A Useful Guide to the World of Softboxes

A softbox is one of the most popular and frequently used lighting tools in product photography. It is of particular importance for those studios working with jewellery photography and fashion photography who want to really have control over the lighting they are using.

What is a softbox?

These devices are relatively simple in their design and production and the easiest explanation is that it is a light modifier that in its base form is a box of varying shapes and sizes. A softbox then provides you with soft light that is perfect for all types of product photography, ranging from jewellery photography up to fashion and food.

Types of softbox

Interestingly, you can get a softbox in a range of shapes and sizes. Each type has a particular function and feature that may be of benefit to you depending on the area of product photography you are involved in.

Square

The more traditional type of softbox is the square softbox. This will allow anyone working in product photography to generate even lighting with gradated shadow edges. Thanks to the sharper corners on this softbox compared to other rounded types, it is perfect for those wanting to create window light as it mirrors the shape perfectly.

 

All shadows will be the same in terms of their size, whether horizontal or vertical and this uniformity is a huge benefit.

Rectangle

We move on to the rectangle type of softbox now and this is more popular for areas of product photography including fashion. Thanks to the rectangle shape, it means it produces a narrow light spread, allowing for some interesting lighting effects.

 

A popular use of this softbox is when wanting to shoot half-body or partial body shots without having too much light feed into the background.

Strip

A more extreme version of the rectangle softbox, the strip version is narrow at one side and then extremely wide at the other. The interesting effect this has is that it will create a gradated shadow edge that is smooth on the long side, whilst producing a finer edge on the short side.

 

The most popular use for this would be in fashion and those full-body images where you want sufficient light without losing contrast or definition.

Other types and accessories

The world of softboxes doesn’t stop with these more standard types. You can get an octagonal version which works in a similar way to the standard square softbox but a more rounded and wider light. Furthermore, you could opt for a deep softbox that is a kind of parabolic light system which is popular in product photography thanks to its unusual lighting effects.

 

Once you know the types of softbox you’re after and it very much depends on the type of product photography you work in, such as jewellery photography or fashion then you can explore the accessories. You can get everything from grids to a variety of masks to transform the kind of lighting produced, allowing you to get truly creative. Think carefully about the set-up you need and the options to allow for the very best product photographs, don’t just buy it all as you could end up wasting a lot of money.