Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting for Product Photography – Which One is Right for You?

Softboxes and umbrellas are popular light modifiers in photography, but having slight differences from each other. You are probably searching for a lighting kit for product photography but can’t decide which one is right for you— softbox or umbrella lighting. 

In this article, we will give you an honest and indeed review of softbox vs umbrella lighting with in-depth information. The major topics you will cover by reading this content are— 

  • What are softbox and umbrella lighting?
  • Different types of softboxes and umbrellas with examples. 
  • What are the main uses of softboxes and umbrellas?
  • Pros and cons of softboxes and umbrellas. 

Finally, you will get a comprehensive discussion on which one is right for you, between softboxes and umbrellas. So, let’s start!

Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting for Product Photography – Which One is Best for Business?

When it comes to choosing one from softbox vs umbrella lighting for product photography, you need to have a crystal-clear idea about both photography lighting kits. It will help you select the best one to make your photography. 

For that reason, first, I will give detailed information on Softbox vs Umbrella separately. After that, you will get a comparative discussion of softbox light vs umbrella—which one is best for you. 

Let’s go through lighting umbrella vs softbox! 

What is Softbox Lighting?

Softboxes are a type of lighting modifier that helps photographers to shape the light in their studio environment for taking photoshoots. These lighting modifiers change, control, and manipulate the diffusion and softness of the light according to their size and shape. 

Professional product photographers use the best softbox for product photography because softboxes provide perfect lighting depth and highlight the subject more clearly, by removing harsh shadow and blending it softer.

Different Types of Softboxes with Examples

Softboxes come in different types, sizes, and shapes as they are used for numerous purposes. Here, with examples, we discussed the top-level softboxes famous for their top-notch performance. So, let’s go!


Octabox lightbox

Otactabox is also known as an octagon softbox. This unique softbox is subtly different from a rectangle softbox as it contains an octagonal shape. Photographers use this softbox as a catchlight to create specular highlights on the eyes.

Octabox is famous for creating creative portrait photography and fashion photography. Moreover, it also works great for product and food photoshoots. For instance, if you buy an Elinchrom Rotalux Octabox 135cm (EL26647), you can use it for portrait and product photography due to its shape, size, light control capacity, and extra flexibility.

Lantern Softbox

Lantern Softbox

Lantern softboxes are designed to provide a wide spill of smooth and omnidirectional light due to their lantern shape. This softbox is good for portrait, fashion, and real estate photography. Also, you can use them for product photography. 

For instance, Neewer Lantern Softbox Diffuser is great for making any product photoshoot. You can move it to any directional point you want the light to go. 

Strip box

Strip box

The Strip box contains a much narrower width than the other sides. It’s popular for lighting a background that creates a smooth shadow edge on the longer side and a fine shadow edge on the other. This softbox is perfect for product photoshoots, especially for packshot photography

For instance, Godox Strip Box 9″x35″ is famous for small and medium size product photoshoots. You can also use it for fashion and portrait photos.

Rectangle Softbox

Rectangle Softbox

The Rectangle Softbox is the most common softbox in the market. This lighting diffuser creates natural-looking light due to its simple shape. You can use it for any type of photography, from product photoshoots to headshots. 

For instance, Fovitec – 1x 24″x36″ Rectangular Softbox creates a soft wrap-around light, feathering edges & softening the appearance of subjects. 

What are the Main Uses of Softbox?

Softboxes are considered the best friend of studio photographers because of their incredible versatility in lighting that can be used to shoot nearly any type of photography. There is a variety of uses for the softbox, from studio photoshoots to outdoor photoshoots. 

Portrait Photography

Softbox has a lot of use in portrait photography because of its versatile lighting combination and control. It’s used to create fill light or key light in portraiture. Also, it’s often mixed with other lighting modifiers to create an array of different looks. 

Product Photography

Softbox also has wide use in product photoshoots like electronics and jewelry items like earrings photography for E-commerce. Because they create perfect even lighting that removes the shadow from the product and highlights it very much. 

Outdoor Photography 

Softboxes are famous for studio photoshoots, though. They can also be used in outdoor photoshoots because of their flexible and versatile usage facilities. In outdoor photo sessions, softboxes are used together with natural light. You can use them in difficult situations, like in the afternoon, to remove shadows from the subject.

Pros and Cons of Using Softbox

In the above, you learned about softbox lighting and its different types and uses. Now you will get a brief overview of Softbox lighting’s Pros and Cons. 

Perfect control over the lightNot as easy to use as other lamps
Can be more directional by adding a gridPricey
Engaging soft light quality

What is Umbrella Lighting? 

Umbrellas in photography lighting are types of light modifiers that create soft and diffused light for photoshoots. These light modifiers are popular for their high portability and easy usage. Photographers get broad and soft lighting sources when they use umbrellas. 

As the name suggests, lighting umbrellas are also the same to open and collapse, just like a regular softbox. Thus, if you have ever used a simple umbrella, you are already halfway to know using umbrella lighting. 

Different Types of Umbrella Lighting With Examples

There are four types of umbrellas for photography lighting: Parabolic, shoot-through, reflective, and umbrella softbox. All of them are great for creating soft quality light to flatter the subject and make it look attractive. Let’s know the details of them.

Parabolic Umbrella

Parabolic Umbrella

Parabolic umbrella lighting is like an ordinary reflective umbrella but with more fabric panels and a round and deeper profile. This lighting kit creates a focal point of light and generates more natural illumination. 

It’s great for mimicking the sunlight to capture more details and high contrast in photoshoots. Photographers use parabolic umbrellas like Westcott 7′ Parabolic Three Umbrella Kit for their photography purposes.

Shoot Through Umbrella 

Shoot Through Umbrella 

Shoot-Through Umbrella lighting kit is made out of translucent diffusion fabric that produces different soft lights and diffuses shadow edges from the subject. It also creates a hotspot in the middle as the light source. 

Shoot-through umbrella lighting kits are common in studio photography. You can use it for studio portrait photoshoots or product photoshoots. For instance, you can use Phottix Premio Black Backing (for an 85cm/33 Shoot-Through Umbrella). 

Reflective Umbrella

Reflective Umbrella

Reflective umbrella lighting kits have a great impact on lighting area expansion. It creates soft lighting by making the light reflect off the shiny inner layer, including providing different color options. 

Reflective umbrellas for lighting contain black material on the outside to prevent light from passing through in order to reduce the rear light spill. Also, it creates more focus and control over the light. CowboyStudio 33-inch Black and Silver Photo Studio Reflective Umbrella are famous in this category. 

Umbrella Softbox

Umbrella Softbox

The umbrella softbox is considered a bit of a hybrid as it still contains an umbrella structure. This lighting kit provides a super quick and easy setup facility while it also contains the features of a softbox. Thus, the lighting kit becomes an umbrella softbox. 

Umbrella softboxes create soft and even light, which are best for portraits and still-life or product photography. You can use a hybrid umbrella softbox to make your product photography. 

What are the Main Uses of Umbrella Lighting?

Like softboxes, umbrella lighting kits also have a variety of use in photography. As they are easy to set up, professional photographers use them more. Here are some photoshoot genres where umbrella lighting kits are used most.

Portrait Photography

Umbrella lighting kits are often used in portrait photoshoots. While photography softboxes are easy to control, umbrella lighting kits are more affordable and easier to set up. 

Product Photography 

Umbrella lights contain a large area that’s why they are perfect for large product photography.

Fashion Photography

Umbrella lights are also great for fashion photography because of their dramatic effect in the background. Photographers use umbrella lights as the fill lights when making fashion photoshoots. 

Pros and Cons of Using Umbrellas

You learned about umbrella lighting kits, their types, and their usage in the above. Now you will get an overview of the pros and cons of umbrella lighting kits. 

Easy to set up and operateLess control over the light
Compact for storageLess suitable for outdoor shoots
Easy to use with other lamps
Affordable price

Recommended, Softbox vs Umbrella Lighting for Product Photography–

In the above, you learned details about softbox vs umbrella lighting for photography. Now you will get a comparative discussion on both. It will help you choose the best photography lighting kits depending on your photography type. So, let’s get it. 

Softbox and lighting umbrella are both the most useful light modifiers in photography that create soft and diffused light with a strobe. But there are some differences between them. 

Umbrella lighting mainly creates broader and diffused light that is beyond control, while softbox produces controlled and direct lighting, which seems to be sunlight coming from a window.

When it comes to a reflective or shoot-through umbrella vs softbox, softbox produces more even light, whereas reflective and shoot-through umbrellas produce a wall of light with minimal hotspots. It made them popular in photography and videography. 

In addition, if you want a more portable setup with easy and quick to assemble and break down, umbrella lighting is unbeatable. Because they are more compact and foolproof, but if you have more space in your studio, softboxes will be the best. 

Finally, umbrella lighting kits are great for photographers who are new to using artificial light. But softboxes are the best to provide more directionality and control in lighting. 

So, deciding whether to use umbrella lighting vs softbox comes down to your personal preference. It totally depends on your ultimate creative goal. 


What size of softbox should I get?

You should choose the softbox size according to the size of your subject.

Why do photographers use umbrellas?

Photographers use umbrella lights because these umbrellas create a broad and soft light source while they are easy to set up.

Why do photographers use a softbox?

Softboxes create soft light and remove harsh shadows from the subject. That’s why photographers use softboxes.

Is a dark or light umbrella better?

Both colored umbrellas work great for product photography, but the dark color absorbs most light and heat. 

Why is a white umbrella not used in summer?

White umbrellas are not the best for protecting the subject against the sun. That’s why they are not used in the summer. 

Can I use an LED bulb in the softbox?

Yes. You can use LED bulbs in the softbox because they create a flicker-free, continuous light source. 

What is the best shape for a softbox?

Rectangular is the best shape for a softbox because of its wide application in product photography. 

Can a softbox be a key light?

Yes. Softboxes can be used as key lights because of their versatile options like fill lights and key lights. 

Do you need a reflector with a softbox?

No. You don’t need to use a reflector with a softbox to create light in your photography. 

Final Verdict

Softboxes and umbrellas are famous lighting kits in photography for their perfect light control and flexible facilities. They can be used both in studio and outdoor photoshoots. In this article, we presented detailed information on softbox and umbrella lighting kits. 

Umbrella vs softbox in photography— I hope there is no query to choosing the right lighting modifier! So, go forth and select a photography lighting kit that you think is the most suitable for you.

Outsource Photo Editing, Easily.


About the Author

I'm also on

Jacob Wyatt


Content Marketing Manager, Writer

Jacob Wyatt is the head of the Content Marketing Department at Clipping Path Studio, one of the best platforms providing photo editing solutions 24/7. He specializes in writing and marketing. He manages multiple tasks like fine-tuning content, optimizing content suitable for social media, ecommerce, photography, team management, and so on at a time given that he is the head of the department.

Read more from Jacob Wyatt

Pixel-perfect Image Editing Solution for Ecommerce