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The Final Information to Softboxes: The Anatomy of Gentle Shaping Instruments

Softboxes are among the many hottest mild shaping instruments. Few photographers have by no means shot with softboxes, and as a rule a softbox is a go-to modifier for newbies. On this article, I’ll break down the anatomy of a softbox, from physics to doable functions for it. Learn on to turn into a grasp of utilizing softboxes.

What Is a Softbox?

Within the easiest phrases, a softbox is a lightweight modifier that’s formed like a field and produces delicate mild. Softboxes come in several shapes, with every one having a definite perform and look to them. Listed here are the most well-liked ones:


A sq. softbox will produce a good delicate mild that may have gradated shadow edges. An ideal use for a sq. softbox can be for creating delicate window mild since a softbox is formed precisely like one. The sq. form signifies that each horizontal and vertical shadows would be the similar measurement.

One distinction between this softbox and an octagonal one can be the catchlights. The sharp nook within the softbox will produce way more distinct pointy catchlights when in comparison with a spherical softbox.


As one aspect will get smaller and the opposite greater it should produce a considerably narrower mild unfold. The sunshine will cowl a bigger space on one aspect whereas masking a smaller one on the opposite. This form may be very standard amongst trend and portrait photographers for it permits to mild a half-body shot with out spilling mild on the background an excessive amount of.

A phrase of warning: this softbox will create softer shadow edges on the bigger aspect whereas creating more durable edges on the smaller aspect. Nonetheless, for those who’re utilizing a 4×6 softbox to mild a portrait that will likely be barely noticeable, this will likely be predominantly seen when utilizing a smaller softbox on longer distances.


A well-liked alternative for lighting a background, this softbox will create a strip of sunshine. It is a softbox that’s slim on one finish whereas extraordinarily huge on the opposite. For this, it should create a easy gradated shadow edge on the longer aspect and a tremendous shadow edge on the opposite.

A stripbox is usually used for full-body pictures because it covers the entire physique on one hand whereas giving a number of definition and distinction on the opposite. A cautious photographer will likely be cautious of utilizing a protracted stripbox with a flat-end flash as there’s a 1-3-stop distinction between the middle and fringe of the modifier.


A basic amongst softboxes, the octagonal softbox is most popular to the sq. one for the spherical catchlights within the eyes. For all intents and functions, it provides off a really related, albeit barely rounder and wider, mild as a equally sized sq. softbox.

Deep (Pretend Parabolic) Softbox

It has turn into fairly standard these days to buy deep softboxes as a result of they provide an uncommon mild. Nevertheless, a deep direct softbox is not any completely different than an octabox. An oblique parabolic softbox, alternatively, may be very helpful nevertheless it received’t be mentioned on this article.

Equipment For a Softbox

A softbox isn’t full with out equipment, listed below are some frequent ones you can placed on most softboxes:


Softbox grids usually are 50deg, which means that they restrict no matter mild unfold the softbox has (usually 180deg) to a a lot finer one. This, nonetheless, makes the sunshine more durable.

Gentle mild is outlined as a lightweight that hits the topic from a big household of angles which causes the shadow edges to be gradated. Because the grid limits that household of angles, the sunshine turns into barely more durable. Typically it’s suggested to maneuver the softbox nearer to compensate for this.


Stripmasks are made primarily for stripboxes. They make the sting finer and the sunshine supply smaller (in a single dimension) This may be helpful when attempting to create tremendous reflections or horizontally laborious however vertically delicate mild. A standard use for a stripmask is on automotive pictures when lengthy however tremendous highlights are required.

Spherical Masks

A spherical masks will, because the title suggests, make the softbox completely spherical. One other approach to management how mild modifier reflections look, the spherical masks has its use in trend and portrait pictures. Utilizing a spherical masks will make the softbox smaller, and with a view to obtain the identical degree of softness.

Different Masks

There are additionally customized masks that exist for softboxes. Some will block out the middle, whereas others may be personalized. The truth is, you can also make your individual softbox masks by creating customized gobos or utilizing flags. The best way you masks your softbox is only a matter of creativeness.

How Does a Softbox Work?

The precept behind each softbox is that it produces a lightweight that hits the item from a large household of angles. That is achieved by taking the purpose mild supply and reflecting it contained in the modifier first via the primary after which the second diffuser.

The position of the primary diffuser is to take the direct specular rays and modify the angles at which they journey. Nevertheless, with significantly giant softboxes, this can nonetheless go away a hotspot within the center. Typically the distinction between the middle and aspect is 2-3 stops. That is undesirable, so a second layer is critical.

The second diffuser additional diffuses the sunshine, which produces a way more even nook to nook illumination. The gap between the 2 layers of diffusion is comparatively unimportant, however for those who fancy diffusing the sunshine even additional you’ll be able to shoot the softbox via a scrim positioned a meter or so from the softbox.

Attainable Makes use of

I couldn’t presumably listing all makes use of for a softbox, as it’s a very versatile and standard modifier. Listed here are some frequent locations and setups the place a softbox will likely be applicable:

Portrait Pictures

Being a delicate and infrequently giant mild supply, a softbox is right for creating portrait mild. The delicate high quality of sunshine of it ensures that pores and skin texture seems easy, whereas the massive measurement ensures that the protection is ample for even illumination. A softbox positioned at 45deg to the topic will produce a basic portrait mild.

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Sports activities Pictures

A basic softbox won’t be as helpful right here, however a strip field is. It is going to be excellent for lighting a full physique shot of an athlete vertically whereas maintaining the punchy high quality of sunshine horizontally. The laborious mild will carry out the muscle and different element within the topic.

Automotive Pictures

Most vehicles have lengthy traces that outline their form. Bringing out that form with a directed lengthy strip of sunshine will likely be nice for the viewer because it reveals the essence of the topic.

Product Pictures

One of the crucial necessary substances in a profitable product picture is nice highlights and direct reflections administration. A softbox will likely be helpful when attempting to create even linear highlights. One other use can be as a fill supply, or as a supply of even subtle mild which is nice for bringing out the colour in pictures.

Style Pictures

Style pictures is one other frequent place for softboxes. Because it produces a delicate subtle mild it’s flattering for fashions’ faces which reduces the quantity of retouching required. Furthermore, a softbox is used to mild sure materials similar to ones that produce subtle reflections (wool or cotton).

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Retouch @oi_retouch
Styling: @nagyemesestylist

Advisable Softboxes

You’ll be able to select your individual model of the softbox, nonetheless, I’ll strongly advocate going with a high quality model similar to Elinchrom, Broncolor, or Profoto. Their modifiers are sturdy and worth it in the end.

Learn additionally: Are Expensive Light Modifiers Worth It?

Listed here are some sizes that will likely be helpful in your studio setups:

Closing Ideas

Choosing the right softbox is troublesome. Hopefully, this information has been useful in exhibiting you the makes use of for every one. Personally, I take advantage of softboxes right here and there however they aren’t instrumental to my work. The identical may be mentioned about each different modifier. What’s essential is the theoretical and sensible information of sunshine that pays a dividend within the type of with the ability to cost extra.

I strongly recommend deepening your information by exploring mild simply through the use of one modifier. Decide up a softbox that’s most attention-grabbing for you and dive deep into exploring it. Have enjoyable!

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