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

Started Jan 15, 2011 | Discussions thread
Michael Firstlight Veteran Member • Posts: 3,538
My dirty dozen softbox tips

My Top 10:

1) The point of a softbox is to create a large light source most of the time - people get them and then move them too far away creating a small light source (not to be confused with reducing the amount of light (inverse square law) - get those boxes CLOSE if you want wrap-around light, gradual falloff and soft shadows.

2) Many don't understand feathering technique with a softbox. To get even even softer falloff (many see the term but just ignore it. The center of a softbox is the hottest (visually) part. If that is what you want, then when positioning the box use the inner angled sides of the box as the part aimed directly at the face.

3) Interfit softboxs are built great and are some of the most affordable on the market. The best you can buy are Larson - pricey for sure, but nothing comes close in terms of shallow depth, weight, build, and evenness - the best of the best portrait pros use these (and of course can justify the expense).

4) Don't like rectangular reflections in eyes? Some softboxes have Velcro baffles with a circular cut out or you can easily make one yourself out of black rip.

5) Background lights for white backdrops - I used to use two lights flanking a white paper background to get even high key lighting - now I use just one by mounting a long strip box above the subject pointed toward the 9 foot wide paper - it provides even illumination, I use only one light instead of two, and you can position the box to control whether the box doubles as a hair light (drop into any mall where the is a PicturePeople studio and you'll see how they use it- that's where I first got the idea a few years ago).

6) Louvers are wonderful - especially for the Key light - they allow you to provide directional light on the subject and prevent spill on the background.

7) Strip boxes are great for kicker/accent lights - though using a grid is sometimes a better choice if you want more control over where the accent lighting should not go.

8) Use of a softbox for fill - debatable subject. Some love to use all softboxes in a setup - lots of large wrap-around soft light. I prefer using a reflective umbrella for fill for a little more overall specularity. Plus, fill lights are often much further away from the subject and the way a box saps light they are much less efficient used as fill IMHO.

9) Medium softboxes with louvers, or large and extra-large softboxes are heavy beasts - buy a decent counter weight that usually slides into the auxiliary umbrella holder on most monolights and they'll not only be easier to manage, but you'll keep from breaking your lightstand tightening handle mechanisms.

10) If you are like me, you love remote control of monolights (I hate to have to climb a ladder to adjust a hair light which is necessary for light versus dark hair), or having to walk around to the back of each light to adjust them - even harder with softboxes. Use only RF remote systems (I am partial to Paul C Buff's remotes).

11) Use Air cushioned light stands – recommended with or without a softbox but all that weight makes air cushioned stands and absolute necessity.

12) I like my lights off the floor and I don’t want to spend a fortune on a rail system. I LOVE Bogen wall boom arms – they can attach to walls or ceilings, can be adjusted in length and can swing left and right (or up and down when mounted on a ceiling, are nicely dampened and are strong as large light stands.


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