Photography: “Umbrella Lights”

The best $50 I’ve ever spent on camera equipment:

My sister and I have been griping about the awful lighting that inevitably occurs during dinner photography.  Especially in the winter, when we’re forced to rely on incandescent lighting to make our pictures look pretty.

They never really do though.  Look pretty, I mean.

Because, let’s face it, nobody wants their mashed potatoes to look orange like mac ‘n’ cheese.  And there are times when no amount of white balance adjusting will change the dull appearance and flatness of a night time photo.

Behold, the wonders of an umbrella light!

I still have much to learn on the hows and whys of umbrella lights, but here’s my little mini tutorial in case you have ever considered trying them yourself!

Picture #1: Taken without the umbrella lights and with white balance set to incandescent (note the orangey glow:)


 This is how my pictures would normally look at dinner.  Not overly attractive!

Picture #2: Taken without the umbrella lights under fluorescent lighting and with white balance adjusted:

Not bad, but still a little flat looking!

Photo #3: Taken WITH umbrella lights and with white balance set to “cloudy” for a little warmth:

What a difference!  For a $50 investment, I honestly could not be happier with the results.

A fair warning though: umbrella lights can give off a “fake glow,” much like a flash would do.  Example:

Photo #4: Taken WITH umbrella lights, with middle light hitting food directly (i.e., FAKE looking!)

I still have lots to learn about the best angles to use with the umbrellas as well as the different effects that it will give me.  But I can already tell I’m going to love these.

Some more “umbrella” thoughts…

(1) They’re easy to set up, but I can’t imagine setting them up and taking them down every.single.time.  I found a handy dandy spot downstairs where I’ll keep them together so I’m not constantly setting up.  Keep in mind that they are a bit bulky though!

(2) Keep an eye out for photo umbrella lights on amazon and read the reviews.  The ones I have are from LimoStudio, and while I absolutely love the lights, I’m not a fan of the seller (they came in late, the box was opened, and one entire package was missing!)  The reviews will reveal more of that sort of thing, and they’ll also let you know if the quality of the lights are worth spending money on.  Amazon will ALSO give you the best bang for your buck.  These lights were normally $150 and I got them for $50!

(3) Practice makes perfect.  There are lots of good websites out there on how to properly use umbrella lights, so that you don’t get that fake look as seen in photo #4.  If you don’t like the results you’re getting, google “umbrella lights how-to” and you’ll find a ton of great tutorials.


4 thoughts on “Photography: “Umbrella Lights”

  1. Ah yes. I gripe about photographing dinner too, particularly in the winter. The only way to catch some natural light would be to serve dinner at 4!
    I’ll definitely have to check out these umbrella lights!

  2. Pingback: Top 10 of 2013 | The Simple Dietitian

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