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Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes

Lesson 10 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes

Lesson 10 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

10. Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes

Softboxes are similar to umbrellas in that they create soft light, but they can be a bit easier to control. See the pros and cons of different shapes and sizes. In the live shoot, learn how to control the light spill by feathering a softbox.


Class Trailer

Day 1


Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed


Studio Essentials: Flash Exposure


Studio Essentials: White Balance


Light Principles: Inverse Square Law


Lighting Patterns


Shoot: Demo Lighting Patterns


Quality of Light and Modifiers


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Diffusion and Grid


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Extra Stuff


10 One Light Set-ups: 1 and 2


10 One Light Set-ups: 3 to 5


10 One Light Set-ups: 6 to 10


One Light Set-ups: Pop Quiz


Day 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 1


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 3


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 and 2


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 6


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 7 to 10


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 1 to 3


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 4 & 5


10 Common Lighting Mistakes


Day 3


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 1


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 2 to 6


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 8


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 9


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 10 to 12


Portrait Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Beauty Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting Groups: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting for Drama: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Your First Studio Lighting


Lesson Info

Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes

Here's a couple of soft boxes we have here and there are a million billion different types of soft boxes and they come in different state shapes and different sizes so to summarize this shapes and sizes larger the soft box the softer the light generally because the closer it is to your subject in there for the larger it is relative to separate this often like ok big soft boxes are very unwieldy though like if you have a four by six soft box in a small space it becomes really difficult to handle a very common go to light modifier would be and octo box approximately a three foot but you could get a five foot just depends on what space you have an octo box like this when you shoot with an octo box eh? It creates more circular well an octagon catch light in the ice the light wraps around a little bit more around your subject when you use a rectangle obviously it has a rectangular but you can actually feather the light a little bit more from more control and more fall off so feathering I wi...

ll talk about as you do not need to always have your light source pointed directly at your subject sometimes you can benefit from using the edges of the light and I will actually demo that so you can see what that is because this won't do you any good here um you tend to be able to make a few different effects with a rectangle because you can control and change the angle of the light easier than you can with an octagon because this is going to wrap around a little bit more and it's all the same whereas I could change this to rap war horizontally around a group because I can turn it to its side and would wrap more evenly around a group this way or if I turn it vertically now I could have more even illumination if I'm doing a full length portrait on a subject so this gives you a little bit more flexibility but this is also an octagon knocked a box like this is easier to work with for a portrait just gives you a little bit more flexibility not as un wielding um I do want to caution about gigantic soft boxes and I'm going to use one one of these days I have ah bigger light source what I often see happen is a huge soft box let's say somebody's in a small room short ceilings like eight foot and you have a six foot soft blocks so it basically sits right on the ground next year subject and what ends up happening is you get bottom like with that bottom light looks like is if she's standing here most of the soft box is actually coming from beneath its illuminating her mostly from below all of this line and so what that will do is it'll create shadows that goes straight across your face or even slightly upward especially with the big soft boxes in the small room and it does not flatter the features because for example if you are lighting from slightly below the jaw it gets rid of the jaw line it's lighting let's say if someone has maybe some extra skin underneath their job that's what you're drawing attention to instead of a light from slightly above carves out features a big soft box is actually gonna start filling from below so if you have a large soft box in a small space it's probably working against you so I think a good place to start is a three by four foot soft box or a three or so foot octo box for a portrait session and that is a great place to start on I wanted to show you something I think it's pretty cool I talked about really really really disliking setting up soft boxes but this one it is called a rapid box octa and it closes up perhaps kind of like an umbrella would it collapses on itself instead of having to put the polls in and lined it up and pop them in place and try to put the fabric over it it has a a small center area that you can simply push down and hook it on your life so this one is made by westcott so especially if you're a one man show and you're trying to set things up yourself and if you go on location a lot this would be my recommendation for you it's pretty simple to set up okay, I'm gonna pass this back to you to put this on thank you I know that you put it back together all right, so let me turn this back on and get them all out. The other thing that I get asked a lot and I wanted to make sure I addressed was the height what is the ideal height of the light above your subject and what is the ideal distance in general unless you're lighting groups big groups of people you don't want your light six, seven, eight feet away most of the time I'm working with my light like three to six feet distance because most of the time the late the modifiers were made for a certain quality of light and as soon as you back the money, the lights just going everywhere like it loses the original quality purchased it for so somewhere if I have a small light source I'm trying to make it soft I'll bring it real close it could be two feet but usually somewhere between three and six feet away is where I'm working further than that you probably have your lights back too far the next one is about the height of light so how high above eye level there isn't a right right answer but I am just going to tell you my starting point most of the time if they have the center of the light like twelve to sixteen inches above eye level something like that it's like a good starting point you might totally change your mind and wanted to be lower you might want to be hired to carve out the shadows but when you have a equal to the face or lower is when you get unflattering light so if I take the soft box this is something else he often can I have you lower it like too low so this is about a little bit higher this is about even with your shoulders like let's say that it's about halfway um well I'll angle it up a little bit like till way I'll see this a lot where it's kind of midway to her shoulders with that main light what happens is now a good chunk of this light is actually lighting from below and you'll see the catch lights in her eyes are pretty low it doesn't usually do much and it's always a hold because I'm photographing a beautiful person so she looks pretty anyway but on most people it's not usually very flattering something give a test of that that cool assessing it no it's all right all right so this is definitely not what you want for direction of flight and what you'll see is the shadows there actually being casted cast upwards, so the cast of the light is not shaping her face it's making her jaw line actually look a little bit broader and gets rid of that jaw line so to see this shadow right here it's up instead of across their down that's not what you want and this will especially happen with big soft boxes because you think, well, well it's still a little bit above her head, but most of it isn't most of its filling from below, so you raise it to twelve to sixteen inches above her head the great there's good, perfect and all and I should test they get the exact same result or roughly the same same exact result because the light didn't move and distance I didn't change the modifier shall be the same, so testing it again even just that little distance now the shadows to be cast down and it's just more of a flattering shape to her face. So watch out for that one working with really big light sources I know can you face this totally at the audience? Ok, if you have another if you have a large light source like a soft box something to be aware of is it makes a difference where this subject sits in relation to the soft locks, you can actually move them ford and backward along the soft box for different lighting patterns and that works really well when you're in a tight space and don't have room to swing a really big soft blocks so if I want the light to wrap around her more I would have her stand back here because more of the soft boxes wrapping around from the front versus when I'm up here there's no there's nothing in front to wrap it will just be side like so I can actually use where she is in relationship to that soft locks front to back to give myself slightly different lighting patterns let me test this one for oh I'll test it for that's as low as I'm going to go though we'll see okay well I won't have you stand up because I'm gonna be auction move that's the same thing uh maybe like a couple inches meaning like three or four perfect okay, so it's a test all right so the light wraps around as soon as she comes forward coming I could make it be much more dramatic and you coming forward more so further ford she comes at the final shot she's actually split like based on that distance so when you just said a soft box up that whole distance that she is from the front to back will make a difference but I have a cool trick for somebody who is perhaps a little bit fuller figured or if you're shooting full full length shot she doesn't have this problem so it's all good I'm going to take this but um what you'll see and she's wearing black I asked her where this but she faces street towards the light and this won't make too big a difference like I said because she's wearing black and look back at me so I can still get kind of that rembrandt look on her face but she's facing me straight on so if she's wearing a light colored shirt or dress or someone's a little bit fuller figured this will all be illuminated so another thing you khun dio its face your subject away someone's face you that direction and take a couple steps back good and in turn your head to the like ok something about like that so now that same area and hopped over back just a little good now that same area of her stomach would be more in shadow and so you can actually use that to your advantage turning the subject instead of towards the light where everything is illuminated turning them away and then looking back over their shoulder and so both had similar lighting patterns on the face the first one I got more of the rembrandt by moving her forward the other since I knew she had to look over her shoulder I moved her back so light could wrap around a little bit more there's a lot you khun dio with a soft box can bring it out this way just a little bit I would talk about feathering the light real quick for the soft box can bring it nice and close again all right let me test okay the next thing is based on where you angle your light it'll make a huge difference on the background I totally did not realize this for a long time if I angle the light back towards her and senator I want to hit use their pull over there okay good perfect and then came back it up just a little bit back like great here yesterday downs perfect let's give it a quick test thank you. All right, perfect. All right, so right now what's happening is my light is pointed more or less back toward the back or even like I'm actually gonna pull it up just a little bit further if you don't mind illustrate this a little bit more so if I'm not in a small space she's going to be pretty similarly lit to the background test perfect I certainly give you a quick test here so what's happening is the light keep you nice bling colonial omar the light and the surface of the soft boxes kicking back towards the background so what'll happen is the background gets light on its illuminated where you can actually souther the light and change the angle so now it won't be hitting the background as much and all the back and we'll go darker she's still going to have similar light on her face, but I'm feathering and changing the angle of light to avoid some extra illumination on the background. So if you watch the background in this next shot lights a similar on her, the whole background gets darker, so whenever I'm trying tio avoid casting shadows in the background or like the background and subject a little bit differently, I'll try something like that, and so that my next thing would be ok. What do I want to do to make the background darker? I moved her away, right? The further I could move her away from the background, a less light that hits the background, and then if I want to make the backward even darker, I move her closer to the light. Some playing with all of these things I say let me go circle back to the similarities and differences between umbrellas and soft boxes. Um, light from umbrella, if modified correctly, can look similar to light from this off box, just like the umbrella that was silver with the diffusion that can look like a soft box. But in general, just plain old umbrellas. They kick light everywhere, it's, hard to get more defined shadows it's, hard to control the light from bouncing everywhere where a soft box is. What they do is they kind of trapped the light and it is much softer and it gives you a little more control. So the light goes in one direction. But you still have soft shadows. They some of the soft boxes actually have lists on the sides like you can see here. Sure, if the camera can see that. But it has these little clips on the edge, and what that does is it makes it so that the light can't spell out to the sides. It actually forces the light forward and gives it even more control makes it a little more difficult to feather, but you can definitely have more control over a soft blocks. In this case, there are crossover between umbrella and soft box, but probably this would be a good general first getting started. I need a nice, a nice modifier, like a three by four foot soft box or three foot octo box. I say before we continue, I wanted to see if there's anything on that one there's a little discussion going on here about. About the triggers that you're that you're using and so for some people who this is all brand new to still tryingto wrap their head around way is that a flash that she has on there? So what is what is that device actually doing ok, so there are a whole bunch of different ways to trigger your stroke the cheapest way that often comes with the strobes are actually called think cords they plug into the side of the camera and then directly into the strobe and that will make it fire so that's one way you could do it another way to trigger your strobe you could actually especially with the nikon is you can actually trigger by having a flash on your camera you can do that that's not what I have here but you could have a pop up flash and then on your strobes there's an option to set it optical and so optical slave means when it sees a flash somewhere in the room it will fire so if you don't want to spend money on a trigger and you have a pop up flash you could turn down to really low power are really inexpensive speed light that you could turn down really low power you can actually use that to trigger your strobes one one thing on that those has a pre flesh like on the cannons I don't think it's turned three flesh off so what he's saying is, sometimes what will happen is if you're working with a speed light, uh, what they do is they senator pre flash and that's what they used to figure out if you're shooting t tl, especially what the exposure should be, because it's sending out that pre flash guessing getting the feedback and say, ok, this is the amount of flash means output. The problem is you're totally right if you're working in a small space and you have that on, it'll fire your strobes so it's either firing twice or firing your stroll before it's supposed to fire and then it won't work, so you'd have to kind of know if your camera can do that. There are a lot of inexpensive triggers you can buy as well the higher end ones there there would be radio operated, so they're actually sending radio frequencies there's no line of sight there's no flash required. What I have here is really cool, and I really like it was just part of the reason I like this set up. This is called an air remote, and what this lets me do is it lets me trigger from my camera, but actually lets me do more than that so directly on the back, and we'll try to hold this still for maybe this camera directly on the back of the camera on the back of this trigger you can see a couple of things first of all I can test the light so I could make it flash but I can also change the power output of the head or the modeling light from here without having to go to the back of the stroke which is really good if I have it out on a boom arm and I'm assured as I am and it's kind of inconvenient to reach the other thing that it lets you do is it has channels and groups which will later on become important because if I'm standing here and I have three different strobes set and we'll be doing this tomorrow have three different strobe set what I can do is I consent one stroke to be a one stroke two bb in one stroke two bc and I can control their powers independently front like right on this trigger most of the time as soon as you want the ability to do that you start paying a lot more there are triggers for fifty sixty dollars and all they do is you plug it into the back of one of your strobes you've got the little trigger on top and when you shoot it makes the one fire and then you set the others to optical meeting when they see a stroke when they see a flash the rest will fire so you can get those for pretty and expensive as soon as you start getting into more abilities, change channels and independent uh, strobes you start having to pay more money, which gets you more into the pocket wizard realm, radio poppers, that kind of thing, so you know, it just depends on what you want to do and something to keep in mind as well. It doesn't matter. You can use something that's triggered optically if you're in a small studio space, if, however you go out in your shooting weddings and you have the whole bridal party at the wedding and you have your your strobe set up into shooting them like that and you have optical if the uncle is taking a picture with his caramel with on camera flash with the exact same lighting is you and it might actually mess up how you're shooting because it doesn't catch up, it'll fire you shoot and there was enough juice to give you a correct exposure. So it's another thing to think about this particular one is called the d one air remote and it's specific to these this one is this one to do on a remote is specific to the d one air tomorrow I'll talk more about triggers and there's a couple different triggers there's one made by young new oh there's one made by faux ticks there's pocket wizard so I'll talk about a couple different options for that as well. Thank you so much. I did have a quick question as well. Thiss was from korisa, and do you usually you move the model or do you usually move the light? So you were talking about, by the way, I love your little dance when you're showing us, yeah, moving forward and moving, yeah, lindsay and there's shuffle, everyone like that. Um, so it depends on how much space I have. If I have room to move my life, I would rather move my like some paying attention all the time, teo the distance of the subject to the background in the distance of the subjects of the light. And sometimes, if I don't have enough room to move my life, I've got to move my subject. Otherwise I'd rather just move my light around and keep that person the same distances they were from the background.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


If you're on the fence about this class I can easily answer your concerns. BUY IT. Lindsay provides top notch professional education while keeping things interesting. Her words are precise and direct. I actually felt GOOD just watching and learning. I mean, like someone surprised me with a cupcake kinda GOOD. After the class I could immediately see improvements in my photography. The best part is that I learned enough to see the wrong in my setups. Knowing what's wrong is just as important as knowing what's right. She is funny, easy going, energetic and filled with knowledge. I would also highly recommend her Posing 101 class as a must have addition to this course. I feel like I have learned more than I could possibly use. I will be going through this course over and over again just to make sure it all sinks in. There's THAT MUCH she offers that you will always learn more with each time you watch. I hope this helps someone make the decision to up their game. That is exactly what it did for me.

Jason Ashley

I loved this course! Lindsay spent so much time with explaining each set-up in-depth that anyone picking up a camera could understand how to accomplish their lighting goals. This course covered so many unique (but, most likely to come across scenarios) and how one would approach the challenge and how to successfully accomplish with incredible results, not average-sub-standard or basic results, but above entry-level standards, high-level, money-generating lighting expertise! ZERO laziness in her explanations to the point where she is constantly refining her course in the middle of the 3 days. Her passion gleams throughout each days lessons with so much energy. You know she really wants her students both in-person and through the screen to be successful in whatever type of lighting they choose to dabble in. I am so happy, I have bookmarked, and i'm so happy and fortunate to have this course to reference for hopefully –everrrr. Thanks!

Beatrice Palma

Hi, I am Beatrice from Italy. I think this class is superb. I finally understood what are the guide lines to follow, I tried for years but never found such a good explanation. Lindsay is a wonderful teacher, she explains in a simple way, she shares a lot of knowledge and she shows in practice what are the results of every single choice. Thank you so much, it was really amazing and super interesting!!!!

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