SOFTBOXES

Give lots of photographers a softbox and they’ll know nothing about using one; but it makes lighting so easy

Over the years, I’ve used many different lighting modifiers, but one of the mainstays has always been a variation of the traditional photography softbox. Along with the umbrella, it’s arguably the most popular option on the market. Photographers of all types use them, but they’re perhaps most commonly employed with studio portraiture and headshots. Softboxes take the fundamental values of light and find a way to shape and mold it. To understand this a bit better, think about how fairy lights, a desk lamp, and ceiling lights all affect a room differently. They’re all different shapes, sizes, and are placed in different ways. This idea will help you get through this article and ultimately guide you on how to use one. But in the end, you’ll need to figure out whether or not you actually need one.

How to Use One

Using a softbox is typically the easiest thing to do and that’s why so many photographers really enjoy them. Essentially all you need to do is point them at your subject. But the beauty of a softbox comes with the angle and the direction you’re pointing from. With that in mind, you should experiment and look at how light falls on people and things.

Softboxes have a wide variety of shapes. The most traditional shape is a four sided box that is rectangular in shape. Softboxes with two sides being very short are often called strips. Softboxes with eight sides are called octabanks. The shape determines how the light is shaped on a subject.

For starters: set the softbox at a 45 degree angle from your subject’s face. Raise the softbox up so that the middle is just above their eyes and point is downward on them. Like that look? Then work with it. Don’t like it, observe what’s wrong and adjust.

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