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11-07-2013, 01:04 PM   #1
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Looking for softbox information

I've been using umbrellas and speedlights for a while in my home studio. With Christmas eventually coming towards us, the wife has asked me "what I would look for in a softbox if I ever purchased one"...

Now I've never looked into this deeply. I know I would continue to use my speedlights/flashes (two AF500 and one AF540). There seems to be many types of brackets available, most of them apparently made for Bowen systems.

Other softboxes appear to have attachments for alienbees, other brands, and some are "universal".

I have seen softboxes sold with light bulbs built-in, are these in any way interesting? I'm referring to something like this (not this particular model, it's just an example)

2 x Photo Studio Video Continuous Lighting Kit Photography Softbox Light Stand | eBay

Regarding size, I pretty well know what I want. That aspect at least is covered.

What else should I know about this? Any info is welcomed!

11-07-2013, 01:24 PM   #2
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I'd go with this Westcott Apollo Speedlight Set 2202 B&H Photo Video

Uses a similar setup you are used to, using your speedlight. But gives you the control of a softbox
11-07-2013, 02:27 PM   #3
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Thanks enoeske. I'm looking for general advice as well as specific products.

A colleague has this type of softbox-umbrella hybrid (octogon) and it doesn't deliver the type of illumination I want, plus it's a bit on the small side. I'd rather have something I can attach to the end of a boom.
11-07-2013, 03:38 PM   #4
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The above product would attach to a boom. What about his umbrella softbox do you not like? "it doesn't deliver the type of illumination I want". Its 28 x28 so its not that small, but you would want something much bigger if you are trying to illuminate a full standing body. However, its great for upper body shots. I certainly would not get continuous lights, as they are far too weak for almost any application.

11-07-2013, 03:49 PM   #5
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What are you looking to do with it?
11-07-2013, 09:10 PM   #6
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With my very limited experience so far shooting only still life, I still like what I get with an umbrella vs. a soft box. This is likely due to my own error with setup etc.

I have a 60" convertible umbrella which I usually bounce flash with my AF 540. I also have a 16" soft box which I have tried with smaller objects. I just get a much softer more pleasing light with the bounce umbrella. Maybe because of the size - my umbrella is 60" vs. my soft box is 16"?

Flashpoint FSB40 16in x 16in Soft Box for Shoe Mou FSB40

Also a part of it in my mind is the soft box is shooting the flash straight through vs. the bounce of the umbrella.

Sorry I am not adding much here - would like to hear of other thoughts also. My next purchase is going to be a smaller umbrella to try - like a 30".
11-07-2013, 09:16 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
. I just get a much softer more pleasing light with the bounce umbrella. Maybe because of the size - my umbrella is 60" vs. my soft box is 16"?
Yes, relative size of the light source determines its softness. So, since your giant umbrella is much larger than the tiny softbox, your get much softer light. Bigger = softer. However, remember this is relative so to a tiny object like an insect, that 16" softbox is huge and will look soft, but not to a person.

There is no difference between an equal size umbrella and softbox in terms of softness or quality of light. The differences will be control and catchlights. The softbox is easier to control. The umbrella just sort of blasts light in every direction while the softbox is directional and a tighter "beam". Its much easier to feather the light from the softbox edges as well. The softbox also gives you square specular highlights if thats what you are into.
11-07-2013, 09:22 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by enoeske Quote
Yes, relative size of the light source determines its softness. So, since your giant umbrella is much larger than the tiny softbox, your get much softer light. Bigger = softer. However, remember this is relative so to a tiny object like an insect, that 16" softbox is huge and will look soft, but not to a person.

There is no difference between an equal size umbrella and softbox in terms of softness or quality of light. The differences will be control and catchlights. The softbox is easier to control. The umbrella just sort of blasts light in every direction while the softbox is directional and a tighter "beam". Its much easier to feather the light from the softbox edges as well. The softbox also gives you square specular highlights if thats what you are into.
Makes sense - thanks for your explanation.

Like I said, I need to experiment more, and I thought the small difference of the 2 sources was the problem I was seeing. I'll have to look at a larger softbox - I went smaller since I didn't know if just using the hot shoe flash would be enough for using a larger softbox.

11-07-2013, 11:23 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
Originally posted by enoeske
Yes, relative size of the light source determines its softness. So, since your giant umbrella is much larger than the tiny softbox, your get much softer light. Bigger = softer. However, remember this is relative so to a tiny object like an insect, that 16" softbox is huge and will look soft, but not to a person.

There is no difference between an equal size umbrella and softbox in terms of softness or quality of light. The differences will be control and catchlights. The softbox is easier to control. The umbrella just sort of blasts light in every direction while the softbox is directional and a tighter "beam". Its much easier to feather the light from the softbox edges as well. The softbox also gives you square specular highlights if thats what you are into.
Makes sense - thanks for your explanation.

Like I said, I need to experiment more, and I thought the small difference of the 2 sources was the problem I was seeing. I'll have to look at a larger softbox - I went smaller since I didn't know if just using the hot shoe flash would be enough for using a larger softbox.
One other point. You say that you use the softbox for still life. By moving the softbox very close to the still life you will increase the relative size of your light. A 16 inch softbox a foot from your scene will be relatively very large. Most people start out placing their lights too far from their subjects. Close is good for soft light.
11-08-2013, 06:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by enoeske Quote
What about his umbrella softbox do you not like? "it doesn't deliver the type of illumination I want".
There is a hot spot in the center with these types of hybrids, plus they canjnot be well used to lit a subject from the back.

QuoteOriginally posted by enoeske Quote
Its 28 x28 so its not that small, but you would want something much bigger if you are trying to illuminate a full standing body.
QuoteOriginally posted by Pheo Quote
What are you looking to do with it?
I'm looking at something in the 30x40 inches range. One thing I have in mind is creating silhouettes with the softbox directly behind the person. Think maternity shot, for instance. I'm not looking for the softbox to replace my umbrellas, but to be used differently. Another use would be for side lighting with more defined contrast.

QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
I have a 60" convertible umbrella which I usually bounce flash with my AF 540. I also have a 16" soft box which I have tried with smaller objects. I just get a much softer more pleasing light with the bounce umbrella.
In direct light they are mostly the same, the size is the main difference here.
11-08-2013, 06:35 AM   #11
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Paul Buff (a.k.a. AlienBees), and some others, are now making parabolic umbrellas. These exhibit a much more controlled distribution of light, albiet still not as hard-edged as soft boxes. Another option for you is what's called a Brolley box. It's an umbrella with a diffuser screen across the open side.
11-08-2013, 06:52 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Venturi Quote
Paul Buff (a.k.a. AlienBees), and some others, are now making parabolic umbrellas. These exhibit a much more controlled distribution of light, albiet still not as hard-edged as soft boxes. Another option for you is what's called a Brolley box. It's an umbrella with a diffuser screen across the open side.
Not tried a parabolic yet but it's on the list.

I have a brollybox but so far I've not been convinced with my speed lights. Get better results with my small soft box. Although I've lost the mount at the moment unfortunately which creates issues!
11-08-2013, 07:55 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Venturi Quote
Another option for you is what's called a Brolley box. It's an umbrella with a diffuser screen across the open side.
I used 2 of those for the pictures below. There is less light lose than a shoot through umbrella and the light is more diffused than with a reflective umbrella.

2X 43 inch Photography Video Studio Reflective Umbrella Softbox Flash Brolly Box | eBay






If you use flash units, I suggest you make a couple of these brackets.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/62-do-yourself/106596-diy-horizontal-flas...ht-stands.html

Tim

Last edited by atupdate; 11-08-2013 at 08:27 AM.
11-08-2013, 08:10 AM   #14
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Very nice!

I like the softbox that you linked to as it is reflecting the flash (flash shoots to the back and bounced forward to the subject).
11-08-2013, 08:24 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
I went smaller since I didn't know if just using the hot shoe flash would be enough for using a larger softbox.

With the 43" softbox umbrellas I posted above and my Sigma DG500 Super flash, I shoot at 1/4 power from 5 ft. away @ f5.6 and ISO 400 (Great for head shots and 1/2 body shots). I can move the umbrellas back to 10 ft. at the same camera settings if I put the flash on full power (3/4 & full body shots).

Tim
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