Each month we highlight a certain item in Profoto’s rich assortment of Light Shaping Tools. (Previous articles can be found here.) This month we talk to Belgian photographer Jean Gonzales about an often-overlooked tool: the Hardbox.
As the name suggests, the Hardbox is the opposite of a softbox. In other words, the Hardbox creates a harder light with sharper shadows than any other Light Shaping Tool. Mount it onto your flash head or ProDaylight 200 to eliminate all stray light and create a pinpoint-sized light source that is as close to direct sunlight as you can come in a studio environment.
Antwerp-based fashion and portrait photographer Jean Gonzales is quite familiar with the Hardbox’s unique ability to emulate sunlight. It is also the main reason why it is one of his favorite tools to work with.
“I was browsing the web one day when I came across these gorgeous photographs shot in broad daylight in a desert outside of Los Angeles,” says Jean. “I instantly knew that this was something that I wanted to try myself, but we obviously don’t have that kind of weather here in Belgium, so I had to look for another solution. Pretty soon I came across the Hardbox.”
Did it live up to your expectations?
“Yes. But you have to remember that it’s not like when you try a softbox or a Beauty Dish for the first time and everything looks great right away. The Hardbox is bit more demanding. You have to spend some time with it. But once you get the hang of it, it’s an amazing tool. If you want to emulate the feeling of direct sunlight, there’s nothing else like it.”
Do you have any tips and tricks for those who have never shot with the Hardbox?
“I always use the modeling light when I’m shooting with the Hardbox. In fact, I’ve replaced the standard 250 W modeling lamp that came with my Acute2 for a 500 W lamp. The reason why I did this is that the Hardbox is painted black inside to eliminate all stray light, so you do need a lot power. I also shoot tethered, so that I can see the results right away. That’s my recommendation: use the modeling light, look at the results and just take it from there.”
So, tell us a little about this image you shot with the Hardbox.
“Well, I met this girl a while ago, and we decided to do a shoot together. She is not a professional model but a dancer, which turned out to be a great thing, as she really knows her body and how to move it. I just told her: “Show me some dance moves” and I think we nailed this shot within only a couple of minutes.
“It’s good to have a model who knows these things when you’re working with the Hardbox. It really pays off to step away from the hands-to-the-hips poses and try to use the extremely sharp shadow lines to your advantage. Especially if the model is standing right next to the wall, as in this case. You can create some really interesting pictures if you get it right.
”It’s also worth mentioning that it helps if the model isn’t afraid to show a lot of skin. From my personal experience, the more skin you show in the picture, the better the effect of the Hardbox becomes. The Hardbox does something to the skin. I can’t put my finger on it, but I like it a lot. The light is very hard and unforgiving, though, so it helps of the model has good skin…”
How did you light the model, or rather dancer, in this image?
“With just one light. I had a single Acute/D4 Head equipped with the Hardbox on a boom about three meters up. The boom was standing camera left, and the head was connected to my Acute2 1200. That’s pretty much it.”
Nice. One last question: do you ever use the Hardbox for anything else than emulating sunlight in fashion shots?
“Yes, sometimes I use it with gobos to project patterns and shapes onto the background. The Hardbox is great for that too, as it creates these really sharp shadow lines – much sharper than any other reflector I’ve tried it with. I’ve also used it with BarnDoors and Grids, which definitely add to its versatility. But mostly I use for what it’s best at: emulating sunlight.”
You will find more of Jean’s artificial sunlight images (and other stuff too) at his website.
Learn more about the Hardbox at the Profoto website.