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Thread: How to check Softbox quality

  1. #1
    Ausphotography Regular bitsnpieces's Avatar
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    How to check Softbox quality

    I made a DIY softbox for my flash, using cardboard boxes for the box itself, black card stock for the outside look, aluminum foil lining inside for the light, and nylon cover for the diffuser.

    How can I check it's quality? What's the best way to check? I read something about standing 3 metres away, and getting the settings down dark enough so when you use the flash, there'll be a neutral grey sort of colour - am I on the right track?

    Reason I ask is, using flash without it, yes, hard shadows. Using flash with it, I definitely get much softer and pleasing shadows (I'll have to get sample pictures up here next time as I deleted my test ones already but I'm happy with the quality from my tests).
    But to make sure it's good, I compared it to the built-in diffuser screen on my flash, and I get the same results, or at least, very close results (only difference the softbox makes the lighter just a little cooler, and the light is just that little bit dimmer). Trying test shots on walls (so I don't know if I did it correct or not, as mentioned above), the screen and softbox look very much the same in terms of spreading the light and making it softer (again, screen diffuser just ever so lightly more brighter and warmer).

    It's dimensions are 26cm length x 20cm height x 3.7cm nylon from the flash

    So, in asking this, are the results good? That is, is it quality enough to use in real world?
    Or are the diffuser screens on the flash generally good enough for use too?
    Or if in a real world situation, there would be a noticeable difference?
    Or is it because the box isn't very deep, quite shallow (3.7cm depth only), is that why the light doesn't really spread more or look too different from the screen diffuser? Does it need to be deeper?

    Images taken from phone:
    DSC_0156.JPG
    DSC_0157.JPG
    DSC_0158.JPG
    DSC_0159.JPG

    I'll be sewing in the edges of the nylon to make it look nice when I get a chance.

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    I have to say..
    that's a big production...
    you are asking for the real world scenario? I think you have answered your own question.
    There is little difference... the size of your softbox is not that much bigger than the flash head and because the head is so close to the white cloth, I think you are still just illuminating with a very small surface.
    And of course you will lose probably a stop of light because of the cloth.
    I use a flash that fires into the softbox, this way when it bounces back, it illuminates the entire surface of the white cloth ... but i didnt make that umbrella myself.. it did cost me about 30$.
    I think in the real world, you will find that the flash with its own diffuser will give you pleasing enough result if its used off camera.
    You will get much better results if you can bounce that flash off a white surface like a wall or your assistants reflector/scrim.

    also.. if you are a solo shooter then you have pretty much NO choice but to shoot with no light modifiers... that's in teh real world... the wind will ruin your umbrella/softbox with its first gasp...

    I think, the only light modifier I ever made myself was a little snoot I saw on Strobist, which I still have...
    Ah.. also, I actually bought a set of flash modifiers which contained your sized softbox, but also a snoot, a number of gels, a couple of gobos and some straps...
    all for about $30... I'm not trying to discourage you from doing stuff yourself, I think its great... just hope you don't do that to save money..
    because the ebay alternatives are much cheaper in comparison
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    Thank you for the information. I can always add additional straps which will solve the wind problem, and probably figure out a way to re-enforce it, it's WIP afterall.

    The main reason I wanted a softbox was if I was ever out and needed some direct flash, but wanted to soften it, I needed some kind of softbox to soften that right? I also have one of these white cube things you attach to the head on it's way. This was a cheap alternative until I can get a real one, which brings up the question, buying a portable softbox.
    I can understand big ones in studios, which are generally powered by actual strobes, but for the combination of speedlites and small softboxes, is there really much of a difference from the built-in screen diffuser? If there isn't, is there really a point to having a portable softbox then? (Which if softboxes are better, I guess my design just wasn't good enough yet :P)

    I have found a $12 23cm x 23cm softbox, which I believe is a little deeper than mine also.
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Mini-Port...item3cd560d5a4

    So I guess the questions are:
    Are portable softboxes better than the already built-in flash diffuser?

    If yes, will this softbox suffice?
    I'm looking for portability - it's one of the cheaper and larger portable softboxes I found.

    If the softbox in the link provided is not enough, then which portable softbox would we recommend?

    Or would it be better to just stick to the built-in diffuser as that's sufficient enough already for general use?

    Though I can afford a $30 softbox, I would rather not, as I don't have employment at the moment, I'm trying to keep things cheap, happy to invest more later on when I have finance, since I'll have money to invest with then anyways.

    This softbox of yours where you fire into the box itself, do you have a picture of it? I'm intrigued.

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    The softness of the light is a measure of the size of the light source and distance to the subject.
    You can observe it by shooting an object like a plant positioned close to the wall and checking out the shadow.
    a small flash will produce hard shadow, but if you use a large softbox positioned very close to the subject... just off camera, maybe 20cm, you will find that the light kind of wraps around that plant.. adn the shadow becomes blurry... that is what they mean by soft light.

    The thing you put on the flash, or the little diffuser in the flash head will not make the light softer; it will disperse the light, which means that some of it will bounce back onto your subject and hopefully create a softer look.
    You want soft, get a 2m octabox at 50cm from your model's face...

    if i were you, I would not worry about those modifiers. They are really not that useful. Stick to the flash, or maybe the diffuser.
    When you are indoors, always try to bounce the flash off a wall to the side or behind you.. What it will do is the flash will create a large hot spot on teh wall, and THAT will then become a light source for your subject..
    Much bigger in size than that little flash head, which will result in a much softer light.
    I have somethign like this: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Selens-um...item2ec6f2bc0f
    but ... i would use just naked off camera flash triggered remotely... Either in TTL mode or in manual... this is more a matter of taste and type of ... subject.
    If the link doesnt work.. search for softbox, umbrella on ebay.

    Flash is very easy to control (compared to the sun) but difficult to learn. Dont get too hung up on diffusers, softboxes, etc..- if you want portability.
    Learn to operate and control your flash with TTL or manual. Learn flash compensation. Find out how the camera measures flash in ttl, understand the limitations and you will be able to produce much better images than by using some sort of magic softbox

    I use softboxes in a studio for headshots and portraits. Outdoors... its usually a flash gun on a tripod, in TTL mode, triggered remotely.
    Hope this helps...

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Bits. How does the flash sit in that box?
    Am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Hm... I guess I don't need a softbox quite yet then if the little portable guys aren't really all that useful, besides, it'd look weird having this big black box attached to the camera anyways.

    I'm not doing studio yet so I guess that big softbox can wait a little but thank you for posting what you have, that'll help me in the future when deciding to go into studio (if there is ever an opportunity).

    Regarding the DIY softbox I have made though (which I had just realised yesterday my thread should have been How do I check, not How to check, me and my laziness on English...), here's how the flash sits in the box:

    DSC_0156.JPG

    DSC_0157.JPG

    So I use the screen diffuser to get the light to start spreading from the inside, then I have the white nylon cover to soften? it further.

    It doesn't have support straps yet, but it's something I can do later on. With regards to the inside stability and solidness, something I can work on.

    I remember watching a DIY beauty dish tutorial and to help diffuse the light from the inside before it hits the cover, they put a paper strip inside (I guess that's an option rather than using the plastic screen?
    Last edited by bitsnpieces; 24-05-2014 at 12:19pm.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    OK, what I see "wrong" with this setup is what you expect the light to do.
    You have those extensive reflective surfaces, yet the flash is positioned do that only the peripheral direct light will bounce off them.
    Otherwise, all they do is re-bounce some of the light reflected from the diffusing sheet you have in front of the whole thing.

    The reason for my Q was that if the flash had been mounted to point backwards into the reflector, you would have got a heck more primary light reflecting from it,
    then passing thru the diffusing screen.

    This is a non-straightfoward topic, and I have not got a straightforward answer for you (yet).

    Anyway, a test would be to shot it at a flat target - like a reflective wall - at minimal exposure, so to try to see any predominant illumination pattern.
    Am.

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    I'm assuming that probably is the main reason why the difference in diffusion between using the DIY softbox and the built-in screen diffuser was very little to begin with. I wondered about that, but wasn't sure how light would work with a design like this so thought I'd try and post up for some ideas.
    I see the designs where they have a sheet in the middle of the thing too (which I can add if I wanted to), but would that make much of a difference?

    Or should I redesign it so it'll fire into the softbox instead? Which then that would make the purpose of it all more for studio right? Or least to say, doing some fancy portrait stuff outdoors.

    With regards to testing it, I don't know if I'm doing it correctly or not but as posted above, results are the same between softbox and built-in diffuser - so it's either my box isn't doing much, or I'm testing it the wrong way. I've just done random things I've read and seen to test, but wouldn't know if I'm doing any of it correctly, this "minimal exposure" thing - don't know what that is. lol

    Because I'm not doing any major lighting yet, the box CandidTown is something I can save for later on.
    On the more immediate scale, should I just stick to the built-in screen? Use one of those white cup diffusing things? Or get one of those portable softboxes?

    Currently, I bounce the light a lot, I use the built-in white card thing, I also bounce off walls, was interesting in using these small modifiers to see how much more I can do with the light.

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