He studied at the Bauhaus in Weimar under Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lionel Feininger and Oscar Schlemmer in the years 1921 to 1923.
Moving to Berlin in 1923, he worked as a production assistant to film maker Kurt Bernhardt. Later he was camera assistant to Walter Ruttmann (until 1926). From 1928 on, his photographs appeared in many German publications, such as Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, Münchner Illustrierte Presse, Uhu, Scherl’s Magazin, Dame, Neue Unie, Koralle, Es Kommt der Neue Fotograf, Foto-Auge, as well as the annuals of Arts et Métiers Graphiques. He took assignments in North Africa (1941) and in Italy (1942). From 1943 to 1945 he served in his country's army, during which time he lost all his photographs and negatives. He continued freelancing after the war, publishing in such journals as Picture Post, Quick and Der Spiegel. He traveled to the United States in 1952 and, until 1974, taught photog¬raphy at several schools in and around Hann¬over.
A founding member of Dephot, the first photo agency anywhere, Umbo served as its studio director from 1928 until 1933, when it was dissolved. During those five years Dephot represented such photographers as Robert Capa, Felix H. Mann, Kurt Hutton, Andreas Feininger and Hans Reinke.
Essentially a photojournalist, Umbo specialized in theater, dance and film. He was a versatile photographer and used several cameras, especially the light and portable Ermanox and Leica.