Umbrella vs Softbox vs Beauty Dish: Unraveling What Light Modifier to Use

If you want to know how one light can deliver a number of looks just by using a light modifier, then check this out.

Today we’re giving you a post with less text. The reason for this is simply to demonstrate how a light modifier can affect a scene. Plus, we’re talking about what they can do. So let’s get right into it.


Umbrellas have the strength of letting light spill out everywhere. That’s the beauty of them. They create what’s called inefficient lighting and, to that end, they aren’t very direct. So the light will wrap around your subject and spill out everywhere else. They deliver light that is less focused than a softbox or a beauty dish.


A softbox focuses light. It is designed look really concentrated and to control light in a specific way. Most photographers like the look of a softbox. In fact, it’s the most popular option.

Beauty Dish

A beauty dish is in some ways like a softbox and an umbrella. They take light, bounce it off of a plate, let that light reflect back towards the subject and typically don’t control it. Adding a grid or a diffusion sock will target it more, but they’re not usually used this way.

To a certain extent, a flash duration that is very fast can also give the same effects as less ambient light. This works best at the camera’s max sync speed with your flash. Model: Asta Peredes.

Personally speaking, you can’t go wrong with any of these light modifiers. My personal favorites tend to be umbrellas and beauty dishes. Most photographers appreciate softboxes, though I feel they deliver an inorganic, clinical look. That’s why I embrace the spill the others deliver. Of course, with the inefficient light, you usually need more powerful lights to take advantage.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.