Best photo umbrella for a home-studio & indoor headshots
When I discovered the rectangular photo umbrellas, my first reaction was, “so what’s the point”, but then someone explained to me that it allows you to get the center of axis closer to the ceiling (or a wall). Brilliant! It instantly made sense why a rectangular photo umbrella might be more useful indoors than the traditional, round umbrella. I would even go so far as to say that a rectangular photo umbrella is the best umbrella for a home-studio & indoor headshots.
Along with my usual array of light modifiers, I now bring two Angler Parsail 60″ Umbrellas (affiliate) to every photo shoot, just in case I find myself in a bit of a squeeze for space. Their winged shape make them ideal for low-ceilinged rooms. This makes them equally useful for home studios. The fiber-glass construction to the ribs and rods make them fairly durable too.
These umbrellas can of course be used either horizontally, or vertically for when you find yourself squeezed up against a wall. for a home-studio, you can have one closer up against a wall, perhaps for fill light – and another rectangular umbrella closer to the ceiling, as your main light. All kinds of configurations are now more accessible because of their unusual shape.
In the discussion on a home-studio setup with speedlites, this kind of umbrella would make a lot of sense. The photo below, similarly to the video, will show the difference in height that is achieved. While seemingly not that much of a difference, I’ve found that that 4 inches difference in height actually helps me getting the light to come in from a proper angle!
You can purchase these umbrellas from B&H via these affiliate links
- A home-studio setup with speedlites
- Gear list – Starting out with off-camera flash (model: Claudia)
- Simple lighting setup for home studio photography (models: Anelisa & Aleona)
20 Comments, Add Your Own
1Andrew Miller says
First I’ve come across them! Is the spread / quality of light etc the same as circular umbrellas?
2Neil vN says
Andrew, I haven’t done any direct comparisons yet, but to my eye, the images look the same as I am used to getting with the round umbrella. So I am good with that.
3Peter Salo says
I would guess (usually incorrectly it seems :) ), that the rectangular umbrella makes a very pleasing catch-light. Kind of like the light from a distant window. As opposed to the usual round catch light.
4Gary Hammond says
Neil, one additional thought when it comes to using speedlights. With the speedlight having a rectangular head/reflector the coverage across the Angler might even be better than with a conventional round umbrella.
4.1Neil vN says
A good observation.
5TJ Shuflin says
Does anyone know if there is a diffusion fabric made to fit these umbrellas? I don’t see any listed on B&H.
5.1Neil vN says
I’m not aware of any either.
It can be used as a shoot through – so there’s your diffusion material, no?
Need a few more makers on the market to bring the price down…
Great idea – and useful product – thanks for posting this Neil!
7Ed Shum says
Oh, I love these! I have a small room to shoot indoor portraits, so this will be very useful! Thanks for posting Neil!
8Valent Lau says
Brilliant! Never seen these before, definitely useful for getting that last bit of space.
9Frank Wolff says
regarding a mono light or larger speed light with a standard circular reflector (Interfit 360). Does the circular reflector’s flash, spill-light, go outside the narrow part of the umbrella? If so whats the fix and what can be done about the reflector shape besides adding barn doors or other costly add-ons?
Its a great idea and would also be useful as a vertical light source, similar to a narrow lightbox, keeping more light on subject and less on background.
10Jeff Ellis says
In theory it seems like a good idea – but from your photo above with them side by side, the rectangular setup doesn’t appear that much higher than the round one next to it. Looks to be maybe 6″. Not quite a foot for sure. But I could be wrong….
And if that’s the case, it appears we are just loosing some square footage of the size of the light source.
How much actual height difference to the center of the light spread is it?
10.1Charles Bonham says
The problem with low ceiling heights and a conventional round umbrella is the bottom edge will produce a reflection in the glasses of your subject where the rectangular one will be less apt to do that because the light is a little higher and the umbrella does not come down as far thus causing a reflection. That is why I use a rectangular softbox for the same reason but this would certainly be more portable.
11Jeff Ellis says
But I can see it being useful on vertical getting closer to a wall. Shooting interiors with lighting can be a problem with umbrellas getting in the frame.
I’m sure there’s uses for it….
12Neil vN says
Profoto offers a circular spill-catcher to avoid light spilling … but I wouldn’t bother with this. Since you can move the position of the flash relative to the umbrella via the shaft of the umbrella … just do that until there is no spill.
13Frank Wolff says
I like the idea of this rectangular umbrella.
Yes, I have used the spill catcher before. It’s also circular and seems to benefit a circular umbrella design. Moving the shaft of the umbrella in to avoid spill on the narrow part of umbrella would also reduce flash hitting the long side of the rectangular umbrella. Is there still any benefit of this umbrella if the light spread is cropped short to accommodate a rectangular umbrella?
Is there any rectangular reflector or spill catcher that would benefit the umbrella’s rectangular shape?
This may not be a problem if the spill light is just bouncing around the room. But, if it is important not to have light spilling all over the place because of weird shadows or reflections, a custom fit reflector would be next.
How about just using a smaller round umbrella to reduce diameter and allow a higher position. It may not be the best studio setup but on location in tight spots it might be what “works”.
I think we need a comparison test to clear this up.
14Irene A, Boudoir Photographer says
That’s interesting. I had no idea that rectangular umbrellas even existed. Great idea.
15Lou Recine says
Could you use these for a full body shot in a room with a low ceiling
15.1Neil vN says
If you could pull it back far enough to give you that kind of spread of light — which you should be able to do if you can shoot full-length without perspective distortion.