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Using a Softbox - studio lighting beginners' guide

A softbox is a useful studio light accessory that provides a wonderful soft light as Chris Burfoot AMPA ASWPP explains.

|  Studio Lighting and Flash
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Softboxes are available in a range of sizes from around 40cms square up to the amazing Elinchrom Octa which is almost two metres across!

The most useful sizes for portrait work are the 70cm or 100cm square, although products like the Portalite 65x65cm are great value for money and work very well. Remember, the bigger the light the softer it is. To get the softest light from your softbox - get close! If used just out of view of the camera, it will give you a lovely, soft, diffused light.

The bigger it is the more “wrap-around” it will be - an Elinchrom Rotalux 100x100cm was used in these examples.


Softboxes give a lovely soft light.

Again, by adding a reflector panel we can fill the shadows on the opposite side. If I am using a matt light source like a softbox, I normally use a matt white reflector to match.

Softbox and reflector Softbox with reflector

With a white reflector as a fill


As you can see from the diagram, this is the same set-up but with the addition of a background light which “lifts” the subject from the background.

Softbox, reflector and background light Softbox, reflector and background light

A splash of light on the background really “lifts” the picture!


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The diagrams you have posted are great. I recently got a studio lighting set and I am have some trouble with getting them positioned correctly. From my lights, I am getting way to much light, to the point the pictures are over exposed. So, I don't know what to do. Any suggestions? Please send them my way

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HI Brandy
You're probably setting your lights up to close to your subject. try moving them farther away if space allows. if your lights have variable power adjustments then lower your power output accordingly. make sure that your main light is your most powerful, fill and backgrounds less. if all else is not possible you must shoot at smaller apperatures. you will have sharper backgrounds but much better exposure.


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