Light Shaping Tool of the Month: Softbox 3×4′ RF

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Fine art photography

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Free Fallin | ©Joao Carlos

Free Fallin | ©Joao Carlos

Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. We have previously talked to Alex Giacomini about the Umbrella XL, with Knut Koivisto about the HR Lantern, and with Tom Epperson about the Softlight Reflector.

But this time we decided to do things a little differently. Rather than calling someone up, we asked you (our readers) to submit images that you have created with your favorite Light Shaping Tool.

We got more submissions than we could have hoped for, and the quality of the images was simply mind blowing. There was however one image that kept popping up in our minds.

So, with no further ado, we present Joao Carlos, New York-based fashion, commercial and fine art photographer, whose tool of choice is the Softbox 3×4’ RF.

“This image is from my series Free Falling,” says Joao. “It is a collaboration between myself and my model and muse Katy. The chemistry we have on set is just amazing. I can honestly say I create my best work with her. For this particular series it also helped that she is a trained dancer.”

Contrary to what we first believed, Joao’s image was not shot underwater, but in the studio. Neither is Katy swimming. She is jumping, which explains why her background as a dancer was a great asset.

“It was winter, and we were in Canada,” says Joao. “I had to come up with the next best solution…”

Said and done. Joao headed to the studio and asked his muse and his assistants Dirk McGill and Mark Bianco to tag along. He packed his trusty Canon 5D Mark II, a 70-200 2.8 L. lens and a tripod to support the heavy lens. He also rented a Pro-7a 1200 generator and the Light Shaping Tool in question – the Softbox 3×4’ RF.

“I love shooting outdoors,” says Joao. “Nothing is better for me than a overcast day. So when I’m in the studio, I like to recreate the same effect. That is when I use the Softbox 3×4’ RF.”

Free Fallin lighting diagram


How did you set the lights in the studio?

“Well, since I wanted to recreate the sun at midday on a cloudy day, I put the Softbox 3×4’ RF directly above Katy and plugged it into the Pro- 7a. I had two black boards to flag off the light. I also had two Westcott reflectors on the floor – one 5-in-one, utilizing the silver side, and a larger Scrim Jim silver.”

How did this help your make it look as if you shot underwater?

“When you actually shoot with strobes underwater, it looks fake. I tried to do the opposite: make it look real by faking it. So I removed the diffusor from the Softbox 3×4’ RF, which created a light that was still soft, but with an extra bit of depth and contrast. The size of the softbox was perfect to just cover her body, and the black boards flagged off any excess spillage and helped me keep my image sharp. Finally, the silver reflectors below gave me a nice, speckled feeling. They also lightened up the shadows enough to make the viewer believe I was really shooting underwater.”

As mentioned before, we fell for it. In addition, we were quite surprised to hear that Joao had kept postproduction to a minimum.

“There is actually no major editing done,” says Joao. “Just a simple image tone. I think the big trick here was Katy’s baggy clothing, which flowed just perfectly. The storm gray backdrop, which had some humidity issues, also helped. Finally, the soft, reflected light really helped me bring out the same sense of levity that you normally only get from shooting underwater.”

What about the bubbles?

“That is actually powder. Our original plan was to use colored paint powder, but after being suspicious of the toxicity of the paint, we decided to go with an edible powder product instead. Well, Katy actually insisted on using the colored paint powder right up until she got a ton of it in her eye and swallowed some…”

Softbox 3×4′ RF


Joao Carlos website

Written by Fredrik Franzén

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