Photographing the Milky Way

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
Tips & Tricks

Understanding Softboxes: Lighting Tutorial and Behind the Scenes with PHLearn

By Jules Ebe on June 29th 2013

Softboxes are one of the strobist’s (photographer that prefers artificial light) best friends. They also help shape the light in a way that creates dynamic portraits that would otherwise fall flat. Aaron Nace at Phlearn has come up with a great tutorial on the basics of softboxes, using a traditional three light set up as an example.

Guide to Softboxes: Phlearn

Softboxes 101

Softoxes are great for manipulating artifitial light. You can make it soft or hard, and pretty much everywhere in between with a number of modifiers, like grids and diffusion panels. Softboxes are unlike umbrellas, which produce a concentrated directional light that tends to cast everywhere. Softboxes imitate the light cast by windows and create gorgeous catch lights in the subject’s eyes. Because softboxes diffuse strobe lighting, it is a great option for portraits.

Example Image and 3 Light Set-up



Shapes & Sizes

Traditional Softbox: These are the workhorses of studio lighting, and can be used for just about anything, from key lights to fill lights.
Stripbox: This is a skinny rectangular softbox. Its narrow shape makes it good for casting rim/hair lights on subjects without affecting other parts of the image. Set in a box shape in front of the subject for creative catchlights.
Octobox: A softbox with 8 sides. Its rounded shape will cast natural looking catchlights in the eyes of your subject. Usually used as a key light.
Grids: Use these to manipulate the way light is emitted from a softbox. They help by concentrating the light into a straight beam, where you want it.


Paul C Buff Softboxes
Paul C Buff Einstein

Canon 5D MkII
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Canon BG-E6 Battery Grip
Pocketwizard Plus II

Sekonic L-758DR
Canon 24-70mm
Canon 24-105mm
Avenger Stands
Manfrotto Tripod
Seamless Background

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

Thanks you PHLearn for the great tutorial.


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing.

    | |
  2. Tips in How to Shoot & Retouch Great Headshots with Phlearn

    […] SLR Lounge love ourselves some Phlearn. From learning how to be creative with hue and saturation to understanding softboxes, it’s amazing how much you can get from Phlearn, which is why we’re happy to feature […]

    | |
  3. Understanding Softboxes: Lighting Tutorial and …

    […] Aaron Nace at PHLearn has come up with a great tutorial on the basics of softboxes, using a traditional three light set up as an example.  […]

    | |