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How to Set Up Umbrella Lighting for Photography

Published: 02/09/2021

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Beautifully photographed real estate properties have excellent exposures. One of the best ways to achieve that is to use light modifiers like umbrellas. I'm sharing tips and guidelines on how to set up umbrella lighting for photography so you can take stunning images despite complex lighting.

How to Set Up Umbrella Lighting for Photography

To set up umbrella lighting for photography, make sure to assemble the umbrella first, then mount it on the external light. When diffusing light for interiors and exteriors, you can play with varying height levels and angles, aim the umbrella in front of the subject, and tilt the umbrella's angle.

Aside from being simple to use, photography umbrellas are one of the cheapest photography lighting kits on the market. As long as you understand their mechanisms and importance, it will be easier to assemble and create the best umbrella lighting setups for real estate shoots.

Ways of Setting Up Umbrella Lighting for Real Estate Photography

Home prices saw a 24.8% surge despite the pandemic, with the number of properties sold also increasing 20.6%. With such numbers, more realtors would continue to use real estate images for their marketing efforts.

A reflective umbrella in a dark room

An umbrella helps viewers or buyers think that the images have natural light, even if you're only using a flash, strobe, or continuous lighting. To provide the best services, these are the ways of setting up umbrella lighting in taking real estate photos.

Assembling a Photography Umbrella

Get your trusty tripod and screw on the mounting attachment or brackets. Some setups will have a grip or hot shoe for the bulb or flash. You can also consider using a bracket with a built-in umbrella receptacle.

It's crucial that you mount the umbrella accurately as it can affect light intensity. When taking real estate images, the ideal way to mount an umbrella is to use a holder to mount an umbrella with the external flash or strobe.

Putting the Umbrella to Cover the Light

It's best to point the light into the umbrella so that the diffuser can contain all of the light rays. Remember that you still need to combine light and shadow to capture realistic yet alluring real estate images.

Using an umbrella, take advantage of its reflective portion to bounce the light to let even illumination fall over the scene. Make sure not to place the bulb or flash too close to the umbrella, or else you won't light the umbrella completely.

Experimenting with Different Umbrella Lighting Angles 

An umbrella is among the basic lighting diffusers a real estate photographer should use in taking marketing photos. It is a light modifier that changes how the light passes through the umbrella.  

Furthermore, a photography umbrella produces a more extensive light source you can spread across a large space, like interiors and exteriors. Some projects require composite photos or HDR editing. When taking bracketed images, you can also use an umbrella to illuminate a scene in portions.

Similar to when using a softbox or reflector, angling an umbrella would produce varying lighting effects or patterns. 

  • Position the umbrella relatively close to the subject: Point the umbrella directly to the scene to generate intense light.
  • Feathering: Place the umbrella slightly away so that there's weaker yet softer light covering the room.
  • One overhead arrangement: Using a sturdy tripod, mount an umbrella taller than the subject. Angle the umbrella down at the subject at approximately 45 degrees. Point the flash into the umbrella using bounce mode.
  • Triangle arrangement: When you have multiple lighting setups, place 1 umbrella in front of the scene or subject, then add 2 umbrellas on either side. Make sure that the 3 umbrellas are aiming at the subject. The first umbrella should provide the main lighting, while the other two offer rim lighting.
  • Butterfly lighting: There are times when you need to include models or agents in the frame. In such situations, put the umbrella above your camera and in front of the subject. This angle softens the light on the skin, which is perfect if you need to photograph a real person.
  • The umbrella's center creates the most substantial light output. Thus, you can tilt the umbrella if you want the center to provide the most direct light. You can also tilt the umbrella away to the sides if you need less direct light.
  • Adjusting the light stand higher results in greater depth or dimension, whereas a lower light ensures more even illumination.
  • When shooting outdoors, have an assistant hold the umbrella above the subject to minimize shadows and highlights.
Umbrella lighting setup in living room

Types of Umbrellas for Real Estate Photos

Some people consume information better through what they see, which is why visuals are 43% more persuasive, even in real estate marketing. Compelling visuals for real estate often include well-lit photos, and you can achieve that using umbrella lighting.

As you take on real estate photography jobs, you will also develop lighting techniques to improve your shooting efficiency. However, it's essential that you choose the right kind of umbrella to pair with your external lights.

  • Shot-through umbrella: A shot-through umbrella defuses and spreads light across a wider area. As the light shots through the umbrella, the umbrella would reduce the power intensity of your strobe or off-camera flash. This multi-directional umbrella lets you put light closer to the scene, which is ideal if you're photographing tight spaces.
  • Reflective umbrella: This type of umbrella focuses on directing light than softening it. The light points into the umbrella so the light output would bounce out of it. A reflective umbrella is suitable for photographing agents or when the subject must be far from the light source.
  • Convertible umbrella: A convertible umbrella acts as a white diffuser or shot-through umbrella with a black cover. It is perfect for real estate photographers who need to adapt to the available light right away. This usually occurs when shooting twilight photos.


Umbrellas are reliable tools for real estate photographers because they help soften, direct, and spread light. Make sure to understand how lighting works in photography and choose the right accessories to set up umbrella lighting efficiently. Keep experimenting until you find suitable umbrella lighting arrangements for your photoshoots.


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