Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. This month we talk to Zhang Jingna about one of our most recently released tools: the Umbrella Deep XL White.
The umbrella is one of the most popular Light Shaping Tools out there. No surprise there. Umbrellas are affordable, easy to work with and very easy to transport. What’s not to like?
Profoto offers twelve kinds of umbrellas in two shapes: deep and shallow. This article will focus on one of the deep models: the Umbrella Deep XL White. The deeper shape is designed to give you better control of the light spread. It also allows you to focus and shape the light by sliding the umbrella shaft in its holder. Put together, the umbrella’s size and smooth, white fabric creates a large, soft and very even light source. But again, the light is surprisingly controllable and shapeable, thanks to the umbrella’s deeper shape.
In short, it’s a straightforward tool that you can do a lot with. Zhang Jingna’s images are a clear evidence of that. Just consider the fact all the images in this article were shot with just a single flash: a D1 monolight equipped with the Umbrella Deep XL White.
“Last year I launched a personal project of mine called Motherland Chronicles, a series of fantasy-inspired portraits” says Jingna. “A Prayer, Germaine II and Tabitha are all taken for this series.”
Jingna has her roots in China and Singapore but is now based in New York. She spends most of her time shooting fashion and beauty for clients such as Montblanc, Canon and Mercedes Benz. She’s also published in the international editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and L’Officiel on a frequent basis. But it’s not all work. Sometimes she does stuff just for the fun of it. Motherland Chronicles is an example of just that.
“I had a certain illustrative look in mind for this project,” says Jingna. “To achieve that, I needed a very soft, even light source. That’s why I’ve been working with the Umbrella Deep XL White. I generally enjoy working with umbrellas. I find that setting up and packing away softboxes can be pretty tedious. Umbrellas are a great substitute, especially for on-location shoots.”
Being a personal project, Jingna had to work with a limited budget and do as much as possible with as little as possible.
“All the images were shot in my home studio, so there was no room for any complicated setups,” she says. “I used only one flash for almost all the images. A Prayer was shot with a Profoto D1 Air 500 equipped with an Umbrella Deep XL White. So was Germaine II and Tabitha, but in these cases I also used a Collapsible Reflector to bounce some light and soften the shadows.”
I know that you also own the Umbrella Deep XL Silver and the Umbrella Deep XL Translucent. How would you describe the different lights that these create?
“Well, it’s pretty straightforward. The translucent has the softest light, the silver has a lot higher contrast and is brighter, and the white is somewhere in between the two.”
You also own the Umbrella Shallow M. How do the two sizes perform compared to each other?
“The light spread is quite different, and the deeper version gives me more precise control. But the Umbrella Shallow M still creates a very beautiful light. It’s almost like a medium-sized softbox and definitely a great option for on-location shoots or when you need to stay mobile.”
Jingna is now near the end of Motherland Chronicles and is currently busy preparing the series for an exhibition and a photo book that will be released later this year.