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What Is Parabolic Lighting?

Published: 25/08/2021

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Learning lighting techniques is an essential skill for photographers. This leads to the question, what is parabolic lighting and what makes it special compared to other light sources? I'm going to explain what parabolic lighting is, its benefits and disadvantages, and how it can affect your real estate photos. 

What Is Parabolic Lighting?

Parabolic lighting is a softer and less focused light beam. It comes from a plane curve or symmetrical U-shaped line caused by parabolic modifiers. Depending on where you position the lamp head in a real estate scene, this curvature or shape enables you to alter the light's strength or focus.

Lighting interiors and exteriors let you highlight a property's features, helping your clients market and sell a home through visually stunning images. With various kinds of lighting you can use, it's vital that you know the best time to apply parabolic lighting in real estate images.

A parabolic lighting in dark background

Parabolic Light in Photography

Parabolic lighting is a less harsh light from a more rounded modifier with more panels to create a focal point of light. In effect, it generates a more natural illumination than other modifier shapes.

Parabolic light can mimic the sun's natural lighting to capture more detailed and high-contrast real estate photos. When photographing a house, the difference in placement and intensity can help change a room's mood, and consequently, the viewer's perception.

You can partially illuminate the center when moving the light bulb closer into a parabolic modifier. Meanwhile, moving closer enables you to illuminate the scene entirely. Either way, the circular illumination lets you surround the subject with soft yet 2-dimensional lighting.

Benefits of Parabolic Lights in Real Estate Photography

Professionally photographed properties have a 47% higher asking price per square foot. One of the ways to achieve that is to provide proper illumination.

The parabolic shape's symmetry enables you to reflect light at specific angles and distances. With such benefits, you can see why parabolic lighting is a suitable form of lighting for on-location shoots, such as real estate photography

  • Versatility: Parabolic lighting provides flexibility when you want to experiment with various kinds of lighting. It's perfect if you need more control over lighting, especially if there's not much ambient lighting available in the room.
  • Focus beam: Parabolic lighting's narrow beam allows you to focus the light on a particular part of the screen without affecting the whole shot. This concentrated illumination lets you create charming light falloff for accent shots. 
  • More detailed shots: If you have people in the scene, positioning the parabolic lighting behind you can sculpt the jawline, cheekbones, or other body parts.

Downsides of Using Parabolic Lights in Real Estate Photos

It can be pretty challenging to use parabolic lighting when photographing subjects with reflective or glossy surfaces. This usually applies in kitchens with shiny countertops or bathrooms with several mirrors.

Another drawback is the price, as parabolic modifiers typically cost more than their counterparts. However, modifiers can be worthwhile investments as they can produce variable lighting strength and focus. 

Kitchen with glossy countertops and appliances

Types of Parabolic Light Modifiers

Only 15% of property listings use high-quality photos for marketing. If you want to provide professional real estate photography services, it's essential that you know how to use the various parabolic modifiers. 

These modifiers can reflect light either to a single point or beam of light. However, they can have significant differences in the overall effect.

  • Parabolic softbox: A parabolic softbox has the classic umbrella shape, although it has a much deeper curve and commonly includes a front diffuser cover. This structure maximizes illumination by diffusing light into an evenly soft spread.
  • Parabolic reflector: A parabolic reflector gathers light and returns it as a concentrated beam with smooth gradation, even when shooting long distances. Some models include a rod and reflected panels to produce more circular lighting. 
  • Parabolic umbrella: Parabolic umbrellas are larger than traditional umbrellas because they have more panels that generate a focal point of light. Whether you partially close or open a parabolic umbrella, it should let you focus light into an intense beam.

How Can I Create a Parabolic Surface?

The simplest way to make a parabolic surface is to cut and fold a flat sheet, like cardboard, into the shape you prefer. Stick a layer of aluminum foil, plastic, or metal, on the inner surface to ensure reflectivity.

What Are Other Umbrella Shapes?

Among the most common umbrella shapes are the regular umbrellas and the combination of an umbrella and a softbox. Compared to the symmetrical lines of parabolic lighting, regular umbrellas have standard convex shapes. Meanwhile, the softbox-and-umbrella hybrid combines the features and characteristics of both lighting modifiers.


Parabolic lighting is a great technique to apply in real estate photography as it can consistently produce natural-looking light. Any parabolic modifier would allow you to experiment with lighting so that your images would have a more creative effect.


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