For years, I’ve relied on white umbrellas for my off-camera lighting work. They’ve worked great. I still have two 7-foot umbrellas by Paul C. Buff from when I first got my AlienBee B800 flash units (which I no longer use). But as time went by, I realized I needed some smaller umbrella options. The 84-inch umbrellas that Paul C. Buff made were just a tad too big for my liking.
So I invested in what I will call some “cheap” 32-inch umbrellas by Westcott. Now, Westcott makes some great products, and I know photographers who use them every chance they get. And these umbrellas worked great inside. But they weren’t so great outside, collapsing with even a minor amount of wind present. The rods in the umbrella were anything but strong, and the alternative they suggested didn’t seem like it would work much better. Simply put, they didn’t have a strong umbrella option that also had a small footprint.
I knew it was time to move on.
Bringing the Impact
I reached out to B&H Photo, who recommended I get some 45″ white satin umbrellas by Impact. Sure, these were larger than the 32-inch umbrellas I was using. But not by much. For me, going larger would actually work better, as I’d be creating a larger light source without taking up much more space.
I was a little hesitant at first. After all, these had a shiny interior, and also had a black backing that I could attach to make the shoot-through into a regular umbrella.
B&H sent me two of the umbrellas for review a few months ago. And I’m still using them regularly today, either by themselves or as a secondary light source paired with my new MagBox (more on that later).
In terms of photo results, I haven’t noticed any difference between the results I was getting with the Westcott umbrellas, and the results I got with the Impact umbrellas.
Putting them to the test
I could tell that the Impact umbrellas were more heavy-duty than the Westcott umbrellas I had previously. While I wouldn’t trust them (let alone any umbrellas) to withstand high winds, on a normal day, they’ve worked for me with no problems at all. Not only are the image results exactly what I’m going for — but the umbrellas are way more durable.
While I also rely on my MagMod MagBox for a lot of my photos, I still use my umbrellas pretty regularly, especially for existing clients that have already established a look with my previous gear.
I put them to the test while photographing a corporate summer party last month, where my assistant photographed guests as they arrived on-site. During the four hours they were setup as shoot-through umbrellas, not once did they collapse or show signs of failing.
The shaft appears to be better built, but where I really saw the difference was with the slats that attached directly to the umbrella fabric. The Westcott umbrellas were rather flimsy, and I had to be pretty careful with them. With the Impact umbrellas, they are much more well-built. I’ve had them in some conditions that I know would break my Westcott umbrellas, and the Impact umbrellas haven’t budged.
The Impact Convertible Umbrella 45″ is available for $14.95. They are also available in 30-inch or 60-inch sizes.