What Is a Softbox and How Is It Used in Photography?

You may acknowledge softboxes as being the massive, ballooning hoods that skilled photographers use to buffet the sunshine popping out of every strobe. However need not have knowledgeable studio with the intention to gentle issues up with a softbox. Learn on to study extra about how softboxes make each second really feel like high fashion.

What Is a Softbox?

A softbox is nothing greater than a housing unit used to regulate and improve a supply of sunshine. They arrive in all shapes, sizes, and types, and so they’re superior in just about any state of affairs the place you are utilizing any kind of synthetic gentle supply, akin to a strobe, and even one thing like a Mole equipment.

Softbox gentle is superb each by itself and as supplementation to one thing sensible onscreen—the brilliant gentle from a pc monitor in a darkish room, for instance, or for a pensive second close to a large, curtained window. They’re versatile, that a lot is for positive, however, extra importantly, they’re additionally almost universally flattering.

Any face, any object, any a part of the physique, something in any respect seems to be fabulous beneath softbox gentle. There’s not a lot to those easy and efficient lifesavers, and that is a part of their attraction. Nonetheless, regardless of their simplicity, they depart plenty of room for experimentation, partly as a consequence of the truth that you actually cannot go unsuitable with one.

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We all know—it appears like we’re overselling this stuff. Are softboxes well worth the hype? What makes them so nice, anyway?

Distance Between Gentle and Diffusion


A small softbox studio.

Ask any beginner who’s ever tried to shoot pictures with unmolded lighting with a chunk of diffusion slapped on, proper on the head. We’re utterly responsible of this—it is a horrible, lazy look, and it not often leads to a compelling photograph. What’s one of the best ways to enhance a supply of sunshine, even only a lamp with no lampshade?

The nearer a chunk of diffusion is to the supply of sunshine, the extra the “form” of the sunshine will resemble the unique “gentle cloud” from the supply unadorned. Take into consideration a single, very highly effective lightbulb with nothing masking it, gentle capturing out from the filament in any respect angles.


Wrapping it in wax paper in order that the diffusion is shut sufficient to the touch the bulb will diffuse the sunshine, however what it is not going to do is change the course of lightfall of the wedge that hits the topic immediately. You will be left with the identical omnidirectional level of sunshine, simply a lot dimmer and far much less punchy.

Now, image your self taking the identical diffusion, flattening it out with a body, and strolling it again from the sunshine supply on-axis relative to the topic. The sunshine that makes it by way of the body can be collimated to some extent.

Chances are you’ll discover two minor points with this thought experiment. Firstly, the truth that a single lightbulb’s throw most likely would not be robust sufficient to penetrate a body 5 or extra toes away. This primary drawback can be solved through the use of a stronger unit, main us proper into our second conundrum.


The larger the sunshine, the extra the ambient ranges of sunshine within the room will rise, diluting the composition of the photograph by taking consideration away from the topic that we’re making an attempt to gentle selectively. Fortunately, that is the place the remainder of the softbox comes into play: the housing, which prevents gentle from spilling out the place you don’t need it.

Containment of Spill


A few strobes with softboxes.

We gentle images and movies intentionally with the intention to carve a composition out the place, earlier than, there’s simply an bizarre house, and even simply full darkness. The important thing to any softbox lies much less in its means to diffuse gentle attractively and extra in its means to comprise it and to compel it ahead—extra firepower, with nothing wasted out the again door.

Doing this not solely lets you make the most of smaller lights with out shedding one ounce of gusto, but it surely additionally ornaments bigger lights, leading to a glance that feels a lot greater than it will in any other case. Some softboxes embody metallic foil lining on the within for much more affect. We can’t get too into the mechanics of thermodynamic absorption, however even a white internal lining helps you maximize your outcomes by propelling each lumen ahead.

There isn’t a query as as to if or not it’s best to spend money on a softbox—the one determination it is advisable fear about is which one to decide on.

What Is the Finest Kind of Softbox for Newbie Photographers?


A woman being photographed with a softbox light.

With the above in thoughts, now we have just a few totally different axes in opposition to which we are able to examine and distinction just about any kind of softbox. Smaller softboxes could, in some circumstances, be able to an extended throw, however not at all times—the smaller the wattage of the supply, the much less firepower you must work with, which just about acts as a form of limiting issue.

We’re stepping into the weeds right here, however in the event you’re interested by shopping for a softbox, these are all various factors that you will need weighing in in your ultimate determination. Bigger softboxes could possibly ship ambiently in a a lot greater house, for instance, however they will take extra time and labor to erect and extra space to retailer in any case is alleged and executed.


Softboxes are a lot extra than simply pictures equipment. Be looking out for all the next as you mull your buy over:

  • Form: The form and the dimensions of the softbox dictate loads about the way it will carry out; an enormous, extensive, flat softbox may be used as a cover overhead, illuminating a considerable amount of house, whereas a smaller, longer softbox can be rather more suited to portrait pictures and issues of that nature.
  • Materials: The overwhelming majority of softboxes of each worth bracket are made of cloth, normally canvased throughout just a few wire arms; hardshell softboxes and different oddities like them exist, however they’re normally heavier and type of a ache to move and to reckon with within the subject.
  • Equipment: Some softboxes solely come included with one single diffusion panel; others convey plenty of choices to the desk, together with issues like nets and even softbox grids, which let you cultivate the sunshine even additional.
  • Included Lights: We’ll be sincere: the most effective softboxes assume you have already got a fixture to work with—our recommendation is to spend money on the sunshine and the softbox individually, however in the event you’re on a price range or in a pinch, a softbox equipment with a light-weight included may be one choice to think about.
  • Further Tools: In lots of circumstances, your new softbox can be mounted on one thing referred to as a velocity ring, which is connected to the sunshine fixture itself; along with this, you may additionally normally want a stand in the event you do not already personal one—extras like flags, sandbags, and different tools could considerably up your recreation.


In fact, the formidable amongst us are already devising a technique to construct their very own DIY softbox. Fortunately, we have a tutorial on that, too. Regardless of which method you spin it, although, you shall not be disillusioned. If you’re capturing with a softbox, your outcomes are assured.

Each Photographer Wants a Softbox

We’ll admit it: our personal softbox is reasonable as all-get-out, and it nonetheless will get the job executed proper, each single time.

Do not imagine us? Seize one the subsequent time B&H or Samy’s is having a blowout—softboxes actually are the present that retains on giving. We promise that the fitting one will not ever allow you to down.


Basic studio lighting usually involves the use of one or more strobe lights.

The way to Use a Strobe Gentle to Shoot Higher Images

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