A softbox is an umbrella like hood that is attached around a light. It is umbrella like in its construction, metal frame with light proof sides typically made out of fabric so that it is light in weight so easy to carry and support. The inside of the hood is reflective to increase the brightness projected through the front. The front of the softbox hood is covered by a diffuser, usually a white fabric. Positioned inside the softbox is a lamp or flash that is the light source. The lamp/flash unit with the softbox hood is mounted on a stand so that it can be positioned and adjusted to required heights.
The intention is to modify the light from the lamp or flash to give a smooth and even light spread across a wide area. This has the effect of producing soft shadows and often used when taking portraits or photographs of people because of the softer lighting produced on a subject.
Photographic Continuous Lamp
Lamps provide a steady constant light source rather than a flash. These can vary in strength of light and the colour or quality of the light depending on the light bulb.
A photographic lamp can be simple with just on/off switch, or can have additional controls to adjust the intensity or brightness of the lamp. The lamp can have a reflective shade to help in focusing the light on to the subject, this can vary from being very deep or narrow to minimise light spilling out in to the whole studio, to wide and shallow shades that are intended to flood a wide area with light.
Benefit of continuous lighting is that it is easier to set up and position the lighting in the studio, you can see immediately the effect of moving or positioning the lights has, how the light levels change, the mood created, where shadows are going to be generated.
Downside of continuous lighting is that they can require a lot of electricity, require long power cables so that the lights can be positioned without the cables getting into the frame. These cables can present potential trip hazards. The lights can generate a lot of heat and get very hot, this can be very uncomfortable for models, and also objects being photographed can be adversely affected by the heat generated by the lamps. There is also a burn risk. Also when the lights are hot there is a risk that the elements can break and blow with tungsten filament bulbs. With model and portraiture photography the bright lights will cause a model’s eye pupils to constrict and appear small, this can be an undesirable effect. The continuous bright lights can also cause people to move their heads or partial close their eyes or screw up their faces in attempts to avoid the light.
Regular tungsten filament light bulbs when used in photography produce a warm yellow glow to a photograph, even when the light appears white.
Photoflood lights are similar to normal light bulbs that produce a bluer light to reduce to golden glow of a normal filament light bulb.
Quartz Halogen lights although brighter than normal light bulbs, they still produce a yellow glow in a photograph.
Fluorescent lights. Depending which gas fills the fluorescent tube different coloured white light. Regular florescent lights create a greenish light in photographs unless ‘day light’ tubes are used.
LED (Light Emitting Diodes) produce a good white light, but the photographs can appear to have a cold blue light created by the LEDs.
Manual and information for Bowens lights, including the model Bowen BW-3610 (light model used at college) http://www.wexphotographic.com/webcontent/pdf/Bowens/Bowens-freedom.pdf
These produce bursts of light and are synchronised with the camera shutter so that the camera opening of the shutter the flash firing occurs at the same time.
Compact Flash gun units can be mounted on top of the camera. The down side of this especially when taking portrait photography is that because the light is in line with the camera lens and the model is usually looking towards the camera there is a very high chance of ‘Red eye’ because the bright light bounces of the back of the model’s eye, the retina. The flash positioned close to the lens can also cause dust particles to shine and sparkle because they are in the direct path of the light, and when the light hits the dust it reflects the light back and cause ‘white’ dots to appear on the image.
On camera flash for portrait photography does not allow the photographer to position the flash to either side of the models face, so the photographs can also look ‘flat’ and the face featureless when the model’s face is looking square into the camera, there will be little or no shadow generated by the nose or the area around the sockets of the eyes.
A ring flash is a flash that is placed close around the lens. The ring flash will give even lighting, reducing directional shadows that makes 3D objects appear flat, ring flash is often used in macro photography because it throws an even light around the small object being photographed. The ring flash can be used to create unusual light reflections of reflective surfaces, or in the eyes of models.
Flash units mounted off the camera on light stands can be positioned where ever they are needed in the same way as continuous lighting. A trigger mechanism will be required to synchronise the flash with the camera shutter. This can be either cables connected from the camera directly to the flash unit(s) or by a wireless or remote trigger mechanism connected to the camera that transmits the instruction to fire, and the flash units have a receiving wireless unit to initiate the flash when the signal is received.
Flash units can be adjusted to give off different levels of light intensity, and the
Benefits of flash are that the bright lights are not on continuously, generating heat, are very bright and using electricity. For portraiture, the lighting is not powerful so the model’s pupil of the eyes will open more, eyes with wide pupils are generally considered more attractive.
Downside of flash is that it can take longer to set up exactly where you want the lights to be positioned, because they are not on all the time, the beams and lighting effects are not always immediately obvious. Also it is highly likely that the photographer will require a spot light meter that can take light meter readings of flash so that they can set their camera and lights correctly.
Accessories can be attached to lights continuous or flash units.
Light stand to support the light unit. They provide a stable support to allow the lights to be positioned where they are required and the height and angle of the light head can be adjusted. They may have an additional boom to allow the light to reach in or across the subject.
Colour gels or filters can be placed over the lights to change the overall lighting of a subject or to change the colour of shadows cast by the subject.Grills or Grids can be placed over the light. These are intended to aid focusing the light in a direction and reduce light spilling into areas that you do not want the light to shine.Barn doors flaps. These flaps are used to reduce light spilling out on to areas where you do not want light to shine and reduce flare.Snoot. A light attachment that steps down to a smaller diameter aperture for the light to shine out of. This has the effect of producing a focused beam of light, but with soft edges.Gobo A glass or metal plate which fits inside the lamp, or placed in a holder. The Gobo has designs, shapes or words cut out so that the lamp projects the design. Often used also used in club and disco lighting effects.
Reflectors designed to reflect and bounce light when positioned under or around the model The reflector can be white, silver, gold or grey. The choice of reflector can give the reflected light on the model different strength and light quality from bright white light with the silver reflector, white gives a cool less strong or bright reflection, grey reflector less bright reflection. The gold reflector will give a bright a warm golden look.
Umbrellas. There is a similar range of finishes and colours as reflectors (silver, white, gold or grey). They have a similar effect on the quality of the light and intensity that falls upon the subject or model. The studio light or flash is projected away from the subject in to the inside of the umbrella. The light bounced from the umbrella is aimed back onto the subject. The light from the umbrella softens and diffuses the light so that it is not as harsh or strong as the lights aimed directly at the subject or model.
Cookies A flat board or screen that has cut outs to allow some light to shine through to create light and shade lighting effects. It works similar to a Gobo, but the light shapes projected are not so focused, for example they can give mottled lighting similar to light shining through the leaves of a tree, or the effect of light shining through venetian blinds.
Flags A screen used to stop unintentional stray spill light from getting to the camera and causing flare (unwanted light that is reflected in the lens, internal optics or the camera itself that show as light patches on a picture) or a screen to shield light from striking the subject where it is not required. A method of keeping dark areas dark. These can be as simple as pieces of thick card or fabric attached to a frame to more sophisticated panels that can be mounted on stands or movable or bendy arms.
Background or backdrops on paper rolls are seamless photographic background on a roll supported on two supports either side. The backdrop paper can be pulled out and extended out on the floor so there are no hard lines between walls and floor.