It is Promaster day here at the shop - boxes of Promaster accessories have come down from the receiving desk and are being priced up. The good news is the humble umbrella holders are back and the bad news is you don't know about it.
Yet. Read on...
If you have a regular electronic flash - any kind of flash, from the modest to the complex - you can generally adapt it to umbrella shooting - and thereby make large studio lighting from something that folds up under your arm.
You'll need to get a small light stand ( Did I mention that Promaster make them?), a small umbrella ( Did I mention that Promaster make them?), and an umbrella/flash holder ( Guess what...). We've got them all here - and if you'll bring your camera and your flash in we can generally succeed in showing you how to rig the system up to fire.
For all the hoohah about soft boxes, the umbrella does a pretty good job of softening a light blast. Add to the fact that setup can be a couple of minutes instead of 15+, and you can see the attraction. Add to this the variety of surfaces, colours, and translucencies of different umbrellas, and yo can fine tune the setup to match your own contrast preferences.
Plus you can get caught in a winter shower and still save your equipment.