Today’s Post by Joe Farace
A softbox is simply a black fabric box that has one side covered in diffusion material allowing light from a source to pass through and illuminate the subject. It diffuses the raw light produced by an electronic flash or other light source producing a clean unobstructed highlight on the subject whether it’s a reflective subject like a product or a portrait subject’s eyes.
In this blog and my other writings, I previously used the term “lightbank” to describe these devices because, I told myself, that it more correctly refers to the many shapes and sizes available but have come to use and love the term “soft box” just like every other photographer in the world.
Inside a soft box, the light source, whether it’s a monolight, light head, even a speedlight, inside it can be aimed to shoot through the front diffusion fabric or can bounced into the back of the box before exiting the front producing even softer light. Some soft boxes let you use them either way so you can have more powerfully direct, yet softened light or the maximum possible soft light experience.
One of the most important rules of portrait lighting is that the larger the light source is, the softer it is. And the closer a light source is to a subject the softer it becomes. There are also inverse rules: Small lights equal harder light and moving the light source farther away accomplishes the same thing. Like many glamour photographers, I prefer to use big sources placed close to the subject.
The downside of using soft boxes is as the front get larger they also get deeper. To combat this bigger-is-not-always better effect, lighting innovator Gary Regester designed a soft box with a thinner-than-normal profile called the Plume Wafer. The narrow profile, silver-with-white interior and graduated inner baffles create efficiencies across the front diffuser panel resulting in big light from a big box but shallow soft box. The illustration shows Mary with a 7x27x12-inch Wafer Hexoval 100. The narrow profile s the result of using aluminum tubes and fiberglass rods to make this a big, soft light source that’s especially manageable in a tight space like my 11×15-foot home studio.
How I made this shot: A Plume Wafer Hexoval 100 was attached to a Purple Haze Alien Bee B800 monolight at camera right, while a DigiBee DB800 monolight with 18-inch Omni reflector with Diffusion Sock is at camera left. Background was Savage’s Celebration Lights paper backdrop. Camera was an Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 45mm) and an exposure of 1/160 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 200. Converted to monochrome with Alien Skin’s Exposure X4.
If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from Amazon.com for $17.07 and starting at $3.28 used as I write this.. The Kindle version is $11.99 for those preferring a digital format.