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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 07 Apr 2013 (Sunday) 09:26
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are small softboxes on flashes worthless?

 
Gregg.Siam
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Apr 07, 2013 09:26 |  #1

I'm not talking about larger softboxes, but the small ones like this (external link) that many people velcrow to the flash. Do they really provide softer light?

It seems to me like it will just reduce the flash power, not soften the light, but I really have never used one.

I thought about getting something like this (external link)

I would love to see a review of many of these products (external link) to see which actually work and which are crap.


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jcolman
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Apr 07, 2013 09:43 |  #2

The only way to achieve softer light is to make the apparent light source larger. Those tiny "soft boxes" are not going to do much other than put money from gullible photographers into the inventors pocket.


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inkista
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Apr 07, 2013 09:52 |  #3

They can soften the light if used in close to the subject. Used farther away, the light will get harder, but you will get feathering on the edge. And yes, it's far more limiting than a larger softbox would be in terms of softness.

This is me run'n'gun at Comic-Con, snatching a quick shot in a crowded hallway of Karen Berger and Mike Carlin. I used a small 8" softbox (a cheap ripoff of the Lastolite Ezybox Speedlite (external link) I found on eBay), holding the speedlight in my left hand. I was probably shooting from about 4-5 feet away. Not super-soft, but certainly softer than direct flash.

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6029/5968838073_bda364e33a_z.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/5968838​073/  (external link)
5DMkII. EF24-105 f/4L IS USM. @28mm. YN-560, RF-602s, iShoot 23cm softbox.

This is a slightly different setup than the one you're linking to, though. This softbox is a little deeper, and has an inner baffle as well as an outer one, and would take more time to set up, as well as being a bit more unwieldy from the added depth.

Neil van Niekerk has a few demos of using the 8.6" Lastolite here (external link) (OK for work) and here (external link) (NSFW images).

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Gregg.Siam
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Apr 07, 2013 10:12 as a reply to  @ inkista's post |  #4

Thanks for the link. The problem I have is portability. In addition to what I normally shoot, every once in a while I shoot car shows just for fun and relaxation. :D The distance to the models vary a lot, some farther away, some really, really close (which can't be avoided many times). You can't really drag around a light stand and shoot off camera (although i did see one brave soul that tried) due to the amount of people and space.

For example, this girl was only about 4-5ft away due to the space and the fact that we were avoiding other photographers.

IMAGE: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8239/8628287260_6db114bb26_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/lostpacket/8628​287260/  (external link)
SIAM9935 (external link) by Gregg.Siam (external link), on Flickr

For the shot i can't remember what I did. Due to the close proximity, i had to tilt the flash, use the bounce card, but i don't remember if I went to manual at 1/16th power or used ETTL. I was actually surprised I didn't get more harsh light than I did.

So, for these types of shots, I was looking for something to soften the light. Not sure if it is even possible.

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inkista
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Apr 07, 2013 10:37 as a reply to  @ Gregg.Siam's post |  #5

Yup. Bouncing is a much better bet. My problem is I was at the San Diego Convention Center, where the hall is sized and crowded like this [grin]:

IMAGE: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8294/7653113752_f65febfeea_z.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/7653113​752/  (external link)

No friendly low-hanging ceilings to help you out. Which is why some folks are nuts and do this:

IMAGE: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2445/3757598928_9f7db7c565_z.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/3757598​928/  (external link)

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Luckless
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Apr 07, 2013 11:23 |  #6

Really depends on how you use them, and what you are looking for from your light. I met one photographer who often uses small 6 inch octagonal boxes he made for his flashes to great effect in close up photography where he is able to place the flashes very close to the subject. (He also apparently has a pair of 10 foot parabolics in his studio that he uses just as often)

The advantage of the small modifiers is that of control. You can get a softer light than the bare flash would give, but you can also feather and block things out to get very strict control over where the light is falling, angle it is falling from, etc. If all you have are super large soft boxes, then it becomes very limiting in what effects you can really generate with them. If you want just a models shoulder to be lit with a relatively soft light that has a smooth fall off in the shadow with the rest of their body falling quickly to near black, then it will be kind of hard to achieve with a huge modifier.


Modifiers are tools, and as the saying goes: If you only have a hammer, then all problems become nails.


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airfrogusmc
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Apr 07, 2013 11:39 |  #7

inkista wrote in post #15799998 (external link)
Yup. Bouncing is a much better bet. My problem is I was at the San Diego Convention Center, where the hall is sized and crowded like this [grin]:

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/7653113​752/  (external link)

No friendly low-hanging ceilings to help you out. Which is why some folks are nuts and do this:

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/3757598​928/  (external link)

Wow look at the light in that venue and he's using that contraption:lol::lol:




  
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phatrick
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Apr 07, 2013 11:55 |  #8

Maybe you might wanna consider a demb style bounce card? Where you can adjust the angle the bounce card rests.


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Wilt
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Apr 07, 2013 12:41 |  #9

The product that you linked is 3.5 x 5" so only about 2x the horizontal linear size of the native flash lens. Larger small softboxes can be about 5x7" or about 2.8x the linear dimension. Larger = softer.


First, using native lens of the flash from 20' away, a section of the total frame area so that you can see the shadow cast by an arm on a wall a couple feet behind. You can also see the shadow cast on the subject body by an object held in front. (I set up this shot to mimic a bride holding a bouquet in front of her while being photographed at a wedding.)

IMAGE: http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i63/wiltonw/IMG_1027.jpg

Here is an example of a 5x7 softbox on the same flash at the same 20 distance from the subject...

Note that even when 35x the longest dimension of the 5x7 softbox away from the subject, there is an observable decrease in shadow contrast and in increased blur at the edge of the shadow area.
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inkista
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Apr 07, 2013 13:07 |  #10

airfrogusmc wrote in post #15800159 (external link)
Wow look at the light in that venue and he's using that contraption:lol::lol:

That's up top where the food is. :) Inside the big hall, it's more like this:

IMAGE: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2614/3751581286_580f8ba4dc_z.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/3751581​286/  (external link)

The aisle numbers go up to 3000s at the other end of the hall. You could try bouncing, but...

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airfrogusmc
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Apr 07, 2013 13:41 |  #11

inkista wrote in post #15800376 (external link)
That's up top where the food is. :) Inside the big hall, it's more like this:

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/inkista/3751581​286/  (external link)

The aisle numbers go up to 3000s at the other end of the hall. You could try bouncing, but...

What I would do is figure out the color balance, gel my strobe to match, defuse it, keep it right over camera and use it as true fill about a stop, stop and half down from whatever the ambient was to keep the shadows from going to deep.




  
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Curtis ­ N
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Apr 07, 2013 17:29 |  #12

I have a Lumiquest Softbox that sees occasional use for indoor event photography under high, dark ceilings. At close range you can see a clear advantage. If you're 20 feet away, it's hard to see a difference vs. direct flash. Keep in mind a few things:
1) Because of the loss of efficiency, you'll have a hard time competing with the sun unless you're really close.
2) Anything that blocks the AF Assist beam will make things tough in a dark environment. I chose the original Lumiquest Softbox (external link) because it doesn't block the AF Assist beam.


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Apr 07, 2013 20:58 |  #13

Gregg.Siam wrote in post #15799946 (external link)
For example, this girl was only about 4-5ft away due to the space and the fact that we were avoiding other photographers.

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/lostpacket/8628​287260/  (external link)
SIAM9935 (external link) by Gregg.Siam (external link), on Flickr

For the shot i can't remember what I did. Due to the close proximity, i had to tilt the flash, use the bounce card, but i don't remember if I went to manual at 1/16th power or used ETTL. I was actually surprised I didn't get more harsh light than I did.

So, for these types of shots, I was looking for something to soften the light. Not sure if it is even possible.

That's pretty decent light quality, considering how close she is to the wall behind her. If you'd 'flagged' the flash (so there was no direct light hitting her at all) as you bounced it, the results might have been more of what you were looking for. Otherwise I'd say that's great light for a vertical grab-shot using only on-camera flash that you bounced over your left shoulder.


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Apr 07, 2013 21:03 |  #14

Gregg.Siam wrote in post #15799811 (external link)
I'm not talking about larger softboxes, but the small ones like this (external link) that many people velcrow to the flash. Do they really provide softer light?

I have a few items similar to that one; I use them on my OCF speedlights if I'm shooting outside on a windy day with no assistant. I just used one yesterday, as a matter of fact, and the results were better than I'd hoped for...no harsh shadows! I had the light stand fairly close to the couple, maybe three feet away.


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bobbyz
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Apr 07, 2013 21:13 |  #15

Luckless wrote in post #15800115 (external link)
If all you have are super large soft boxes, then it becomes very limiting in what effects you can really generate with them. If you want just a models shoulder to be lit with a relatively soft light that has a smooth fall off in the shadow with the rest of their body falling quickly to near black, then it will be kind of hard to achieve with a huge modifier.

You know you can put a scrim/flag to do that quite easily.


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