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I understand that golden reflective umbrellas are usefull to get warmer light.

But, what's the difference between white reflective umbrellas and silver umbrellas? Do silver umbrellas also change the color temperature of the light source?

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No, Nothing to do with the temperature. It changes the hardness of the light.


There are two usages of a white umbrella. As a bounced light inside it, or as a fast-setup softbox, passing the light through it. It is definitely a diffuse light.

The difference versus a softbox is that on a softbox you do not spill light all over the place. When using a white umbrella as a bounce light you can add a black cover so the light does not spill behind it, you have still much light all over the place. It is a good option if you want for example high key portraits.


But a silver umbrella is only used as a bounce light. Depending on the overall size, and the position of the flash inside it, it can produce different results.

One example is parabolic umbrellas. If the umbrella is a real parabolic one, (big umbrellas and specialized brands) can give you more or less parallel rays, where the fall-off of the light is lower than a normal studio light. The light should be on the focal point.

But a white one will spill more light, regardless of the shape of the umbrella.

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In general, is due to the nature of how light is bounced on different surfaces.

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The diagrams are exaggerated, especially the silver ones.

That would be a perfect mirror, like a chromed metallic surface. The finish of silver umbrellas has some diffusion but not as much as white.

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  • I understand, but I thought hardness of light depends only on the size and distance of the modifier. If two umbrellas are equally big and distant, why one can be harder than the other? – vsis May 15 at 2:53
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    @vsis The hardness of the light depends on the Kight’s direction. If all the light is traveling in the same direction, you get hard light. If it’s diffuse, where there are rats going in many directions, the light is soft. Size and distance affect that, but those aren’t the only factors. The type of surface reflecting light, the shape of the surface, and things in the light’s path (e.g. a grid or a filter) are some examples of other factors. – Caleb May 15 at 3:07
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    Let me make a diagram tomorrow and I will complete the answer. – Rafael May 15 at 10:14
  • Searching in google I found the same differences you said, and with image examples it's very easy to see that silver umbrellas produce harder shadows. So I marked this answer as the accepted one. – vsis May 18 at 17:02
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    Sorry for the delay. I updated the answer including the diagrams. – Rafael May 23 at 13:17
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White umbrellas produce softer shadows while silver ones produce harder shadows.

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