Deep Umbrella 160 | Studio Lighting Essentials

The 160cm deep reflective umbrella is a simple and affordable modifier that can help you achieve surprisingly good results.

In this video (which you can also watch on our YouTube channel), I take a look at the pros and cons to help you decide whether or not to invest in this particular modifier.

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What is a 160cm reflective umbrella?

Relatively compact when folded down, this umbrella becomes an absolute monster when you open it up. At 160cm across, it has a significant diameter.

Unlike the white shoot-through umbrella (which I cover in a different video), this one is black on the outside with a white reflective surface on the inside.

That, plus its size, means this umbrella can provide a large white light source when you bounce light in and reflect light out of it.

This reflected light is relatively soft — not dissimilar to the light you get from an Octabox 150 softbox, for example.

These big umbrellas are black on the outside but have white reflective material on the inside.

Price check

While an Octabox 150 will set you back something north of $400, a 160cm reflective umbrella costs as little as $65.

With a price difference that big, this umbrella clearly offers fantastic value for money – especially when we consider that the depth of the umbrella really helps reduce light spill.

This can be really helpful when you’re shooting in a small space. On the flipside however, the sheer size of the umbrella makes it quite awkward to handle and manoeuvre – all the more so in a small studio with a low ceiling.

The sheer scale of this umbrella can make it tricky to use in a small enclosed space.

How to use a deep umbrella

In the video, I show you how to attach the umbrella to a studio light by sliding the rod in through the hole built into the light fitting.

You’ll see me demonstrate the umbrella with both a bare bulb and a standard reflector. I actually often prefer to use a bare bulb with this modifier to maximise the amount of light I’m bouncing into (and therefore out off) the reflective surface.

On that note, you have the freedom to position the light as close to or as far away from the umbrella as you like. Just be mindful that if you get too close, even with a bare bulb, you may decrease the surface area you’re illuminating, which will in turn decrease the spread of light.

Give that the whole point of a deep reflective umbrella is to create a large spread of soft, even light, I find it best to use a bare bulb positioned just close enough that the spread of light from the bulb reaches the very edge of the umbrella.

Positioning the light too close to the umbrella will decrease the surface area you're illuminating, which in turn will decrease the spread of light.

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Umbrella accessories

In terms of accessories for large umbrellas, you can buy umbrella diffuser covers. This is basically a specially made sheet of diffusion material that clips on to the underside of the umbrella, effectively creating a kind of softbox.

These covers, which cost less than the umbrellas themselves, help you to achieve a bigger spread of more homogenous light. But in my experience, the white reflective material gives a really good spread on its own, making the diffusion cover largely unnecessary.


Lighting Comparison Visualiser

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A handy tool for comparing modifiers

In the video, you’ll see me use our handy Lighting Comparison Visualiser tool to compare the 160cm deep reflective umbrella with the Octabox 150.

As the tool shows, the umbrella gives nice catchlights in the model’s eyes, but offers less contrast in the shadows than the octabox.

Comparing the 160cm reflective umbrella with the Octabox 150 using the Lighting Comparison Visualiser tool.

It’s clear that the umbrella causes more light to escape and bounce around, which shows that it gives you less control than the octabox, too.

Still, considering its extremely low price tag, you can get some really good results from this umbrella. That's why I always keep one to hand in my studio – and why I recommend you do the same.

Want to know more about lighting modifiers? We've got plenty of classes on Photography Lighting designed to help you harness the power of light.

Want to continue exploring lighting techniques? Click here to watch our next tutorial on Stripbox Lighting and master directional lighting in your studio setups. Alternatively, checkout our previous tutorial on the Octabox (75cm).

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