Can you name 2 frequent mistakes and 2 non-typical uses for softboxes

Started Jan 15, 2011 | Discussions thread
Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,136
Sure. 2 and 6...

KevinTheMan wrote:

This could be interesting.

I'll start with mine.


  • softbox centered on the subject so almost half of the light goes unused, in the subject's back (better to have the back edge aligned with the subject)

  • softbox put at a random distance from the subject, without taking into account the fall off (for close subjects) or relative size to the subject (for subject further away)

A common mistake is buying Elinchrom lights. Their softbox attachment system is so screwy that we went through at least 4 speedrings at MPW, as the two prong bayonet Elinchrom just tore the tabs out of the speedrings.

Another mistake is buying Pocket Wizard Plus II transceivers. Those things failed us so many different ways, from the fragile shoes breaking off, constantly, to a flaw in the power supply that can cause a Plus II transceiver to burn out if you leave it on long enough with a near dead battery.


  • strip light (when most of the active surface is covered with an opaque panel)

  • ?? (sorry, I don't know others)

The big Westcotts and Chimeras have a Velcro system for attaching grids to the box. I rigged two strips of 2 inch wide black cloth that form a "+" on the softbox, and attach to the Velcro. Bring the boxes in close (closer than 4 ft for the 4 foot box, 6 foot for the 6 foot box) and this makes a lovely "window" catchlight, 4 squares of light.

Set two big boxes (my favorites are the 6 foot Westcotts) almost touching, at about a 60 degree angle, and squeeze in the gap between them. Softest light you'll ever see. Flat, too, so you have to know what to do with flat, wrap around light. Not a trick for everyday.

Take the front diffuser panels off every now and then. Without them, the soft boxes are like collimated "search lights", really big ones, and produce a very unusual quality of light, a lot like sunlight. Put the box up high, point it down, and for God's sake, add at least a 1:3 fill from a box that does have its diffuser in place.

Get a piece of black, rip-stop nylon the size of the diffuser panel and add Velcor so you can replace the diffuser panel with it. Then cut random (or not random) holes in it. Remember what I said about collimated light? Parallel beams of random, mottled patterns. Think sunlight through a forest. If the box has a second, inner diffuser, remove it, too. And give this a try with a light touch of a fog machine (or a heavy touch, if you're in a weird mood).

Get a spare diffuser panel and paint it in tribal patterns in black paint. Or get some white rip-stop and make your own panel. You can also use clear plastic, like visquine, and then you're doing a reverse of the black fabric with holes.

Black lace, draped over the softbox front, will cut from 1 to 3 stops (depending on the lace), which is handy for shallow DOF work. A loose weave black cloth can cut even more stops, if you want to go to f1.4 at ISO 200.

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Rahon Klavanian 1912-2008.

Armenian genocide survivor, amazing cook, scrabble master, and loving grandmother. You will be missed.

Ciao! Joseph

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