What should I expect from a softbox?

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What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Potoroo on Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:56 am

I need to take pictures of architectural models for my partner. Direct flash is too harsh so I bought a LumiQuest Mini Softbox for my 580 EX2. However, I'm finding the flash is still too harsh. Would I have been better off getting a bigger softbox, a bounce, or some other approach (I don't have room for a studio setup so big umbrellas and the like are out of the question).
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby gstark on Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:16 am

How big are the models?

While it may seem counter-intuitive, have you tried moving the flash (with the softbox) closer to the models? Pull the power of the flash back, too.

The key here is the relative size of the light source, when compared with the subject: the larger the apparent light source, the softer the light may appear.

A larger softbox will most likely help, but there are many other methods as well. I've asked about the size of the models because it may be possible that they will fit within a light tent. For which you already have a great light source: the sun.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Mr Darcy on Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:26 am

As Gary says, what you need is a large light source.
There is a book, Light Science and Magic that will explain it all in amazing detail. I have seen this in the Dymocks in Sydney. as well as all the usual Web places.

The light source has to appear large to the subject, not be large in any absolute sense. The sun is the largest absolute light source we have, but because it is so far away, it appears small, so it produces harsh light. Add clouds however, and the light source goes horizon to horizon. Much larger, so the light source appears larger & the shadows suddenly become soft. OTOH, A bare flash can appear large to a very small object IF the flash is very close to it.

The simplest method in practice may be to simply take the model outside on a cloudy day. If it has to stay indoors, you could try bouncing the flash off the walls or ceiling. If they are coloured, or too far away, you could use a (white) sheet as a reflector.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Reschsmooth on Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:28 am

I have the same soft box and, taking into account what Gary & Greg have said, if the flash is kept on camera, the softbox does relatively little to increase the effective size of the light. Whilst the soft box is considerably larger than the flash head, when it is a meter or two away from the subject, the relative size difference reduces.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby surenj on Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:19 pm

I think the others have covered most aspects.

Depending on the size (smaller the easier) of your models, availability of white paper or wall, you could easily get a softbox like effect. How about bouncing the softbox off wall or white paper?

Please post some of your attempts so we can have a look.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Potoroo on Thu Sep 24, 2009 10:03 pm

OK, thanks all. Diffusing the concentrated light of the flash over a large(r) surface will soften it more. Gotcha, I guessed wrong in getting the mini softbox but no matter, it'll come in handy one day I'm sure.

The models are not huge, roughly an A4 baseboard with the models approaching 15cm high. They are student assignments, not professional designs, and part of the requirement is they be photographed from different aspects in order to examine the way they interact with each other, that sort of thing. The pictures don't need to be perfect but we still need to soften the direct light. Now I'm on the right track I'll sort something out. I've put that book on my Amazon wish list too, Mr D. ;)

Gary wrote:Pull the power of the flash back, too.

As in manually or use the flash's exposure control? Because the softbox can block the flash's own sensor the recommendation is to use (E)TTL. I've used a camera's EC often enough but I'm not familiar with the effects of a flash's EC. Does it just pull the flash back a bit or does it affect the image exposure in the same way it does on the camera body?
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby surenj on Fri Sep 25, 2009 1:42 am

:idea: In that case, for directional soft light one could do the following.

Make a DIY light tent from a card board box. Put box near a corner (preferably neutral or white color but doesn't matter too much). Keep the flash on camera. Use camera on manual. Flash on ETTL. Aim flash the corner of the wall and manually zoom to 105 or so.

Shoot and if too dark, increase the exposure compensation on flash upwards until you get the picture you want.

One could also put the light tent outside, but then this wil limit your options interms of aperture etc...

Sorry I am repeating things that you already know!

EDIT: You don't need the softbox for this setup
Last edited by surenj on Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby gstark on Fri Sep 25, 2009 10:38 am

Potoroo wrote:
Gary wrote:Pull the power of the flash back, too.

As in manually or use the flash's exposure control?


I would do this manually, so that yo have a degree of predictability about the results.

As you say, there may be times when the flash's sensor is blocked by the softbox, but beyond that, by using manual control, you can chimp your histogram to determine where your exposure sits, and adjust your settings - either flash or aperture - accordingly.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Potoroo on Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:06 am

surenj wrote:Sorry I am repeating things that you already know!

All donations gratefully received. ;)

Sometimes solutions are simple and cheap. I remember making a light tent about twenty-five years ago out of a white sheet and stressing because cotton has a slighter warmer colour cast than parachute silk (which I could not afford). I still got some good results though. The big hook sewed to the centre of the sheet was perfect for hanging it off the Hills Hoist.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby surenj on Mon Sep 28, 2009 2:40 am

Potoroo wrote:
surenj wrote:......about twenty-five years ago ....

Shikes! That's some time ago.

I would be really keen to see how you lit this and your results. :cheers:
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby gstark on Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:05 am

Potoroo wrote: I remember making a light tent about twenty-five years ago out of a white sheet and stressing because cotton has a slighter warmer colour cast than parachute silk (which I could not afford).


At that time, that would have been a somewhat significant issue. With colour film, we only had two colour temperatures available to us: daylight and tungsten. I would presume that the slight warming was fairly subtle, and not enough to justify moving to a tungsten film.

If shooting on trannies, then your options for correction would be somewhat limited, and I don't recall that there would be a colour correction filter available for this sort of issue.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Potoroo on Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:20 am

surenj wrote:
Potoroo wrote:
surenj wrote:......about twenty-five years ago ....

Shikes! That's some time ago.

:ot:
gstark wrote:
Potoroo wrote: I remember making a light tent about twenty-five years ago out of a white sheet and stressing because cotton has a slighter warmer colour cast than parachute silk (which I could not afford).

At that time, that would have been a somewhat significant issue. With colour film, we only had two colour temperatures available to us: daylight and tungsten. I would presume that the slight warming was fairly subtle, and not enough to justify moving to a tungsten film.

You're not wrong. Geez, I used to stress over colour casts, especially when shooting indoors with artificial lights. I didn't get into the home studio thing for many years so I had to make do. In the meantime it was a lot of hmmm, do I need an 83A or an 83B?

No matter what my other reservations about digital, I have quickly come to love custom white balances. If they'd been around 25 years ago I might live 10 years longer.
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby surenj on Mon Sep 28, 2009 12:03 pm

My first film camera was a APS minolta vectis. I chose it because it could do automatic mid roll change (change of ISO), and print my settings on the back of the print. Both functions were critical to learning the basics without breaking the budget.... I didn't realise or consider colour temperatures!! :P

It was a relief (mental and to the wallet) when digital came along...
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Re: What should I expect from a softbox?

Postby Murray Foote on Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:32 pm

Mr Darcy wrote:There is a book, Light Science and Magic that will explain it all in amazing detail. I have seen this in the Dymocks in Sydney. as well as all the usual Web places.

Hi Greg

I checked this out and have now ordered a copy. There was a Kodak book on studio lighting I read in the 80s and at the time thought I should have bought a copy. That gave me enough background to do a commissioned formal portrait shooting exercise. Even so, I don't really have any great interest in studio lighting and I don't even own a flash. From what I read of the reviews, it should prepare me if I need to do any formal lighting exercises again but more importantly, it should help me to analyse and perceive light and lighting in any situation.

I went on a workshop with Heide Smith at Narooma last year. One thing she demonstrated that impressed me was how to take natural light portraits incorporating light bouncing off natural surfaces such as rock faces.

So thanks for drawing this to my attention.
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