Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting Showdown: Which of the following should you use to light your videos?

Highlights – Softboxes and umbrellas both produce soft, diffused light on your set. Softboxes are more controlled and directional, as well as easier to modify, whereas umbrella light is similar to outdoor lighting. Umbrellas are frequently less expensive and easier to store and transport. 

You’ve determined that it’s time to take the plunge and buy some lights for yourself. Awesome! This suggests that your filmmaking is improving and that you are gaining confidence and capability.

But where should you invest your money into? Will softbox lighting be the most effective for you? Will umbrellas be the best use of your money? We’re here to compare the benefits and drawbacks of softbox vs umbrella lighting.

Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting Showdown: Which of the following should you use to light your videos? is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

What exactly is an umbrella light? 

Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting Showdown: Which of the following should you use to light your videos?

Lighting umbrellas look exactly like umbrellas you’d use to keep the rain off you, though mixing them with water is probably not a good idea. 

There are two types of lighting umbrellas: reflective and shoot-throughReflective umbrellas have a black “outside” (convex side) and a shiny inside (concave side), which is usually silver or gold. Shoot-through umbrellas are made of lightweight white fabric that allows light to easily pass through.

Reflective umbrella

You use a reflective umbrella by directing your light toward the reflective surface while angling the shiny side toward your subject. The light reflects off the reflective surface and spreads across your subject.

Shoot-through umbrella

As the name implies, you point the outside of your umbrella at your subject. Your light source is hidden behind the umbrella, shining through the fabric onto your subject. Shoot-through umbrellas are simple to use and ideal for beginners. They produce lovely soft light, but it can easily spill. 

Umbrellas can be regular or parabolic in shape. Parabolic umbrellas have more panels than regular umbrellas and are often larger. They produce light with a better wrap-around quality than standard umbrellas. 

Remember that the larger your umbrella, whether reflective or shoot-through, the softer your light will be. And the bigger your umbrella, the brighter the light you’ll need to fill it.

When should I use an umbrella as a lighting source?

Umbrella lighting is diffused and soft, uncontrollable, and uncontained. You might think it looks like an outdoor light. You can also create golden hour sunlight by using a reflective umbrella with a gold-colored lining. 

An umbrella is a great option if you want to spread soft, even light over a large area without having to direct it or prevent it from spilling. Furthermore, umbrellas are an excellent choice for shooting interiors. 

Umbrellas also have an advantage over softbox lighting kits in that they are lighter, easier to set up and dismantle, and easier to transport. They are also often less expensive than softbox lights.

So, if you’re looking for a simple system for lighting YouTube videos that you shoot at home, an umbrella kit might be the best choice.

What is a softbox?

Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting Showdown: Which of the following should you use to light your videos?

A softbox is essentially a box into which a light source is placed. One side is semi-translucent, allowing light to pass through and illuminate your scene. The semi-translucent covering softens and diffuses the light, resulting in lovely wrap-around light with gentle shadows for your subject. 

Softbox lighting is more direct and controllable than umbrella lighting. 

Softboxes are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, including square, rectangular, and octagonal. Different shaped softboxes produce various shaped catch-lights in people’s eyes. If you’re wondering what size softbox you need, portrait photographers follow the rule of thumb that your softbox should be roughly the same size as your subject.

When do I need to use a softbox?

Softbox light is frequently described as looking like light coming through a window. It’s soft and diffuse, but it’s focused. You may notice that it conforms more to your subjects and provides slightly more definition than an umbrella. Softboxes allow you to use light modifiers such as grids, honeycombs, or louvres. 

Use a softbox if you want soft, even light but need to be careful about where it falls. You can really make a subject stand out from the background by placing a honeycomb over a softbox. If you need an artificial light source for backlighting, a softbox is a better choice than an umbrella due to its controllable light.

The advantages and disadvantages of using a softbox vs umbrella 

A softbox lighting kit or an umbrella setup will both diffuse light and can be used as part of a 3-point lighting setup. It’s important to remember that the quality of your light is always determined by its proximity to your subject. 

The closer the light is to the subject, the wider and thus softer the light will be. Moving the light away from your subject causes it to become harder, with more defined edges and shadows. 

When it comes to softbox vs umbrella, there isn’t a clear winner. It’s based on what works best for you. 


When comparing the prices of umbrellas and softboxes, umbrellas are typically less expensive. Umbrella as an advantage.

Storage, portability, and usability 

Umbrellas are easier to set up and pack away, and they are lighter to transport. Softbox lighting kits work best in a dedicated space where they can be left in place. 

Shooting outside with an umbrella on a windy day, on the other hand, can be a nightmare: imagine trying to hold on to an umbrella while walking down the street in windy conditions. Umbrella as an advantage over the soft-box.


Umbrella lighting is much more “free” than softbox lighting and easily spills. Umbrella lighting, which bounces off multiple surfaces in a white studio, can produce the softest light. 

If your film set’s walls are colored, having more controlled softbox lighting will make spill and reflection easier to manage. Managing lighting for your background will also be easier with a softbox.  Advantage: Softbox over Umbrella lighting.

Modifiers of light 

Softbox lights are also less difficult to modify than umbrellas. Grids or honeycombs can be used to help create soft but directed light. It’s much easier to ensure that your subject is well-lit while the background isn’t! This is especially useful for night videography. AdvantageSoftbox lighting.

What is the best lighting for high-key and low-key scenes? 

When it comes to high-key vs. low-key lighting and umbrella vs. softbox, umbrellas provide a wider spread of light, which is ideal for high-key lighting. However, the control provided by softboxes is far superior for low-key lightingWe call this a draw.

Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting Showdown: Which of the following should you use to light your videos?

The softbox umbrella

If you can’t decide between a softbox and an umbrella, you might want to consider a softbox umbrella. They are, as the name implies, a cross between an umbrella and a softbox. They are covered in the shape of an umbrella, similar to a softbox.


When deciding between a softbox and an umbrella, there is no right or wrong answer. It depends on your requirements and budget.

You may find that softbox lighting techniques give you more versatility, but starting with umbrellas gives you the foundation you need. And nothing is stopping you from using both umbrellas and softboxes as needed.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting Showdown: Which of the following should you use to light your videos?

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