I was thinking the other day about what one lighting tool would I choose if I were stranded on a desert island for the rest of my life with a whole lot of people who needed to be photographed. I know it’s kind of a specific situation, but the answer is easy. I’d bring a huge white 7′ shoot-through umbrella. In fact, since they’re only $49, I’d bring two.

Shoot-through umbrella

I call it a shoot-through umbrella because I learned from David Ziser to point the flash into the umbrella pointed toward the subject. My school portrait photographers always had umbrellas, but they pointed the flash into the black umbrella with a silver lining and pointed the umbrella away from me and the light reflected from the umbrella back onto me. Instead, point the convex part of the umbrella toward your subject. This makes the light softer and it covers more people better.

But the reason I’d take this umbrella is that it’s much more useful than that only.

Diffuser on a stick

Because it’s made of translucent white material, you can also use this umbrella as a diffuser. you can shine any light through it to make it more flattering and even change the direction of the source. Indoors, you can put it between your subject and harsh overhead lights and make beautiful soft light. Outdoors, you put it between the subjects and the sun to turn the hard sunlight into a flattering soft light, as I did here. My assistant is holding the umbrella’s stick and positioning it right over my subjects.

Get one two

Plus, since you’re stranded on a desert island, you can use it for a cabana and catch up on your Photofocus reading on the beach! Since they only cost $49, get two in case one blows away or to share a cabana with a friend. It’s a light that I use all the time and I never tire of it’s versatility.


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