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Tips & Tricks

Does Size Matter? When Discussing Softboxes That Is |Gavin Hoey

By Hanssie on December 21st 2014

Manipulating light is a powerful ability to have as a photographer. It can take an image from just, ‘blah’ to ‘amazing’ if you know how to use light properly. Be it natural light from the sun or studio light that we modify, it serves us well to be adept in lighting.

New photographers may get overwhelmed with the choices of lighting accessories out there. Once you delve into off camera lighting, there are a head spinning number of accessories to consider to help you shape that light, and they come in various shapes and sizes, just to make it more confusing. Generally with a portrait, we want soft lighting and so softboxes are an important accessory for any portrait photographer’s kit.



One general and extremely useful tool for off camera lighting is the softbox.  Softboxes help create soft lighting effects, hence, the name. Softboxes come have different sizes and each one will give you a different look.

In the following 12 minute video, sponsored by AdoramaTV, Gavin Hoey discusses softboxes and compares a small, medium and large soft box to show us how each size affects a portrait. He recommends the large 7’ Westcott Parabolic Umbrella because of the “fantastic soft lighting.”


The last part of the video is a bit of a bonus as Gavin takes us into Photoshop and shows us how he edits the images to get back some control lost by the softboxes tendency to spread light over a large area. You could use a grid to regain some control in camera, and Gavin promises that for another video.

Watch ‘Softbox Size vs Soft Light: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey: AdoramaTV’

If you are looking for more lighting education, we have just finished filming our Lighting 101 DVD. It’s now in the hands of our video editors so be sure to look for it in our SLR Lounge store soon. Also, check out our YouTube videos on lighting.

If you haven’t checked out our Photography 101 DVD, make sure to take a look. We show you how to use entry level DSLRs and lenses to make incedible images. It is your A-Z guide to photography.

[Via Adorama TV]


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Nicely defined !!

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    I love the videos produced by Gavin! He keeps photography techniques nice and simple to understand.

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  3. Steven Pellegrino

    The video is a bit misleading. Yes a 7 foot modifier is going to give you a soft light, however it depends on what you’re shooting as to whether you need a modifier that large. You can get the same quality of light from the 24″ modifier as you can from the 7 foot modifier if you place the 24″ modifier about two feet away from the person. Of course this would only apply to head shots. In the video he placed the 24″ modifier 3 feet away, which isn’t going to create a soft light. Joel Grimes is a master at teaching this and does comparisons of small and large modifiers to show basically the same quality of light.

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    • Steve VanSickle

      The important lesson I take from Gavin’s video is “relative to your subject”. I’ve achieved soft light with much smaller modifiers, but the reason the 7″ umbrella is nice is that it’s still relatively large, even at a much greater distance from the subject.

      Me? I’m comfortable being very close to the modifiers (I was a couple of inches away in my profile photo), but my subjects don’t always like to be so crowded.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      I just think the lesson he missed was showing you can get the same quality of light from the smaller boxes if you moved the smaller boxes closer to the subject. If you didn’t know this was possible and you only saw this video, you’d think you would have to have a 7′ modifier to achieve soft light.

      But soft light is only part of the equation. Do you want light on your background or only on your subject. That too dictates which modifier to use.

      My feeling was he missed an opportunity to show someone who didn’t know what’s possible. I’d rather have seen him explain that than his post-production techniques.

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