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This post was most recently updated on Feb 13th, 2022

LED panels and softbox lights are two of the most popular lighting types in photography. They both have their pros and cons, but which one is better?

It can be hard to decide which one is better or which one you should be using. Everyone has a different opinion, making it incredibly difficult to navigate the photography world and get the information that you need to take your photographs and light them in the best possible way/

In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of both softboxes and LED panel lights to help you decide which is best for your next shoot.

What Are LED Panel Lights?

LED panel lighting is one of the most popular lighting setups in photography and videography. As they provide a directional light source with strong, white light, they are ideal for all types of shoots.

That’s why LED lighting has seen increased interest in a range of creative fields. These panels are very versatile and practical, and there is plenty of choice on the market.

They can be used as either a single or double-sided panel, depending on what type of effect you want to achieve. The size of these panels ranges from smallish to large. However, you may struggle to find something very small.

What Are Soft-Box Lights?

Softbox lights are often used to create soft or even diffused light. They can be used as either overhead or under-lighting techniques. They come in different sizes and shapes, so you can choose what works best for your shoot.

Softboxes have been around since the 1950s, but their popularity has increased over recent years. This is because they offer a more natural look than other lighting setups. The main benefit of using a softbox is that it creates a smooth, even light. This is perfect for portraits.

LED Panel Lights Vs. Softbox Lights: Which One Is Better?

LED Panel Lights Vs. Softbox Lights Which One Is Better

When it comes to using an LED panel light vs. a softbox there are some important differences to consider. Let’s take a closer look at each one and which one may be better for your photography.

Light Diffusion

Softboxes diffuse the light evenly across its surface. This creates a softer look on your subject, with less harsh shadows and highlights. Softboxes add a soft and particularly even light across your subject.

In contrast, LED panels do not diffuse the light evenly. Instead, they only emit light where the LEDs are located.

This means that the light is concentrated in certain areas creating a harsher look. LED panel lights also don’t distribute the light evenly across the subject, so may get more “patchy”.

Portability

Softboxes are lightweight and easy to move around. They can be moved from location to location without any issues. This makes them ideal for any outdoor shoots.

However, their additional power supply might make it difficult to take them outside.  In comparison, LED panels are bulky and heavy making them difficult to transport.

If you want to move them from place to place then you will need to carry extra equipment such as extension cords and battery packs. For this reason, we’d recommend using LED light panels in your studio.

Size

Softboxes come in many different sizes. You can choose from small, medium, large, and even huge sizes. These sizes allow you to create a variety of looks depending on what type of subject matter you are shooting.

With LED panels you may find them in different sizes but they don’t come in smaller sizes. Typically, you can buy either a single panel or multiple panels. 

This makes it hard to create a specific look when working with multiple subjects.

Energy Efficiency

Softboxes are extremely energy inefficient. They consume a lot of power which requires a constant power supply. Because of this, if you plan to shoot outside during daylight hours you will need to bring along a generator.

On the other hand, LED panels use much less power. They require just a few watts of electricity to run. This means that you can use them with a separate battery pack.

Color Temperature

Softboxes produce a warmer light source. This means that your photos will have a slightly yellowish cast. This creates a warm, soft light ideal for portraits. However, it doesn’t work well for landscapes because it casts a bluish tint on the sky.

In comparison, LED panels produce cooler colors. It works great for landscape photography because it produces a blue tint on the sky. 

Durability

Softboxes are incredibly durable. They can withstand extreme temperatures, although should not be kept in strong winds. They are generally designed to last a long time, and won’t break down after a few years like regular lights might.

On the other hand, LED lights are made from plastic. This makes them susceptible to damage over time. They may crack or shatter under strong wind conditions. They are also prone to breaking if dropped.

Cost

Softboxes are expensive. They can cost the equivalent of a good quality beginner camera. This is due to the higher quality materials used for softboxes. However, the average price of an LED panel is much more affordable than a softbox.

Maintenance

You will need to clean softboxes regularly. This includes wiping off dust particles and cleaning the inside of the box. You should also change the bulbs every 6 months. This is especially important if you are using fluorescent bulbs. These tend to burn out quickly.

LED panels do not require maintenance. You don’t need anything except for batteries. You will simply replace the batteries once they start to die.

Conclusion

While both softboxes and LED panels offer unique benefits, some things make one better suited for certain types of photography. If you are looking for something portable, then you may want to consider either a small LED panel light or a lightweight softbox.

If you want to create a particularly soft lighting effect, then a softbox is probably going to be best. It allows you to control the amount of light coming into the scene. Both softboxes and LED panels are great options for photographers who want to take their craft to the next level.