If you are a professional photographer and are shooting indoors, then you may not be able to take advantage of the natural light. In such a situation, you will have to take help from light modifiers. Umbrella and Softbox are lauded as two of the most commonly used light modifiers by photographers all over the world, especially when taking portrait pictures of models.
There is a light reflective lining installed on the inside part of umbrellas, and the light bounces back off this reflective lining. On the contrary, a softbox emits light from a square or rectangular box with a lighting element installed inside. The material used in the front panel of the softbox diffuses the light, making it look softer.
The major difference between umbrellas and softboxes is their price. You can find an umbrella at a really low price in comparison to a softbox. That is the reason why most beginners choose to purchase umbrellas, and avoid investing too much money on their equipment. Umbrellas are also extremely portable as compared to softboxes.
The light produced by umbrellas is omni-directional. Therefore, you can illuminate multiple subjects at greater distances. On the other hand, the light emitted from a softbox is not as scattered. The photographers thus have to position the light much closer to the subject, when working with a softbox.
From the points stated above, it may appear that umbrellas are much better than softboxes. However, the reality is a bit different. Softboxes score more when it comes to the technical features. With an umbrella, you can only use the lighting effect caused by reflection, but in softboxes, there are many options such as masks, grids and filters, which allow you to fine-tune the lighting as per you needs.