Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • Author
  • #5335

    Hi all,

    This is my first post here so please be gentle ūüôā

    Photography is a hobby of mine. ¬†I have two DSLRs (I only kept the second because my macro/portrait lens wouldn’t work on my new one), both were gifts. ¬†Last Christmas I was given my first flashgun and I noticed a huge improvement in my photography. ¬†This year, my husband has given me a couple of softboxes! ¬†I will happily hold my hands up and say I don’t have much of a clue what I’m doing with them, as I’ve only had them out twice, but they are wonderfully bright and are far easier to manage than bouncing flash (with bouncing children).
    Does anyone have any beginners’ tips for using softboxes? ¬†This is my setup (I make baby carriers, hence the mannequin):¬†

    I’ve uploaded a couple of photos into a photobucket album for you to have a look at. ¬†They are not SOOC (tweaked in Lightroom) but I keep finding that, to make them look ‘right’ to my eye, I end up editing them to be overexposed… ¬†The softbox light, in the SOOC images, just seems a bit too dull/grey for some reason.

    Please bear in mind that I have only used these softboxes twice so I really am very new to it all, and I also realise I am a proper ‘all the gear but no idea’ kinda gal, too. ¬†I do have a basic knowledge of photography, but this is a whole new step up so any advice would be greatly appreciated. ¬†Thank you ūüôā


    Your softboxes look like they might be a Westcott 500 watt home studio set.¬† A softbox is a lot like a shoot-through umbrella that does not let light escape out the back.¬† I don’t know if that helps you.

    You have a lot of colour creeping into your shots.¬† Some have a green tinge and some have a pink tinge.¬† The photo of your softboxes has a lot of pink around the edges.¬† I can’t tell if that is being picked up from a coloured wall or from some other light in the room.¬† Some softboxes go on studio strobes, many of which are powerful enough to completely overpower ambient light in a room.¬† The small, single bulb continuous lamps do not have enough power to do that, although they are still useful if used carefully.


    The lighting in the test shots is very flat. There’s nothing TECHNICALLY wrong with flat lighting other than the fact that it’s un-interesting. Instead of blasting all the shadows away, try to use shadows (rembrandt, loupe, butterfly …).

    While there is nothing wrong with that type of shot, you DID place your subject too close to the wall … notice the shadows on the wall on the first image.

    Back to light setups … it will depend on what type of shot you are trying to do of course so I’ll start with the pure white background, highkey type shot.

    For this type of shot, you’ll want to use your 2 softboxes AND your speedlight.

    Aim your two softboxes at the wall (one softbox on each side of the subject) and set your exposure to OVER expose that shot until you clip your highlights … this will make the background pure white. Then use your speedlight to fill in your subject. You’ll need to have your subject OUTSIDE the area lit by the softboxes (so closer to you than the softboxes themselves as you don;t want any of that light directly on your subject.

    Another type of shot would be one main light and a kicker.

    Something like this:

    Notice the main light coming in from the front right of the subject and the light hitting her arm from the left of the frame?

    There are a tons of other types of shots you could do. You also don;t HAVE to use 2 lights …

    This was shot with one 85W (300W equivalent) CFL bulb and a reflector set as a diffusion panel:

    demo shot:

    setup shot:

    You could do something similar with your softbox.

    Good luck and have fun experimenting.


    Flat light may not be interesting, but if your model has bad skin, it can do a lot to hide blemishes.¬† If you can combine it with one of the “standard” lighting schemes — long, short, split, butterfly… etc. — so much the better.

    For those of you not familiar with reflectors, some are just reflectors, but the 5-in-1 variety usually have four reflective sides on a cover and a centre piece that is a scrim, or loosely woven fabric that lets light through it.¬† It makes a good diffusion panel and can be used outdoors to create open shade.¬† If you have that sort of reflector, you can replace the 85W/300W bulb shown in EvilDayStar’s setup shot, with a flash, the sun, or even a lamp from Home Depot.¬† Canon and Nikon both make flash units you can control with light from another flash, sometimes from the one built into your camera.¬† You notice in the setup shot, the studio’s room lighting is off.

    Instead of using the softboxes to light the background, you can use them to light your subject and use a remote flash to light the background.  An advantage to that arrangement is you can put coloured gels over the flash to change a white background to the colour of the gel, and by varying the flash power you can change the shade.  Instead of a flash, you could use another continuous light source for this.

    By positioning the softboxes, you can modify their effective strengths, so you could have the one on the left quite close to your subject and the one on the right further away, which would give stronger light from the closer softbox, causing shadows.¬† Instead of pointing the softboxes right at your subject, point them so most of the light goes past your subject, then you are just using a little light from the edge to light your subject.¬† A cool thing about continuous light is you can see the effect before you take the photo.¬† Softboxes don’t bleed light everywhere like umbrellas so you have more control.

    The square/rectangular softboxes are supposed to mimic window lighting,¬† so you could put them both together horizontally or vertically to get a bigger “window”, or separate them to be like two windows in a wall.

    You can use softboxes many ways, experiment until you get the look you desire.


    Thank you so much for such detailed feedback!

    To clarify, this is the ‘kit’ I have:¬†

    And you’re right – there IS a lot of colour leaking in. ¬†I am a total novice when it comes to this sort of thing (as I say, I’d just got the grip of the flashgun from last Christmas!!) so I have no idea where they’re coming from (the walls are magnolia, the curtains are a neutral colour but I pull them out of the way so the light shouldn’t be reflecting off them), but the images in that album have already been processed. ¬†I’ve added the SOOC versions here ( so you can compare, if you wish.

    I can’t remember, offhand, whether I had the main room light on when I shot the photo of the carrier. ¬†I think I did, but it’s just a normal, energysaving bulb, and is very dull in comparison to the softbox bulbs so I wouldn’t have thought it would make a huge difference…

    It never even occurred to me to light the background, with the softbox, and use the flash on the kids;  I will definitely give that a go!  My normal MO is no flash at all, my 55mm lens, and the big window downstairs which gives much softer, more even light (like this: ), so I am very much feeling my way when it comes to electrical light.

    Thank you for linking to the shots you did, EvilDaystar – they are fantastic photos, and it’s really helpful that you’ve described the setup as well as, so often I will look at photos and think “that’s lovely!” but not really consider what the lighting setup might be.


    I really appreciate your advice. ¬†As I say, I am not ever intending to set up as a business or anything, it’s just a hobby for me, and one I enjoy immensely and have improved at over¬†the¬†years. ¬†I really want to make the most of these lovely lights and not just ‘point and shoot’ without knowing what I’m doing! ¬†Thanks guys ūüôā


    Your second link did not work.

    Many fluorescent bulbs have a greenish cast. ¬† Magnolia appears to be a yellow/peach depending on the reference photo.¬† Perhaps there is something throwing off the camera’s white balance?¬† What white balance is the camera set for?¬† Try setting Daylight, since the bulbs are supposed to be daylight balanced.¬† Sometimes the softbox throws off white balance when the camera is guessing at it.

    You can use an editor like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to make corrections. If your backdrop is white, you can use it as a reference, even if it is only lit to grey.  If the background is coloured, pick up a grey card at the photo store and shoot it as a reference for the light.  It will also help with your metering as one side is white and the other is 18% grey.  These are your photos, adjusted using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop:



    This link should work…¬†

    The white balance was just set on ‘Auto’ but I will get myself a grey card, thank you. ¬†I’ve tried metering using the ‘take a photo of a white piece of paper’ before but it just never seems to register right. ¬†I will play around and set for daylight, and I’ll make sure to leave the main light off, thank you.

    I was editing in Lightroom but I guess my perception of the correct white balance was off. ¬†I tend to err on the ‘warm’ side when it comes to tweaking it and I know I can overdo it sometimes.

    I had a play around last night with the tips you guys have suggested and it certainly produces something more interesting than just “light straight at the subject”. ¬†I realise the focus is a little off (and excuse the tiger-face-covered-in-food – it’s Christmas, after all!) but it’s certainly more interesting than the earlier attempts! ¬†I hope you don’t mind me sharing my fumblings with you. ¬†For a site that’s dedicated to taking the piss, you guys have been really helpful and accommodating…

    One softbox to the side, flashgun on camera (bounced off ceiling):

    Both softboxes illuminating the background, flashgun on camera (bounced off ceiling):

    As I say, I realise the second one especially, is out of focus but it was just fiddling with the light (and an excitable daughter).

    Thanks everyone


    What a cutie, I bet she can be a handful! Here are your photos with some minor editing:

    I like them both.¬† I like …82ce.jpg better though.¬† It may have flatter lighting but the expression is priceless.¬†¬† Focus is off, but only just.¬† When there is almost no depth of field, accurate focus can be challenging.¬† If you back up a little, you will get more depth of field, you can crop to get closer again.¬† If you use a smaller aperture, you will get more depth of field, but you may need to increase ISO a bit to retain shutter speed.¬† With either method, more hair is apt to be in focus so the look will be different.¬† You could try using a different focus point, placing it on the near eye and shooting without recomposing.¬† There are lots of strategies for setting focus.¬† With almost everything in photography, experimentation and practice are your friends.

    There are tools like a Spyder or Colormunki for profiling your monitor.¬† Without those you are at the mercy of the monitor’s manufacturer.¬† Some monitors are pretty accurate out of the box, others not so much.¬† Lightroom and I don’t get along as well as we could so I don’t use it.¬† I use both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.¬† Adobe Camera Raw comes with all three and it can do some amazing things too.¬† I think Lightroom has the feature but if not you could open the file in ACR to see the eyedropper, and placing the eyedropper over part of the photo, it will tell you the values for R, G & B.¬† If the dropper is over pure white, grey or black, all three numbers should be the same.¬† All zeros is black, all 255 is white, as the number gets smaller the shade is darker grey.¬†¬† You can see relatively how much red, green or blue is in a colour at any place on your image by moving the dropper there.

    It is your art.  If you want it to be warm, or cool, and you set it to make yourself happy, that is a good thing.  If it just happens, that is not as good.  Happy accidents usually are hard to repeat, unless you are very observant and can work out the components.

    While I think of it… if you want to play with reflectors but don’t like the prices at your local camera store, you can get white foam-core from the local art supply store, which is stiff and easy to position.¬† It works pretty well and at a couple of dollars a sheet, it is a lot less expensive than most reflectors.¬† The art store usually has some mat black sheets as well which are great as flags for blocking light.¬† White plastic table cloths have been used effectively as scrims too, typically you want the cheapest, thinnest you can find.

    According to Nikon, your D70 has Commander Mode, so if you have an external Nikon speedlight, you can take it off the camera and can still fire it.  Details here:

    Being able to fire the flash off camera gives you much opportunity for creative lighting.  If friends have Nikon speedlights you might want to borrow theirs as well since you can control more than one at a time.  The catch is the sensor on the speedlight has to be able to see the light from your pop-up flash.  With most models, you can control if your pop-up flash adds light to the scene or just sends semaphore to the remote flash.

    Keep on keeping on… you’re doing fine.




    Thank you so much for that, cameraclicker! ¬†Really helpful and kind of you (and thanks, yes, she’s cute as pie but it definitely a tempestuous redhead ūüôā ).

    My flashgun is a Metz, but I will look into the commander mode. ¬†I had a very old old flash gun which had a funny little handle thing which meant you could attach the flash to that, and a separate hotshoe to the camera which meant you could hold it off-camera; but my Metz doesn’t have that. ¬†I do need to get off my butt and look into it really as it’s a cool function to have.

    I’ve just had a fiddle and lightroom does have the eyedropper tool, but it works with percentages rather than numbers (100% being white, it seems).

    As for the focus, yes, I was using my macro/portrait lens and f3.2 for the first, f3 for the second. ¬†I absolutely love the lens but it’s such a slow focusing one that it does mean I have to take LOTS of pics to get some with the focus just right. ¬†And I suppose, with a plain background, I don’t need it to be such a small depth of field. ¬†Normally I love to get some nice, blurry bits in the background but, again, this whole ‘makeshift studio’ thing is new territory…


    Thanks again so much for your help and encouragement!


    Looks like you closed the album in the OP, so I can’t make any commentary about that.


    Flat lighting (no shadows causing it to look 2-dimensional instead of 3D) can be useful on certain product shots, although I like to have some shadows or a separate light to make textures come out. Flat is not very good on portraits, but the kid you posted had some nice shadows.

    As far as advice, when doing product shots, frame the subject the way you want it, then put your camera on a tripod, and turn off VC if your lens has that.¬† You should shoot only in manual, and probably even manually focus it. This gives you repeatability. Adjust the lights and aperture as needed until it’s exactly what you want. It will take a few tries, but if you’re not keeping things constant, any changes you make could be due to many different variables. Once you have the shot you want, take the card out of the camera (leaving the camera on the tripod), and go check it on your computer. Don’t break down or move anything until you know it’s perfect.


    I shoot tethered to a laptop when doing critical product photography, so I can check each shot immediately (and even fire the camera with the laptop, which is needed if I have the camera 6 feet up).


    Canon and Nikon both make flash units you can control with light from another flash, sometimes from the one built into your camera.  You notice in the setup shot,???




    Canon and Nikon both make flash units you can control with light from another flash, sometimes from the one built into your camera.???

    === ===

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.