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How to Use a Photography Umbrella for Portraits

Learn how to use a photography umbrella for portraits from professional photographer Joe Sinnott in this Howcast photography tutorial.


I'm Joe. I teach photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I'm going to show you how to use an umbrella to shoot a portrait.

As you can see, I'm using this strong tungsten light over here. Inexpensive. Very, very easy to get. It makes a very, very harsh light, and the deep shadows that it forms on your subject's face are not particularly attractive.

A photo umbrella, something like this, you can get in any decent photo store. They're not particularly expensive. $20, $25, $30 dollars. You'll need something like this, an umbrella clamp and these come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, to attach to your stand underneath your light.

But you'll see when I put the umbrella on, how much softer and more attractive and more appealing the light gets and how much better it looks on our subject than the harsh direct light looked just a minute ago.

Strap around neck. Strap around neck because you don't want to use your camera as a gravity checker.

That's great. Eyes on me. Lift your chin a tiny bit. Move your shoulder back just a little. That's fabulous. Turn your head a tiny bit right.

And you see that no matter how our subject turns her face, the shadows never get harsh nor deep. No part of our subject's face is ever so blackly shadowed that you can't see it.

From your waist, lean towards me just a tiny bit, Syd. Turn your head a little more to your right.

And that's how you can use an umbrella to shoot a portrait.

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