Photography is a world of skill, technique, and a lot of gear. Photographers often end up with a studio full of equipment, and although at times it might seem like overkill, all of it is necessary in order to achieve those professional-looking perfect end results.
If you are using artificial lighting, then even more equipment is needed, mainly because of the light sources, and all of the accessories that come with them, depending on how you want the light to behave.
If you want harsh light, with plenty of shadows, then not that much is needed. But if you want a soft light, with minimal shadows, that is flattering and airy, then you’re going to need a Soft Box, or something similar.
A Soft Box can come in extremely handy within a photography studio, and it diffuses the directed light so that it is softer, surrounding the subject for a more flattering look. But how do you use it?
Are you supposed to turn off the room lights?
Turning off the room lights, in order to use the Soft Box, isn’t necessary, but it depends on what end result you are going for, and how the light of the room affects the setup.
It could be that having the room light on ruins the lighting, or it could be that it is part of the setup or adds to it! So basically, experiment!
But let’s talk a bit more about the Soft Box, and how to use it!
What Is A Soft Box?
Before we get into explaining how a Soft Box should be used, let’s clarify exactly what a Soft Box is, just in case you’re a beginner still unfamiliar with this piece of equipment.
So, a Soft Box is essentially just a box that gets added to the front of a light source, or around it. So you place the Soft Box around a lamp or similar, or position it right at the end, in the direction the light is going.
The Soft Box then affects how the light travels, changing its effect on the subject in question. Instead of the light hitting hard and focused, the Soft Box makes it have a wider range and focus, and the light is softer.
As a general rule, a Soft Box has two different sides, the inside, and the outside, made from different materials. The outside tends to be black, and the interior tends to be white or silver.
In a way, you can simply think of a Soft Box as being a cloud, because it pretty much acts the same way. It disperses the light so it is “everywhere” rather than a focused beam, and it makes it softer.
Choosing The Right Soft Box
There are many different types of Soft Boxes, with plenty to choose from depending on your specific needs and preferences. When you are choosing one for yourself, you need to take into account the purpose of it, and how you are planning to use it, so that you can make sure it will actually work in the best way possible.
To help you out, here are the three main factors that you need to consider when choosing a Soft Box!
The size of the Soft Box is going to have a very big effect on how it changes the light. The closer the subject is to the light source, the bigger the Soft Box should be, because the more it has to be able to diffuse and soften the light.
So, for example, if you’re taking a headshot portrait picture, the Soft Box should be bigger than the subject’s head, so that the light can completely surround the subject, achieving that soft light result.
The interior of a Soft Box is usually always either white or silver in color. And yes, choosing one or the other will affect how the Soft Box works!
A white interior is what will soften the light the most, and it will usually be very flattering for portraits, as it makes people’s skin look smoother.
A silver interior, on the other hand, doesn’t soften the light up just as much, so that it hits the subject with a little more force, causing eyes to twinkle, and skin to have a super sharp look. (So a white interior smoothes out the skin, and the silver interior makes every pore visible, so to speak).
So you can choose one or the other depending on how you want your photographs to look!
Soft Boxes can come in many different shapes. As a general rule, the standard Soft Box has four sides and is rectangular. Other popular options are the two-sided Soft Box, which is usually known as the strip, or the eight-sided Soft Box known as the octabank.
The shape is pretty important because it determines how the light is reflected on the subject, so it’s a good idea to try out different shape options, and figure out which result you like the most.
How To Use A Soft Box
Let’s get to the important question, how to use a Soft Box. As we already mentioned at the beginning, turning off the room light or not pretty much depends on the setup as a whole, and what you are wanting to achieve.
Sometimes the room light is a bad interference, and sometimes it is simply another source of light that you are using for the shoot.
However, keep in mind that you can also use Soft Boxes outdoors, where you won’t even have to think about room lights!
One of the best things about the Soft Box, and why it is such a popular piece of equipment, is that it really is super easy to use. All you need to do is point them at the subject, by placing them by the light source, or around the light source.
The hardest bit is getting the angle and direction of the Soft Box perfect in comparison with the subject, but that comes with experience, and it’s all about making the necessary adjustments as you go along, until you are satisfied with the position.
Should You Use A Soft Box?
Now that you know what a Soft Box is, how to choose one, and how to use one, you might be tempted to give one a go. But should you use a Soft Box? And if so, when is a Soft Box best used within photography?
The truth is, Soft Boxes are one of the most common pieces of equipment within photography, and you should absolutely use them, at the very least to give them a go.
They can be used indoors or outdoors, any time of day, and with any type of subject. They’re just there to adjust the lighting that you are using!
Usually, Soft Boxes are best used indoors, within a studio. They come in especially handy when taking portrait pictures, as softening the light is often more desirable in this scenario.
However, they can also be used for taking product pictures, for weddings or special events, for modeling pictures, and many more! If you want your light to be softer, that is when the Soft Box comes in, regardless of the context.
Using a Soft Box is very easy, and it allows you to make the lighting softer, diffused to flatter the subject even more. Turning the room light off might be necessary depending on the lighting setup and whether it interferes with it, but this is not always the case.
So you should consider it with the specific setup and desired result in mind, and go from there.