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umbrellas vs. softboxes

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by ShaunK, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. I am in the market for some new off-camera flash equipment. My old shoot-through umbrellas have had it! Before I just go and order a couple of new ones, I wondered what members here thought about the whole umbrella/soft box comparison.

    I've never used a softbox, hence my query. I generally use these on location (mainly outside, but some indoors). I usually use 1-2 for a session, depending. Primarily portraits, although I do shoot the occasional wedding (have my sister-in-laws coming up in May).

    What are the main advantages/disadvantages to either of these?

    PS - to be used with speedlights (SB-800s) and Phottix Odin trigger/receivers.
  2. Softboxes allow you more control of the spread of the light which may not matter as much if you primarily shoot outdoors. When you factor in the cost of the softbox and the mounting/speed ring that you need for your brand of of flash, they are a lot pricier than umbrellas. If you ever shoot video, the softboxes can give you a multi-purpose solution for use with both strobes and continuous lighting. I have some Chimera softboxes that work with my SB-800s as well as Arri lights.

  3. Cima2oo7


    Aug 11, 2007
    Mountain Home, ID
    From what I have been reading, softboxes offer more controlled lighting whereas umbrellas are "light grenades" with spillage where you may not want the light. Also, you can grid a softbox which I don't believe you can do with a shoot through umbrella. I just ordered the Wescott 26" Rapid box. It is kind of a hybrid umbrella and softbox. I will let you know how I like it. From what a lot of pros say, if they could only have one modifier it'd be a convertible umbrella, but then immediately follow that up with "but I love my rapid box.

    Also just a "two cents/for what its worth" thing to what Sean said, the rapid box supposedly comes with an adjustable bracket that allows mounting virtually any speedlight.
  4. I have a couple of shoot-through umbrellas with removable black covers, and have been using a Wescott Apollo 28" soft box like Mark describes above. Much more control than the umbrellas, especially with the optional grid.
  5. Thanks guys. From that info, it sounds like I'm better off with a couple new umbrellas, at least for now... I kind of use them as "light grenades" anyways... for fill light for portraits and large groups. Another benefit for me is that it sounds like they are a little quicker and easier to set up and take down. I've never had much problem in controlling where the light goes with mine, so I think I am good for now. Thanks!
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