5 Ways to Use Softbox (How to Use Softbox Better)


When it comes to shaping and modifying your light, there are so many options available it can be hard to stay in one place for long. In the beginning, you’ll use the basics such as a softbox or an umbrella. But as you get comfortable with noticing the tiny differences in light, you’ll quickly graduate to more specialized modifiers. Beauty dishes, reflectors (the kind that fits to a strobe), octaboxes and striplights all do wonderful things to your light. And you can easily get caught up in the ways these and other modifiers can be used.






Despite all these options, I feel the basics can sometimes be overlooked. Have you ever stopped to think why the humble softbox has become so universal? No doubt there are many answers to that question, but an important one is that it works – and works well.

To be clear, I’m talking about the basic rectangular photographic softbox around 3′ x 4′. Not too large, and not too small. (Popup softboxes have their place, but we’re not talking about them in this article.) With the right techniques, these workhorses of the photographic studio can give you beautiful, soft light that suits just about any subject you can think of.




You probably already know the basics of how a softbox works. But for the sake of posterity, let’s go through it again.

A softbox is mounted on the front of the strobe to shape and more evenly distribute the light. They’re often fitted with silvery material on the inside to help bounce the light around and ensure it spreads evenly through the diffusion material at the front. This diffusion material effectively becomes your light source. Because your light source is now much bigger than the bare strobe, the quality of light changes from hard to soft (hence the name ‘softbox’).


Never Forgotten


For these reasons a great deal of photographers start their camera lighting with a softbox. They’re cheap, easy to find and use, and provide excellent results. But as their skills increase, and new and more complicated techniques open up, it can be hard to resist the allure of fancy, niche modifiers.

For a few years I used nothing but a beauty dish. Even now I tend to favor large octaboxes for portraits. But in this article I want to show you that just because you’ve moved on to other things doesn’t mean you should forget the basics. As I said, there’s a reason the softbox has become so universal.



The light from the softbox is uniform and soft, and the color saturation is good. Whether it is shooting on-site or indoor studio shooting, it is very popular among photographers.


More importantly, the softbox seems to be very convenient to use: just add a set of light sources, which is simple and easy, and some people even call it a "fool light". But in fact, the soft box is still very particular about its use. You may not have developed all its uses and exerted its great effects.


1.45° lighting

This is a basic single-lamp setup. Put the softbox on the 45° side in front, with the main body facing or slightly facing the lens.

The metering of single-lamp lighting is relatively simple, especially when using a constant light source, you don't necessarily need to rely on the light meter, using the live view function can almost solve the exposure problem.


The aperture ranges from F /4 to F /11 depending on your personal preference, as long as the output power of the light source is adjusted accordingly. A larger aperture will make the image look softer, while a smaller aperture will give the image more focus -- which can be a good thing or a bad thing.


45° side light can illuminate the character's face and background at the same time

It is worth mentioning that if the subject is not directly facing the lens but slightly sideways, the distance between the two eyes and the lens will be different. It is better to focus on the eye that is closer, which is more in line with most people’s aesthetics.

 2.135° lighting

On the basis of 45° lighting, move the soft box 90° back to the side and rear, which is 135° lighting. The subject generally needs to turn around so that the light source is on its side.


Compared with 45° lighting, 135° lighting is often more dramatic, with richer light and shadow levels on the subject's face; in addition, because the light source is irradiated from the inside to the outside, there is almost no light on the background, and the "black" is more thorough.


135° lighting, darker background, richer light and shadow levels

 3.Large backlight

Putting the soft box directly behind the main body is called "big backlight". There will be contour light or halo around the subject, which is very emotional.


In a large backlight, the background will be overexposed and become completely white, just take the subject's face as the reference for exposure. If you feel that the background is too dazzling, you can appropriately lower the output power of the light source, or make the face slightly darker.


If you don't want the background to be too bright or the subject to darken, you can consider adding a light to the front or side to fill in the light.


 4.Reflect from below

This type of lighting method is more commonly used when shooting fashion portraits. Place the softbox on the top, close to the ground and lean forward slightly; the main body is standing on the edge of the area directly illuminated by the softbox; a reflector is placed under the main body to reflect the light source upwards and hit the main body to illuminate the shadows.


In this way, the light will "wrap" around the subject, while also making the character's jaw line very obvious.


 5.Remove the diffuser

The main function of the soft box is to make the light more divergent through the front diffuser, and the light quality is more "soft"; but sometimes, you can also do the opposite. Place the light source directly in front of the subject and remove the diffuser in front of the octagonal soft box; the photographer also stands in front of the subject and blocks the center of the light source with his body to reduce direct light to the subject.


After removing the diffuser, the soft box becomes a structure similar to a ring light, which creates diffuse shadows around the main body, and the visual effect is also quite cool.


EMART Makes Photography Easier

If you’re serious about how to be a photographer, EMART can help. Our Photography Soft Box Continuous Light Set is a good chioce.


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