The latest addition to Profoto’s assortment of Light Shaping Tools has arrived: the Umbrella XL. Swedish photographer Alex Giacomini, who together with Martin Kelam runs the aptly named Alex&Martin production team, was one of the very first to get his hands on the new release.
It has been a successful year for Alex&Martin. The team’s images have been featured in numerous magazines and advertising campaigns, and Alex&Martin was recently nominated for the annual Swedish Design Award. Alex, who was eager to test the versatility of his new tool, brought the Umbrella XL with him to two different shoots.
The first job was a hybrid shoot. Alex had to shoot both a video and a series of images against a green screen for an advertising campaign. He had two ProDaylight Air units at his disposal – one fitted with a HR Softbox, the other with the Umbrella XL.
”To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of umbrellas so my expectations were quite low,” laughs Alex. “But I have to admit, I was very surprised! It suddenly felt as if I could squeeze out a lot more power from the ProDaylight, and the light itself had an amazing character. It’s also worth mentioning that I could keep shooting with the same settings when I switched between filming and photographing. It saved me a lot of time.”
What about the second shoot?
“This was a pretty straightforward, business-type group shoot. The kind of job where the clients don’t have much time – where everything has to go fast and nothing can go wrong, you know. Above all, I was amazed by how much you can zoom the light by simply sliding the shaft back and forth. Not only did it allow me to focus the light on either the entire board or just a single person, it also changed the light characteristics from a soft light to a distinctive and very crisp light.”
Do you have any ideas on where you will next use the Umbrella XL?
“Yes. I’d really like to use it as a larger, sort of ambient light source, from above. I think it would be the perfect tool for creating sunlight. Especially now at this time of the year, when it gets really dark here in Stockholm…”
I hear that. Any word of advice to photographers who have never used a larger Umbrella before?
“Well, I’d recommend spending some time experimenting with how the distribution and character of the light change when you move the shaft. As I said, this is an incredibly useful function. In fact, if I were to invest in my very first piece of lighting equipment, I think this is one of the tools I’d buy. Just because of that functionality. And I’m not saying that just because I’m talking to you. You really do get your money’s worth. The only disadvantage with the Umbrella XL is that it catches a lot of wind. You need to be careful when you’re outside.”
One last thing: have you tried using the optional diffuser?
“No, but I know that my colleague Martin has. We both have our own style of setting the lights. I usually prefer quite hard light, while he’s more into softer, diffused light. Martin snatched the diffuser as soon as we got it, and I haven’t seen it ever since. I guess he really liked it…”
The Umbrella XL has a diameter of 165 cm (65 in). It is available in white, silver and translucent versions, and it fits onto all Profoto flash heads and monolights. An optional front diffuser is available, which practically converts Umbrella XL white and the Umbrella XL silver into a fully functioning Octabox. An optional stand adapter is also available, which allows the photographer to mount the umbrella onto a light stand, or use it with former Profoto heads or even with products form other brands. All umbrellas come in a rugged transport bag.
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