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Do it Yourself - Flash Umbrella

Fun on rainy days

December 18th, 2011

Flash umbrellas are really cool. Except from making you look like a full-time pro, they spread and soften light, which makes them ideal for portrait photography. They are also very portable, just like regular umbrellas. But there is very little magic involved, and there are not too many differences between a flash umbrella and a regular one. So why not try to use your umbrella for something more interesting than rain?

What you need

  • A tripod. The taller, the better.
  • A flash gun that can be remotely triggered. If you don't have one, 1) Get one! or 2) Experiment with a strong light bulb instead. There are some crazy strong energy saving light bulbs for photography around.
  • An umbrella. I use one with silver color on the inside, which is good for bouncing. You could also use a white one (either bounce or shoot-through), or just experiment with different colors.

The super-simple setup

Get the tripod mount that hopefully came with your flash and mount the flash on the tripod. Then, attach the umbrella. You will have to improvise here. If you have a clamp that fits, try that. I used two strips of cable tie (the kind that can be opened by hand). If nothing else works, duct tape is your friend.

Hardly very elegant, but it works.
Hardly very elegant, but it works.

You could also mount the flash flat, which will make sure the light hits closer to the center of the umbrella and is more evenly spread.

This also works in case you do not have a tripod mount for the flash gun.
This also works in case you do not have a tripod mount for the flash gun.
And flash away!
And flash away!
Sample shot. The umbrella is placed to the side of the subject and the light is softened nicely.
Sample shot. The umbrella is placed to the side of the subject and the light is softened nicely.

Conclusion

For a simple home studio, this is a simple way of getting slightly more interesting light. Its portability makes it a great companion for field trips, too! The ability to protect against rain is an added bonus.

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Erik Moberg  2019