Five creative ways to use an umbrella in your photography

Try these techniques during your next shoot!

A shoot through umbrella is typically one of the first lighting modifiers photographers pick up. And while it’s easy to start with, it offers a bevy of creative opportunities once you begin to experiment. The folks at COOPH have put together a short YouTube video detailing five ways to use this everyday item as a creative tool during a photoshoot. The scenarios that they offer might not blow anyone’s mind, but if you are feeling a little uninspired as the year winds down, they might help push your brain into some creativity. Here is what COOPH suggests doing with that umbrella:

Smoke Bomb

Photograph using a smoke bomb under an umbrella
Adding a smoke bomb to a portrait session will give images some instant drama.COOPH

Strap a smoke bomb to the umbrella’s handle to create a portrait with a whimsical feel. If you’ve never worked with a smoke bomb before we’d recommend checking out our guide—although they can provide very cool effects in portraits, they can be a little hazardous. Make sure that you are shooting in an outdoor space that isn’t near anything that might catch fire. Also good to have some water on-hand so you can safely extinguish the bombs at the end of the shoot.

DIY Light Source

photo using fairy lights taped to umbrella as a light source
Tape fairy lights inside of a clear umbrella and use that as your light source while shooting.COOPH

Transform a standard umbrella into a reflective umbrella by covering it with aluminum foil and attaching a speedlight inside and using it as a beauty light. You can also tape fairy lights inside of your umbrella and use those as the primary light source.

Shadow Control

photograph of woman with shadow-casting umbrella
An umbrella can be a stand in for a snoot when you add some gaff tape into the mix.COOPH

Use gaff tape to create patterns and shapes on a clear umbrella to create a moody portrait.

Bounce Light

woman photographed with color casting umbrellas
Colorful umbrellas can act a bit like gels and add a pop of color into a scene.COOPH

This is the most typical use of an umbrella on a shoot. A white umbrella will brighten highlights and give you very even lighting, a black umbrella will add depth to your shadows, while colorful umbrellas can be used to play with the color of the light, similar to what you would do with gels.

Overhead Patterns

photography umbrellas around photographer in rain coat
Shoot from a high perspective and use the umbrellas to frame a colorful subject.COOPH

Use a drone or a high vantage point to capture an overhead scene. Use the umbrellas as the focal point of the picture, or as a way to frame an interesting subject.

If nothing else, the video is a great reminder that you don’t have to spend a ton of money when it comes to DIY photography projects.

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