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Using a softbox for portrait photography will result in pleasant lighting for most subjects, plus the gear and techniques used can also be applied to other types of photography such as small product photography for online listings.
In this tutorial, learn a few key benefits of investing in a softbox for your portrait photos.
Portrait Photography Tips
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Making great portraits of any subject is within the grasp of any photographer with proper implementation of portrait photography techniques and using good portrait photography gear.
It is a definite rule in photography that it’s not the gear that makes a photo, it’s the photographer. But sometimes certain types of equipment make the job easier. Some portrait photography gear allows us to use certain techniques for creating better portraits.
The lighting equipment for portrait photography can be used in various different configurations for several styles of portrait lighting. A softbox is one of the best lighting tools for many portrait lighting uses.
What is a Softbox?
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Light comes in many flavors, photographically, these differences can really affect our images. Besides the color temperature of a light source, being hard or soft sources will also alter the end results.
Hard light creates distinct or hard shadows, while soft light diminishes the harshness of the contrast between light and shadow. Instead of the word soft, you might think about it as being diffused. A broader light source is often more diffused than a pint light source.
One way to create softer light is to make a light both broader and more diffused, which a lightbox does by means of how it’s made. A softbox is a frame of diffusing material surrounding a light that makes the resulting light emitting unit bigger and softer.
You can get a softbox for almost any size and style of lighting equipment you might already have. Here is another softbox, this one made for a compact iLED144 light from Ikan that fits directly on a camera or on a camera cage.
What you see is a large front panel of diffusing material, some internal reflective material to maximize the output of the light, and a frame to hold it all together. That is the essence of how to make a softbox for portrait photography.
Why Use a Softbox?
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Why would we use a softbox for portrait photography or for the other types of photography and videography we might do? A softbox makes light softer which means it can be very flattering for many subjects and can eliminate or lesson contrasty shadows which can either obscure or greatly exaggerate features.
When discussing lighting equipment for portrait photography and the term features comes up, we’re usually talking about the nose and chin. Eyebrow ridges, cheekbones, lips, ears, and hair also factor in, as well as the lines on faces that naturally occur with certain expressions or wrinkles and blemishes caused by damage or age.
Softening the light doesn’t blur the subject like a soft focus filter would, but it does mean that those harsh shadows that make a nose look larger than it really is or the shadows inside the skin wrinkles that accentuate them are lessened. Thus the resulting images will be more flattering for the portrait subject.
Of course, some portrait lighting configurations are designed around harsher, harder light, such as Rembrandt lighting, but for the general portrait portrait market, softer light set ups are often favored.
How to Use a Softbox
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Learning how to use a softbox for portrait photography is simple. Simply replace whatever you’re using as a key light, the main light, with a softbox. Using a softbox on both the key light and the fill light will result in a flatter light than other lighting configurations, so you might do some experimenting, see how soft you need to go.
A two light setup with softboxes is a good method for many types of small products, such as you might be shooting for listing on a shopping website. It’s useful for product photography since the softer light shows details of the items better than contrasty lighting.
A softbox can be used with any type of light, either a flash or continuous light, but you should monitor closely when using one with incandescent bulbs since they can increase heat build up. Using LED continuous lights or a flash greatly reduces that concern.
There are many advantages to using a softbox for portrait photography, try it out yourself to see how it can improve your portrait and small product images.