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How to Create Hard Light with a Softbox

The softbox is one of the most popular tools for light shaping. Most of us use it to create a soft, even and flattering light, but what we often forget is that the softbox is a versatile tool that can also be used to create a harder light with sharper shadows. This article will take a closer look at its properties.

All images in this article were lit with just one softbox: the Profoto 3’ Octa RFi. The Octa RFi was standing in exactly the same place at exactly the same angle. But as you can see, the images are quite different. So, how did we do that?

For the first image (1), we mounted a Softgrid onto our Octa RFi. The Softgrid reduces the light spread to 50° and creates a more directed light. As you can see, the light is just as soft and even as you would expect, but the amount of spill light that hits the wall behind our model is drastically reduced.


#1

For the second image (2), we removed the Softgrid. This did not affect the quality of the light, it is just as soft and even, but the light spread is much wider. Compare our model in the first and the second image. She is lit almost exactly the same. The background, however, is now a lot brighter.


#2

For the third image (3), we removed both internal diffusers – and this is where things get really interesting. Removing the diffusers essentially converts our octagonal softbox into a parabolic reflector. Now, the light is no longer wrapped around our model. Instead, it is focused and quite hard. Take a closer look at the sharper shadows under our model’s chin or around her necklace. Also, notice how the highlights are defined and how her features and skin texture are richer in contrast. This is not a light we typically associate with a softbox.


#3

Finally, let us take a closer look at image (4). This was shot exactly the same way as the third image: no grid and no diffusers. Again, this is not your typical softbox light. This light is almost like sunlight or something you would use on a fashion shoot – focused, distinct and quite hard.


#4

In conclusion, we have created three different lights with just one softbox. Or, in other words, do not underestimate the softbox.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the set-up:

Profoto

Profoto, The Light Shaping Company, is the world’s leading manufacturer of photography lighting systems. Since 1968, Profoto has been providing photographers with innovative tools to create and shape light. www.profoto.com/blog

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