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Home | Book Supplements | Softbox Lighting

Softbox Lighting

Natural lighting can be great ... but it can also be haphazard and hard to control. Strobes and continuous artificial lights give you light when you need it, but not always exactly where you need it. Softboxes take your lighting a step further by making aritificial light controllable and containable. A softbox does just what its name suggests: It softens and diffuses light and contains it to prevent unwanted spillover, thus giving you considerable control.

To hone your lighting skills, start with a single softbox and a continuous light source. Unlike a strobe, a continuous source lets you see the subtle changes that occur when you set and adjust the light. Be sure to use a high-heat softbox with a continuous light source; softboxes designed for strobes won't tolerate the heat from a continuous lamp.

When you're using softbox lighting, remember these things.

  • Choose as your main light source a softbox that is approximately the same size as your subject.

  • Position the softbox first, and then aim it.

    When you first start working with these large light sources, it's tempting to concentrate on where to place the light and forget that aiming it slightly up or down, left or right can really enhance the lighting effect. For example, when you light a portrait shot, it's usually preferable to make the hands slightly darker than the face. Once you have the light placed properly, simply aim the light up and slightly away from the model's hands.

  • Gain additional control by reaiming or refocusing the light source inside the softbox. These two simple adjustments can change the quality of your lighting dramatically. The bottom line is to learn to use your eyes.

  • Experiment by changing the distance of the softbox from the subject, and by varying the strength of the light inside the box.

  • Vary the effect of the box with accessories that shape and modify the light:

    • egg crates
    • barn doors
    • diffusers

This information is provided as a supplement to:

Spring into Digital Photography
by Joseph T. Jaynes & Rip Noël
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
ISBN: 0131853538

If you don't yet have your own copy of this popular book, you can buy it now. [Enjoy the PhotoGain.com preferred discount price & FREE domestic shipping!]

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