diffusion of the light, making it softer or sharper, but it also changes the brightness What does that mean?
If you want your umbrella light to be softer, either change the distance from the subject or change the distance (make the gap bigger) from the light bulb to the umbrella.
That’s it really. And when I say that’s it, what I mean is, “Welcome to the glorious world of experimentation.” It’s similar to giving a child a box of crayons and paper and telling them, “That’s it.”
There are so many ways you can use an umbrella light. Watch this video if you want the visual scoop on how to use umbrella lights.
If you’re trying to up your video game, why not download my free guide. It’ll give you the perspective of almost 20 years of creating videos and tell you a lot of tips like this one on how to make them better.