Photography News | Issue 41 | absolutephoto.com
Lighting Academy Boxing clever Start your journey into the exciting world of creative lighting effects with PN’s Lighting Academy. This is the place to find out all about how flash and continuous lighting works and how it can be used to improve your shots. This month, two ways to use softboxes for flattering portraits…
Words & pictures by Kingsley Singleton
Stripbox with backlight
It’s important to pick the right tools for the job; and this is just as true for your lighting technique as for anything else you do. For example, it’s not just the broad type of lighting modifiers you use that change the look of the light. Certainly, the illumination from a spill-kill reflector will look different to a softbox, but sowill different sizes and shapes of modifier in the same broad type. When you add in the relative changes you can make in the position of the light, and the power used, lighting possibilities are endless. What’s in the box? Although starter flash kits often come with medium-sized square or octagonal softboxes, they don’t need to be this shape, and there are distinct benefits to using other styles of ’box. A strip softbox (or stripbox) for instance, which is essentially a stretched, thin rectangular shape, offers the same sort of softness, but in a more directed way. In this fashion it’s useful for accent lighting, or for a key light that covers a full-length portrait. Even changing from a square to an octagonal version can give subtly different looks to the shadows, and of course it will change the look of the catchlights in the subject’s eyes, too; a more circular box can lookmore natural in effect, while square boxes mimic window lighting in their throw of light and in the reflections they create in the eye. The depth of the ’box also changes the spread of light; deeper boxes aremore focused, while shallow ones are more diffuse. The overall size of the softbox affects the spread of the light and the softness of the shadows, too. Smaller ’boxes create smaller pools of light, and the smaller the softbox in proportion to the subject, the harder the shadows will be. What’s more, the closer the softbox is to the subject, the softer the light will be. In general, small, distant sources, like the sun, give harder
Stripbox alone: A 130cmRotolux
Second softbox: Using another softbox behind Emma’s position and directing it back at her and onto the background lifts the shadow areas.
stripbox easily lights Emma at full length, but the thinness of the ’box means light falls away quickly in the background.
shadows and more contrast than close large light sources, like a cloudy sky.
Using a large softbox In the first of this month’s set-ups, we wanted to use an Elinchrom Rotolux stripbox, which at 130cm high and 50cm wide, is about the same width as many smaller ’boxes, but over twice as high. The reason? It’s a perfect size for lighting standing or full-length subjects, so could be positioned near to Emma on the landing where we were shooting. In contrast, a smaller box wouldn’t have lit her entire height when used from the same distance, and would need to have been pushed back – something we couldn’t do due to the thin walkway. An alternative would have been to use two regular softboxes, but that still wouldn’t have given the same height, and two flash heads would’ve been required. Because of the extra size of the stripbox compared to smaller versions, more power is required to fill it, as well as a sturdy build to the head, to accommodate the extra weight. This month we were using an Elinchrom BRX 250/250 kit; which comes with twin heads, two softboxes (a 66cm Square and a 56cm
A strip softbox (or stripbox)... is useful for accent lighting, or for a key light that covers a full-length portrait
Right In this pic, the light behind Emma was intentionally set to be brighter than the key light, giving a cheerier glow to the background, adding hairlighting, and also further accenting her body shape. Left We used a pair of Elinchrom BRX 250/250 heads for this issue’s shoot, which can be bought in a ‘To Go’ kit with a 66cm Square and 56cmOcta softboxes.
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