So it's come to this: umbrella vs. soft box lighting.  Who will win?  Well, it should come as no surprise to you that it all depends on what kind of shot you want.  Both of these types of lighting diffusion have a way of going about their business.  So definitely give them a test drive, but this post will act as a guide.  Do you want more control over your light?  Do you want the light to cover a small area, or a broader area?  Watch and learn.

Soft-box lighting and umbrella lighting are kinds of light diffusion, they aren't lights themselves.  As always, the type of shot you want will dictate which one you want to use.

Umbrella Lighting Features:

  • Simple, cheap
  • Allows your light to cover a broad area of space
  • Two ways to use the is to aim the light into the umbrella and bounce it back to the subject, or blast light through the umbrella to actually light the subject.  Both techniques give you soft lighting and can mimic outdoor lighting with a high-intensity bulb.

Soft Box, aka Light Banks, Features:

  • Creates more of a directional light source
  • Produce a narrow range of field allowing for more control over the light on your subject.
  • Produces soft look like light coming from a window

Breaking it down:

Use soft box lighting when you want more control and a smoother look for subjects, like people.

Umbrella diffusion lights a broader area, ideal for backdrops and location shoots.  Make sure your subject is far enough away from the background to avoid light spill.

And if you're still not satisfied, test them both out to get the look you're seeking.

Want more lighting tips?  Here are a couple of other bits of knowledge:


  • Ken Fisher

    Sure wish you folks had a forum, message board. I have questions from time to time, but they don't get answered for the most part. Seems you have a good user base. Ever thought about it? I just haven't found a good online video type forum for this subject with knowledgeable people or without ones that just want to push their own product...LinkedIn.

    • Chris Atkinson

      Hi, Ken. We try to respond to as many as we can. Sometimes it's a breakdown in the comment system. If it's a video you want to comment on, it's usually best to go to YouTube to do that, but here...we try the best we can to answer any questions. Feel free to fire away.