Tutorial: The Differences Between a Parabolic Umbrella and a Beauty Dish

Photographer Anita Sedowska takes us through what a parabolic umbrella and a beauty dish do for portraiture.

When it comes to portrait photography there is no doubt in my mind that softboxes are the most popular diffusers, but parabolic umbrellas and beauty dishes are also a favorite of many photographers. If you’re just getting into lighting, then it can be difficult to look at an image and determine whether a softbox, umbrella, or beauty dish was used to shoot it. Anita Sedowska takes you through this in her latest tutorial video which you’ll find after the jump, but we thought that we’d go into our archives to dig even deeper.

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The New Broncolor FT Lighting System is Pretty Genius


While camera and lens companies continue to innovate, we also think that it’s great that lighting companies are also trying to do the same. Today’s announcement of the Broncolor FT lighting system has to be one the more brilliant and efficient use of lighting that we’ve seen in a while.

In essence, the system uses an actual Parabolic umbrella with adjustable light throw and a light tube that evenly spreads the light out throughout the umbrella. This is far different from a flash head that directly blasts light forward because it’s blasting light out in all directions and evenly illuminating the light modifier.

According to Broncolor’s Press release:

“what makes this unique is the new Para system uses a series of interchangeable Focusing Tubes. An FT focusing tube supports, positions and transfers power to the FT 1600W HMI and a 2000W Tungsten heads. The FT tube is wired for a lamp head with electrical connections integrated into the tube…The F tubes are designed for use with strobe heads or other third party fixtures that can be attached with the screw mount or by using one of the many attachment baskets made by broncolor.”

As for the products, the announcement focuses on the FT 1600 HMI system that boasts a lamp head and focusing tubes meant to to be used with the new Broncolor 88 HR and 133 HR Paras–which are said to be able to handle lots of heat that monolights output. In fact, Broncolor says that they can handle up to 2000W tungsten-halogen light sources.

With the parabolic umbrellas and the tubes working together, you essentially have two different variables that can control the flash exposure. Of course, there is the actual flash output but there is also the parabolic umbrella that acts as a zoom head akin to what you have on a hot shoe flash or to specifically shaped umbrella reflectors on more traditional studio strobes. The more narrow the beam due to the more narrow parabolic configuration, the more powerful it will look vs it being spread over a large area.

We’ve got no word on pricing yet, but considering that Broncolor offers the top of the line when it comes to lighting gear, don’t expect them to be cheap.

Essentials: The Environmental Headshot Photographer

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Mobile Headshot photographer (1 of 6)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 4.0

Essentials is a brand new series where we round up specially curated kits for different photographers in different situations. Other items could surely be substituted, but these are what we personally recommend. 

After taking a short break, we’ve decided to head right back into the Essentials for what we think an environmental headshot photographer would use. So what exactly do we mean by this? Well, here in NYC, lots of photographers like using a combination of natural/ambient light and blending it with flash. And due to the fact that they’re on location and sometimes without assistants, they tend to try to pack as lightly as possible.

While we often recommend using monolights, they aren’t as portable as a couple of hot shoe flashes placed in the absolute right positions to give the right amount of kick.

And for that, we recommend the following.

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