Alternatives to large softboxes?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by denise_unsworth, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. Hi everyone! I am taking full-length indoor photos of clothing for an eCommerce website and was wondering if there are any smaller more portable alternatives to the gear I am currently using. I have two 600watt monolights with 40x56" softboxes and two 150watt strobes for background blow out. I was thinking about also being able to travel to different indoor locations where space maybe be limited and my two softboxes maybe a problem. Any suggestions?
  2. AJG


    The light quality won't be the same, but you could try large umbrellas. One advantage is quicker set up/tear down.
  3. Softbox-umbrellas - like this.

    They can be used with anything from a speedlight to a powerful monolight and give a similar light to an octa. They erect and knock down in seconds, like an umbrella, but they're much more efficient and the light more controllable.

    Sliced bread is far less convenient IMO!
  4. I guess this Interfit umbrella is comparable to the US brand Softlighter marketed under the Photek brand. Mine has a white interior vice silver so can be used for shoot through with black cover off. Folds very compact and no speed ring needed. Worth a try for modest outlay. Could be the 60" one might do the trick. they fold really small but I do not commercial work so am only surmising what would work for you.
  5. Hi Denise,
    You may be interested to know Annie Liebovitz favors the low cost Softlighter 60 inch umbrella softbox combo that Rodeo Joe decribes. I cannot compare to a regular softbox with speed ring and so on, but I think it might be worth a try. Softlighter folds up like an umbrella and snugly fits in its own nylon pouch. Very compact. Takes maybe five minutes to assemble, but I could likely do it faster if I were pushed. I will attach photo that will give you an idea. Softlighter II iset up.jpg
  6. Gerry, the Softlighter is a bit more complicated than the dedicated softbox-brolly I linked to.

    The ones I use have a silver interior and fixed white diffuser. OK, this makes them less versatile, but I have separate shoot-through brollies when needed - and I don't need 'em very often!

    The main advantage of softbox-brollies is their simplicity. Click - shake - click, and they're ready to go. No fastening a diffuser in place or fitting a black cover over them, and the silver liner makes them very efficient.

    Also, if you look at the price differential between the Softlighter and a "fixed" softbox-brolly, you'll see you can buy shoot-through white brollies with the change.

    Nothing against the Softlighter, but I just don't see how it's a better option for a portable lighting kit. I suspect it's quite a bit heavier than a dedicated softbox-brolly too.
  7. I think I see combined questions?
    For convenient portability & similar results the umbrella softboxes are probably unbeatable.
    For compensating a lack of (makeshift) studio space things get complicated. - Softboxes appear to be physically smaller than their alternatives; i.e. they might be flatter than umbrella solutions? - Maybe beauty dishes and strip lights are an option?
    There is always the alternative to grab a bucket of white wall paint and bounce your flash from walls & ceiling
    If you want ultra compact portability, look for multi folding umbrellas. But I think the fact that you'll need to bring light stands too, makes coping with walking cane sized umbrellas worth it?
  8. Jochen, I don't think location space can be an issue if the OP intends to shoot full-length models. Although it might help if she gave a bit more information.

    "Softboxes appear to be physically smaller than their alternatives"

    Not really. Most softboxes project from the front of a monolight, with a depth of maybe 3 ft total. The softbox brolly sits behind the flash and partly engulfs it; knocking perhaps 6" off the depth. In both cases a lighting stand is required (or a strong and patient assistant!).

    Then there's the time it takes to erect a softbox and knock it down again - not trivial.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  9. Yes, plenty of smaller alternatives, but size matters for soft light. The soft lighter is a mainstay for Annie and she has a fit assistant holding it on a stick with strobe head used. The problem I see is you say you have a small space. I don't believe there are egg crates available for softlighters so controlling spill going everywhere in a small space may be difficult and end up requiring large flags that would offset the size and set up tear down time savings. I have a folding speed ring I use on a 3x4 softbox that has an egg crate and it snaps fully open and closed. I use a 7' octa in a narrow space and use a 6.5' square scrim on rolling stand with black/white fabric. It helps block spill going everywhere or the white side can be used as an easily maneuvered reflector because of the rolling stand. You don't say if the clothing is being worn when photoed. Since the clothing is the star, you could use a small octa or beauty dish with grid on the face, even lit a bit darker, and a strip box for the clothes making it subtly brighter to pull the eye to it. One of my strips is from Paul Buff and it opens like an umbrella and has an egg crate. Just some considerations.
  10. I am not selling the Softlighter 60" as a space saver when opened fully, but then, the bigger the source, the softer the light. ( they come in smaller sizes. ) That said, got to give the Photek credit for how small they fold down and the neat slip in bags that come with them. What I disliked is having the sock not fit my little light aa Quantum Q flash which 1) does not have a hole in the reflector and 2) which places the axes of the two far apart. I found a workaround with a Stroboframe swinging L frame that seems to help a lot. Anyway, for me, for fooling around with some lanai portraits i think it will work. If I were a commercial shooter I think I would peruse the Chimera and Lastolite pages. Likely I would play around with more than one light modifier depending on the job. Oh yes, hire some Sherpa helpers to schlep and tote:) i do not know how this test I did would stack up but it worked in the instance. Softlighter test II.jpg
  11. Jerry, I had the same sock problem with einsteins. I believe the sock is fireproof material, like nomex, but I tend to keep the modeling light off when using it as a result and in studio, have a fire extinguisher present because of my use of hot lights around fabric, gels and lace. Been a while since I used it and it is possible to use with those lights but Buff has some similar modifiers that fit larger lights and they are less than $100. I have their original parabolic umbrella and diffuser panel and it works great.
  12. Using speedlights over monolights would save some depth, and those softbox-brollies can be stacked vertically to give a striplight effect.

    I certainly have no problem getting a useful amount of light from 75 Joule speedlights at close(ish) distances. For example: f/8 to f/11 @ 100 ISO and ~5 foot lighting distance would be typical for a speedlight in a 4 foot version. And 2 stacked should give an extra stop.

    WRT flagging: I see no reason why a strip of velcro couldn't be stuck around the rim of a softbox-brolly to make the attachment of a skirt a quick and easy process. In fact I may well just do that with one or two of mine. But so far spill hasn't been an issue - unlike with shoot-throughs.
  13. Joe, great idea, have been using clothes pins c47's and gaffer but I like that. Just got a new roll of velcro. That and some cinefoil is a much cheaper alternative to an egg crate for the only box missing one, a 7' octa.
    GerrySiegel likes this.

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