The Best Position for your Softbox: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey



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The usual theory for softbox placement is that it should be in front of your model but with a larger softbox you have a lot more flexibility. In this video Gavin Hoey demonstrates what happens when your softbox moves from in front to behind your subject.

Using an EZbox 16×48″ stripbox and keeping the model a fixed distance from the studio background, Gavin suggests four possible placements and takes you through how it effects his shot. He then puts that theory to the test in a portrait shoot.

Related Products at Adorama:

Olympus E-M1 Mark ii

Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro

Flashpoint eVOLV 200

Glow EZ Lock 16×48” StripBox

Sekonic L-308X-U

Photos by Gavin Hoey

Model: Brian Mansi
Instagram: @bmvoh

in this video I show you why simply moving your softbox will radically change the look and feel of your portraits hello I'm Gavin Hoey and you're watching adoramatv brought to you by Adorama the camera store that's got everything for us photographers and today you join me in my small home studio now you might think working in a small studio space means you have to use a small light modifier well you'd be mostly right if I'm honest with you but I do have something a bit bigger I got this this is a 48 inch by 16 inch strip box yeah I know it is a big light source it's a wide light source when you use it this way around and that's how I like to use it for headshots but it also opens up some questions being fairly large where should it be positioned for best use should it be in front of the model should the model be in the middle or should it be behind the model well the answer is it depends on the look you want to achieve and that's what we're going to explore in this video so let's get some light set let's get a model in let's get shooting so to help me out today I've got the amazing Brian Brian is gonna be the model for this shoot and he is not going to move the distance between Brian and the background will remain exactly the same throughout all these shots the only thing that's going to move is the position of the softbox so we can see how that affects the pictures now to begin with I'm going to start with a fairly standard position for a softbox in other words it's in front of Brian I've already metered this out for F five point six let's take a picture see how it looks okay Brian here we go and what we get here is just a classically lit portrait there's a little bit of shadow on Brian's right-hand side as we look at the picture and when Brian turns to look towards the light source well it's a very similar story for my next setup what I've done is moved the softbox backwards so now the back of the softbox is more or less in line with the back of Brian's head this is actually my go-to lighting setup for headshots it means that most of the surface of the softbox is in front of Brian that means we get light coming all the way around wrapping around and lighting well both the side nearest the softbox and a little bit on the cheeks over this side too but being closer to the light it will affect the exposure I could do trial and error or I can just get my flash meter and work out how much light is on Brian and it is f/8 so I've gained a stop I can either dial in f/8 or just turn the power of the flash down which is what I'm gonna do and I can get back to F 5.6 okay let's take a shot like this okay Brian here we go now we have a portrait with a lot more contrast there's plenty of shadow on the right hand side but there's also plenty of detail I can see Brian's eye there's a catch light in it and even when Brian turns towards the light source this still works and has a lovely three-dimensional feel now I've moved the light so it is exactly central on Brian there's as much light on the back of him as on the front now in theory this should give me a split light look a little – ad side but before I take the picture to prove that I'm gonna check the exposure if you've moved the light check your exposure here we go and in fact it's exactly the same as it was before so that's great let's take the picture this is exactly what I expected there's a bright side and a dark side and in those shadows there's very little detail not even a catch light but when Brian turns to look towards the light it's a different story this works fantastically well as a portrait and the background well that slightly brighter because of course the softbox is closer to it so finally I've got the softbox so Brian is in line with the front edge that means almost all of the softbox is behind him that should give some interesting effects firstly it means much more of the light is going to reach this background that should go a lighter tone of gray and very little light is actually gonna reach Brian certainly very little on this side of him at least but the challenging part of this is actually getting the metering right now I could get my flash meter and pointed at the camera if I do that I'm only getting f 2.2 I need to meet it for the light I want to meet it for the highlights so I'm going to point my flash meter actually at the flash and I get f5 that's still not quite F 5.6 so I can adjust it and get back to F 5.6 okay let's take this picture now the background is much brighter which is to be expected and the shadows on Brian's face well they're creeping evermore to the left-hand side as we look at the picture when Brian turns towards the light well actually I can see a little bit of detail in the eye on the right-hand side and this would make a great portrait if the background was a nice deep dark black so as you can see by moving the softbox around we can completely change the look on Brian so let's do a little bit more creative photography I'm going to change the light around and we'll take a few pictures so Brian are you ready okay let's do a shoot so let's start by getting that softbox back to the front of you so let's move that softbox so you're in the middle and then because more light will reach the background I'm gonna put a different background in something with some texture right that softbox is all the way behind you now so I'm gonna need to turn the chair a little bit just so you look into that front edge of the light so where should you place your softbox in relation to your model for the best portraits where the answer is everywhere because the more you move your light the more you'll learn and the more variety you'll be able to create in your portraits now if you've enjoyed this video don't forget to leave me a comment below and of course don't forget to click on that subscribe button and to get notifications of all of our new uploads on adoramatv click on the bell icon I'm Gavin Hoey thanks for watching

27 thoughts on “The Best Position for your Softbox: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

  1. since a few months I have been infected with the photography virus 🙂

    After browsing the internet for tips and ideas, I came across your YouTube channel last week

    Your explanation is great and above all easy to understand

    The only problem I have now is that I have little time to go to work ,, I just keep watching your videos 🙂

    geezz am i addicted now ? haha

    but have a question, Gavin,,
    and saw it a few times in your studio ,,

    you just see the recording of the video clearly with good light,
    and when you show your test photo's are wonderfull dark in the background ,,

    so the question is ,,
    do you tunr the light off in the studio ? when you take the photo or how should I see it?
    it seems to me the light in the studio must have some impact on the photo ?

  2. With a strip is a standard power Speedlite able to get even light coverage left to right taking into account the all Softboxes have some degree of center hotspots?

  3. Hi Gavin. Your videos is fun to watch and you learn a lot. If you have a larger room would you still have the box that close? I have a really big softbox 120x 90 cm but i dont use it as much as my 40×60 for portraits headshots. Do you have tutorials outdoor offcamera flash at day time?
    // Jose

  4. Men photographers are all about that black/white portrait, however, allllll the females I’ve photographed hate….HATE that lighting on their faces. Must be a men vs women thing.

  5. wait shouldn't you have the big leg of the C-stand toward the model? :You are putting brians life in danger!………….lol j/k i just wanted to say that because every YouTube comment that shows a soft-box on a c stand always trigger people……..but all jokes aside #BrianLifeMatters

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