Softbox vs Umbrella (Which Is the Right Choice?)

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umbrella light vs softbox

In the world of photography, users can get access to a lot of equipment that tends to make their photography experience a lot easier and better.

If you are looking to light up your shots, then the argument of softbox vs umbrella is something that may have crossed your mind, and let me tell you that there are countless arguments associated with these and the answers are often simpler than one might think.

Well, in this post, we are here to break down the comparison and see if there actually is a comparison to begin with. Let’s not waste time and have a look.

What Is Softbox Lighting?

Now, the first question that we are going to answer for everyone revolves around the idea of softbox lighting and what it actually is. As the name suggests, softbox lighting involves a stand with a box on top that has a light in it, and that light is diffused, as well. This allows for an even, diffused spill of light.

Different Types of Softboxes

Now, when it comes to buying softboxes from the market, you will come across a number of types that are available, and while many would contest that they all work the same, that is not entirely true.

Still, for those wondering, you can buy a softbox as an octabox, a squarebox, stripbox, an octagon, and a honeycomb grid. There are also some irregular softboxes that are a lot more common than one might think and have been used for a variety of shots and lighting-up scenes.

Types of Softboxes

The point here is that if you have some use of a specific type of softbox, the option is going to be available, and you will be able to get the job done with ease.

How Do You Set Up Softboxes?

Since we are done with the types of softboxes that you can find in the market, the next logical step is to actually look at how you can go ahead and set up softboxes for photography.

showing a scene through camera screen

I do understand that this might not be an easy task for those who are doing it for the first time, but softboxes are incredibly accessible and can be handled with ease.

So, how do you set them up?

Well, you take out the softboxes, make sure that the light is on the stand, attach the diffuser to the box itself, and be sure that all the wires are connected, as well. You would want the diffuser to have an even surface across the board for the best, even results.

When To Use Softboxes In Photography?

A lot of people are fully aware of what a softbox is, but when it comes to actual use cases, a lot of people have no idea just when to use these boxes in photography. This means that we are here to make things easier for you.

So, when do you use a softbox? Well, softboxes make up for excellent tools when the available light is not enough to take pictures the right way.

Not just that, these boxes also work really well when you are talking about filling in the shadows in scenes when the lights are harsh. Not just that, when you want to have more control over the light, using a softbox is a great way to get started.

What Is Umbrella Lighting?

Since I am done telling you all about softboxes, the next thing that we are going to pay attention to is umbrella lighting; this happens to be another very, very common in photography.

Photography umbrellas serve as light modifiers. You can get an external light for these umbrellas and modify the light the way you want it to be.

image of some studio umbrellas

However, you can also use these umbrellas as diffusers as they allow you to spread the light out over a larger area, allowing you to create a much softer light.

Honestly, over time I have come to realize that these umbrellas are a lot more inexpensive than some people believe, and they work just fine in almost all the situations.

Different Types of Umbrellas

Moving forward, another thing that a lot of people have been asking is about the various umbrella types that are available in the market. Honestly, things might confuse you a bit, but if you are just focusing, you would be all good.

The first type of umbrella is a shoot-through umbrella, then you have your hands on a reflective umbrella, followed by a parabolic umbrella, and on the last, you have a softbox umbrella.

So, what do these umbrellas do? Let’s have a look.

Types of Umbrellas

In shoot-through umbrellas, the light is pointed into the umbrella, and it illuminates the white diffuser inside the umbrella.

A reflective umbrella has a black material on the outside as it stops the light from passing through and reduces the rear-light spill. This allows for more focus or control over where the light should be.

A parabolic umbrella is like a standard reflective umbrella, but the key difference here is that it has much more fabric panels, and the profile is a lot deeper and rounded.

Last but not least, the softbox umbrella does exactly what the name suggests, it is used for diffusing the light, so you get the proper experience.

How Do You Set Up Umbrellas?

Moving onto a different topic that is going to tell you about how you setup umbrellas and, well, the process is not at all difficult, to be honest. I know it might sound like something that is straight out of a dystopian future, at least at first look, but you are good to go in just a matter of seconds.

difference between softbox and umbrella

Simply put, the whole setup of light umbrellas is a lot like setting up softboxes; the only difference here is that instead of setting the softbox up, you are setting up the umbrellas, and once everything is done, you are good to go.

When To Use Umbrellas In Photography?

This is a common question that a lot of people are going to ask all the time, and to be honest, it is not all that confusing in the first place. Thankfully, it is not at all complicated.

If you are wondering just when exactly should you go ahead and use an umbrella, then you should just look for situations in which you are in need of more light or outdoor lighting, to be honest.

Umbrellas might look similar to lightboxes but inherently are different and are actually really good. Umbrellas are great when you are in need of unrestricted lighting that will be able to go in all directions with ease.

Softbox vs. Umbrella – Which Is Best For My Photography?

Now that we are done exploring and explaining all different aspects of softbox vs umbrella, the next step is fairly simple to understand, to be honest. You just have to have an understanding of what is what, and you are all sorted.

If you are wondering if one style of lighting is better than the other, then it is not as simple as you might think because there are several instances where one would need a softbox, and just like that, there are several instances where one would need an umbrella.

Therefore, you have to be aware of this before you go ahead and buy one or the other. Most photographers you will meet are going to have both just because it makes the whole photography experience infinitely better and more convenient.

Pros And Cons Of Using Softboxes In Photography

Now, we are going to focus on the pros and cons of using softboxes in photography.

  • Very, very affordable.
  • Easy to setup.
  • Versatile and can be used for multiple types of photography, including products, food, and portrait.
  • Available in various sizes and shapes.
  • Distributes light evenly.

As far as the downsides are concerned, you can look at them below.

  • It can be difficult to setup for beginners.

It is safe to say that over the past couple of years, the use of softboxes has become a lot more common than it used to be. More and more people are now investing in these, and honestly, the photography experience has only become better, too.

Pros And Cons Of Using Umbrellas In Photography

Moving on, we are going to start looking at the pros and cons of umbrellas in photography. Now, umbrellas and photography have been around for a long time, and to be honest. Let’s look at the pros and cons, shall we?

  • Photography umbrellas are easy to setup.
  • They are available in a variety of sizes.
  • They are portable and don’t take a lot of space.
  • Allows for easy adjustment of light and spill.

As far as the downsides are concerned, you can have a look at them below.

  • Umbrella lights are not as suitable for video shoots.

This should give you a better understanding of what you should be choosing when you are in the market, and honestly, it is important to know.

More comparisons:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1- Can you use a softbox as an umbrella?

Answer: In most cases, you can. You just have to pull it over the front of the white or silver umbrella in order to turn it into a softbox. However, it would be wiser if you just invest in both of these separately as they do not cost a lot of money.

Q2- Why do photographers use umbrella lights?

Answer: Photographers use umbrella lights to ensure that they have proper lighting in situations where there is not enough light present.

Q3- What is the advantage of softbox?

Answer: There are several benefits of a softbox, including the benefits that allow you for an easier diffusion and an even spill of light.

Q4- Do you need a softbox for product photography?

Answer: I would highly suggest you get your hands on a softbox for product photography as it makes everything so much better.

Q5- How do you shoot white with an umbrella?

Answer: Shooting white with an umbrella is not at all difficult. If you are looking for something that will assist you with indoor photography, this is the way to go.


I understand that for a lot of people, understanding umbrella light vs softbox might be different, considering how there is still a difference between the softbox and umbrella lights but the whole purpose of this article is just to ensure that you are getting all the assistance you need in determining that you have your hands on the product that is right for you. The purpose here was to clear out any confusions that might come in the way.

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  • Celebrating childhood in photographs and emotions through photos. My aim is to transfer all my photography experience by sharing useful camera-related guides and individual reviews so you can get an idea about everything before buying.

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