This week at Seamless we are obsessed with light, studio flash to be exact. After the highly successful Creative Portrait Lighting Workshop with Padraic Deasy, we can’t stop thinking about it and how mastery over the manipulation of studio lighting is so essential to portrait photography. With this in mind, Seamless presents 5 tips for using a studio octagon softbox.
A studio softbox is a key item on your photo equipment checklist. It is a key item because it will probably be the source of your key or main light. Once you master how to completely use a studio octagon softbox then you will realise why they are considered to be so versatile and why all portrait photographers have at least one.
Despite what you may have heard about studio octabox, size does matter. This comes down to physics as the larger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer or more flattering the light will be. Say you are photographing an adult and a child separately. You are going to need a much larger softbox to photograph the grownup than you are going to need to photograph a small child if you want to keep that beautiful soft light. For a group photograph you would need to use the Seamless Octagon Softbox 200cm, for an individual portrait the Seamless Octagon Softbox 150cm is ideal and the Seamless Octagon Softbox 90cm is perfect for a child. This rule also applies to product photography or actually any form of photography. The larger the light source in relation to your subject, the softer the light will be.
Similar to the rule above, the closer your octagon softbox is to your subject, the less harsh the light will be. This tip obviously works both ways because if you want to create a more specular or dramatic lighting effect then simply move your light further back from your subject. This is part of the reason why a studio softbox has such a versatile reputation. You can create almost any lighting effect that you desire with a single lighting accessory.
A grid is one of the most useful accessories to have on hand when shooting portraits with an octagon softbox. A high-quality grid that is attached on the front of your softbox will actually focus the light and stop it spilling into areas of your photograph that you don’t want it to illuminate. Although it seems to go against the benefits of using an octabox it actually gives you far more control over where the light lands on your subject.
When starting out in portrait photography most photographers put a large octabox at 45º to their subject. This is fine for most headshots or if you have developed a creative style around that look but photo studio lights are generally not secured to a single spot on a wall for a reason. Don’t be afraid to move them and see how the light lands on your sitter. Without changing the distance of the light from your subject, just chance the angle. This really has to be seen to be believed. The change can be dramatic. Make sure that your modelling light is turned on and you will be able to see live exactly where the light falls and where the shadow areas are. Magic!
This photography tip actually applies to all areas of photography, not just studio portraits. Before you ever take a client for a portrait session, know what you are going to do and do it. There is nothing more unprofessional or confidence shattering for your subject then to see their photographer stumble around flicking switches behind a studio flash. It is far more fun to get a friend or an assistant to sit for you and to help you experiment with using your studio lighting kit. If you are prepared and can focus your attention on directing your client and capturing beautiful images then you will be so much happier in your work with a greater amount of clients.
Let’s see what you can do …