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:


View The Full Video Transcript

Hey I'm Stephen Schweickart and today on this episode of the Reel Rebel I'm hosting a battle royal between 2 mortal enemies. Soft box lighting versus umbrella lighting-- LET'S GET IT ON!

A frequent lighting question we get here at VScreen is, "Which lights are better-- umbrella lights or soft box lights?"

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Pump those brakes! Umbrellas and soft boxes aren't lights!! They are two types of light diffusion! Now you know, "what type of diffusion should I use?" is the better question. The look you want to achieve with your video will dictate which diffusion type is best suited to your needs.

The umbrella (pops umbrella open)-- I hope I don't get seven years bad luck. As if being and simple and cheap weren't enough, they also allow your light to cover a broad area of space.
There are two different ways to implement your umbrella diffusion. One, you direct your light into the umbrella and bounce it back onto your subject. Second, you can blast the light directly through the umbrella to light your subject. Both techniques will produce soft lighting that can mimic outdoor lighting when using a high-intensity bulb.

Soft boxes, also known as 'Lightbanks,' create a more directional light source. They produce a narrow range of field allowing for more control over the light on your subject. You can also add 'a grid' to the inside of the Soft Box to diffuse the light even more. It creates a soft look similar to light produced by a window which makes skin appear smoother. Since the light coming through a Soft Box is already being diffused, the bulb doesn't need to be as bright or as intense as umbrella diffusion requires.

With so many ways and recommendations for lighting, I'm going to give you a basic break down. If you're looking for a smoother look and more control , use Soft Box diffusion for your subjects, like people. Umbrella diffusion lights a broader area making it ideal for backdrops and on location shoots, but make sure your talent is far enough away from the background to prevent light spill.

Remember that your setup will definitely change depending on the look you're wanting to create. Now, shine a little light on that subscribe button below and let me brighten your week with more helpful video tips.

  • 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.