So you have just purchased a softbox for your studio or photoshoot, but when you opened the package, there were no lights included. Are they supposed to come with it? Do softboxes typically come with lights?
Most quality softboxes come with professional-grade lights, fluorescent or LED, necessary to get the highest quality results. However, some kits may not have lights. Therefore, it’s best to review what’s included before purchasing any equipment.
Read on for more information on the types of softbox lights available and how to get the best results using them in a photo shoot.
- 1 Softboxes Come in Fluorescent or LED Lights
- 2 Tips for Using the Soft Box Lights Effectively
- 3 Do You Really Need a Softbox?
- 4 Where Should Soft Box Lights Be Placed?
- 5 Final Thoughts
- 6 Sources
Softboxes Come in Fluorescent or LED Lights
Softbox lights come in two varieties: fluorescent and LED lights. You can purchase both as a kit with the softbox included or purchase lights and softboxes separately.
Each type of light offers advantages and disadvantages that may work better for certain subjects, shooting situations, or lighting desires.
LED Softbox Lights
These rectangular-shaped softbox lights use solid-state technology to provide even illumination over the entire surface area of the box.
This type of light is popular for theatrical applications and includes full-spectrum light that won’t flicker or change colors.
LEDs don’t emit as much heat as other lamps (fluorescent or incandescent), meaning they don’t need to dissipate as much heat as traditional bulbs do; this makes them safer to handle and store between shoots.
- Long life: LED lights can last for 50,000 hours or more, meaning they won’t need to be replaced often.
- Environmentally friendly: LEDs don’t contain mercury, unlike fluorescents and incandescent light bulbs; this makes them safer to dispose of properly when they burn out. They’re also much more energy-efficient than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs.
- Expensive: LEDs are typically more expensive than filament lamps, but the long lifespan may make them a better buy in the long run.
Fluorescent Softbox Lights
These softbox lights are typically found in most softbox kits simply because they’re more economical.
Fluorescent bulb technology is more affordable for manufacturers to use than LED technology. They also provide an even, diffused white light that can be adjusted to different goals and effects using color correction filters.
Fluorescent dome lights are pretty durable and diffuse the light evenly. However, they exhibit some problems with flickering as they warm up.
- More affordable overall: While LEDs can provide more of a punch, they’re also more expensive.
- Durable: Fluorescent lights can last for a few thousand hours before burning out, making their replacement costs minimal over time.
- Even light output: The softbox diffuses the light evenly, resulting in smoother transitions from highlight to shadow areas of the subject being shot.
- Problematic heat generation: They tend to flicker as they warm up, causing distracting shadows in the subject matter.
Tips for Using the Soft Box Lights Effectively
Now that you’ve purchased your softbox kit, here are some tips on using it effectively in your images.
Place the Light Properly
Place the light within 6 feet (1.82 m) of the subject being photographed, and angle it 45° to create a very soft light that doesn’t draw too much attention. This will give you more flattering illumination on your subject’s face.
Choose an Appropriate Color Filtering Option
If you want to use your softbox’s diffused lighting for maximum effect but still need to amp up the lighting in some parts of the image, use color filters on your dome.
Color correction gels are available in various colors that you can place over your softbox lights to add additional colors to specific areas of an image.
For example, you can add a magenta filter to the lights illuminating your subject’s face, which will remove all green and blue color casts in the resulting image.
Use the Built-In Reflector
If you’re using your softbox for portrait or fashion photography, be sure to flip down the white reflector panel on the front of the light.
This will create a much softer light than simply aiming your lights at your subject without any type of diffusing device.
As a result, your subject will have a more even skin tone, and the shadows cast by facial features will be much smoother.
Check out my review on softbox vs reflector.
Use Your Flash
If your softbox is daylight balanced, you can use it as a secondary light source that’ll augment the main flash illuminating your subject.
You could also experiment using the softbox as the primary light source to see if it results in better images than what you’re currently getting with direct flash lighting.
Know When To Use a Softbox to Its Full Potential
Softboxes are a very effective way of creating a professional, polished look for images. However, you should only use them in moderation.
Their light output tends to be more even and diffused than other light sources, so it may tend to flatten images if used too much. For more textured images, consider using different light sources or techniques instead.
Here’s a video that provides additional tips that’ll come in handy when using a softbox:
Do You Really Need a Softbox?
You don’t need a softbox to take professional-quality images in general. However, softboxes are handy tools for creating soft lighting in your studio and can contribute to the overall look of an image by making it brighter and more evenly illuminated.
Many modern cameras have built-in options to take images in a dimly lit, controlled setting such as a studio. Softboxes provide an affordable and easy way to create outstanding images for those who aren’t as photography-savvy or want more control over the finished product.
That said, before deciding whether or not you truly need to invest in a softbox, consider the following:
- How often will you use it? If you plan to use your softbox frequently for portrait or fashion photography, it might be worth the investment to buy one. However, if this is something that you’ll only do once in a while, you can probably buy or rent one instead.
- Do you have an appropriate space? Many softboxes are relatively large and need to be set up in an ample, open space. If you don’t have the proper space to put one up for your shoots, it might not be worth buying or renting one.
- What kind of lighting do you currently use? You can use softboxes to improve the look of your images. If your pictures look fine already, or if you don’t seem to be having problems with them, using a softbox may not be necessary.
That said, if you need quality studio equipment, I recommend this GVM Video Light Photography Studio Lighting Kit from Amazon.com. It features a softbox lighting kit and provides continuous lighting. The softbox can rotate up to 180° to provide optimum light from all angles, improving photo quality.
Find out more on softbox light vs ring light for video studios.
Where Should Soft Box Lights Be Placed?
Softbox lights should be placed slightly above and to the side of your subject. This is because it provides a spread of light that looks softer than sharp lighting, enhancing one’s features. If you’re looking to mimic an outdoors feel, this is usually the type of light you’ll want to use.
In summary, most softboxes feature either LED or fluorescent lights. They’re practical tools for creating soft, evenly illuminated images. Depending on how often you’ll use them and whether you have the appropriate space to set one up, you can purchase or rent a softbox.
It would also help to note that while using a softbox is usually better than not using one, it may not always be necessary. Finally, it would be best to place softboxes slightly above and to the side of a subject.
Check out my other article on softboxes and diffusers.