Umbrella vs Softbox | Umbrella vs Softbox Light Modifiers
If you are a photographer and do not wish to remain confined to natural lighting, you may need light modifiers when you are shooting inside. Two of the most common light modifiers used when taking portraits of a model are Umbrella and Softbox . Anyone can see that umbrellas are cheaper than softboxes, but that does not mean you get poor results from umbrella or that umbrellas are sufficient for all your requirements. There are differences between the two techniques that will be discussed in this article, and you may choose one or both depending upon your requirements.
Both umbrella and Softbox have their own features and are both used by artists in their studios as neither is a perfect foil for all lighting requirements. One thing is for sure; umbrella is a lot inexpensive and easier to carry and set up than Softbox. Just get hold of a light stand and an umbrella holder to make up the unit and you are ready with a light modifier that costs less then $50. Not only is umbrella very flexible, it spreads light uniformly. Because of its spread, umbrella is great for group portraits. Umbrellas throw light in all directions, and you cannot hope to control it. However, they are so simple, cheap and portable that one cannot resist the charm of an umbrella.
Basically there are two types of umbrellas. One is called shoot through and is placed between flash and the lens. It aims light at the subject and in general light is controlled in a better manner than the other type of umbrella known as reflective umbrella. This type is placed behind the flash and use the sharp light from the flash to reflect on the subject. Though this throws more light than shoot through umbrella, it is very hard to control the amount of light. One thing not many photographers know is that larger the umbrella, softer is the light it reflects. This means you may have to keep umbrellas of varying sizes to suit your porposes.
However, if you want more control on light, Softbox may be the right option. Softbox gives out a more defined light and is better for an individual portrait. In comparison to an umbrella that shoots light everywhere, a Softbox is much more directional, and also easier to control. You can aim where you want light, and for additional control, you can make use of louvers to fine tune the amount of light.
There is some reduction in light when using a Softbox. You get 2 stops of light less through a Softbox while there is virtually no reduction in light when you use a silver umbrella. But light from a Softbox is softer than that from an umbrella which photographers agree is hard. Umbrellas are better when you are in a hurry and just want more light on the subject. If you are concerned with the quality of light as well, and you want more control over light, Softbox is always preferred.