Fashion

Think outside the softbox

14 June, 2017

Written by: Jens-Linus Lundgren-Widén

The fact that the softbox is such a common tool doesn’t mean you can’t be creative with it. To prove this we asked Andrea Belluso to do four different fashion setups using nothing but softboxes.

We all know the softbox. When it comes to Light Shaping Tools, it might very well be the most popular and most widely used. But the fact that we see it and use it so often can sometimes make us forget what a versatile and creative tool the softbox actually is.

First of all, there are many different sizes and shapes of softboxes to choose from. Secondly, you can position and direct the softbox in many different ways, which will create very different lighting effects. Put it to the side of your model. Put it above. Direct it straight at your model or feather it and use the fall off. Almost anything is possible with a softbox.

To prove this we asked light shaping guru Andrea Belluso to do four different fashion setups using only softboxes in an out of the box kind of way.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Andrea came up with four unique solutions. He tethered up with his Phase One XF and TetherPro USB 3.0 SuperSpeed and set to work. He used the softbox as side light, he used the softbox as top light, he used it to create a hard light, and he used it as back light to create an even softer light.

How did he do it? Keep reading and we’ll go through each setup one at a time.

The softbox as side light

Using two differently sized strip softboxes – the Softbox RFi 1×6’ and the OCF Softbox 1×3’ to be exact – placed on each side of the model, I created a very moody and dramatic fashion light. The larger one, on the left side, will give a softer light, and the smaller one, on the right side, I want to be more focused light. This generates an almost silhouette effect, leaving the greater part of the picture under exposed on purpose.

I am getting correct exposure on the left side using the Softbox RFi 1×6’ with an RFi Stripmask 7cm 1×6′. The stripmask narrows down the light spread, making it even tighter. With this as main light I capture the correct skin color of the model and revealing the structure and details of the outfit. But only on a very specific part of the image.

On the right side I put an OCF Softbox 1×3’ with a blue OCF Gel, giving a touch of color to go with the theme of all four images. To balance the background lighting I used the B2 Off-Camera Flash fitted only with a blue OCF gel. With the Pro Tethering Kit I could see the result on my laptop straight away as well as avoiding transferring the images from the camera to the computer later, which made it easier to ensure that the images kept to the color concept I wanted for this series.

Gear list

1 x D1 Monolight
1 x Softbox RFi 1×6’ + RFi Stripmask 7cm 1×6′
1 x B1 Off-Camera Flash
1 x OCF Softbox 1×3’
1 x B2 Off-Camera Flash
2 x OCF Gels (blue)

The softbox as hard light

We always think of the softbox as a soft light source, and we forget that a light’s hardness or softness depends on the size of the light source. So placing the Softbox RFi 2×3’ far away from the model turned it into a very hard light.

By removing the inner and outer diffusers I also made the light less diffused. A diffused light is not necessarily a soft light, it is the size of the light source (in this case determined by the distance between the softbox and the model, creating relative size) that determines the hardness of the light.

In order to understand the difference between soft light and diffused light I normally say to think of the two opposites. Hard is the opposite of soft and focused is the opposite of diffused.

To fit the color theme of the series I lit the background with the B1 Off-Camera Flash with the Rose Pink OCF Gel. As you can see from the image, the shadows get sharper than if I had shot with the softbox close to my subject. You also see the contrast in the details of the models jewelry and clothes.

Gear list

1 x D1 Monolight
1 x Softbox RFi 2×3’
1 x B1 Off-Camera Flash
1 x OCF Gels (Rose Pink)

The softbox as top light

A top light always creates a lot of drama in fashion shots, and it also gives a very interesting play with shadows on the garments. That is because everything facing the light coming from the top is lit, while every part of cloth facing the floor is in darkness. All the shapes of the cloth stand out and everything in the picture becomes very intriguing.

Placing a Softbox RFi 3×4’ with a Softgrid 50 3×4′ above the model as the only light source created just this. Although there obviously are shadows on the floor, the edges of the shadows are very diffused and soft, just like the shadows on the model’s face. The Softgrid added contrast on the picture and restricted the light spread, as all grids do.

Once again I lit the background using the B1 to get the image to fit in with the color theme. This time equipped with the Light Lavender OCF Gel.

Gear list

1 x D1 Monolight
1 x Softbox RFi 3×4’ + Softgrid 50 3×4′
1 x B1 Off-Camera Flash
1 x OCF Gels (Light Lavender)

The softbox as back light

This is actually not one of my inventions, I have my mentor and first master Bardo Fabiani to thank for it. I have simply made a couple of small adjustments to it to make it more personal and to make it fit in this small series of images.

The principle is to make a softbox even softer than it already is, by placing it behind the model instead of in front of her. Then I am letting all the light from the largest available softbox, the Softbox RFi 4×6’, bounce around a cage of white polystyrene boards, reaching the model as a reflected and very large light.

The only direct light on the model is the B1 with a scarlet gel, which is not the main light, which I use to add a touch of color on the model’s hair, so that the picture fits right in with our color theme.

The Softbox RFi 4×6’ also acts as the background of the image, creating an even softer effect by burning out the edges of the model’s body, hair and clothes, blending them almost in the background itself. I added a diffusing panel in front of the softbox to spread the light even more and to eliminate the bottom edge of the softbox itself in the picture.

Gear list

1 x D1 Monolight
1 x Softbox RFi 4×6’
1 x B1 Off-Camera Flash
1 x OCF Gels (Scarlet)

All of the four pictures in this series where taken with softboxes as the main light. The background lights in most of the images where created with direct light by B1 Off-Camera flashes with OCF gels.

This was the tenth episode in our ongoing video series The Light Shaper in which Andrea Belluso shares tips and tricks on how to shape light. Have you watched them all? If not, head over to our website and pick the next one to watch!

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Check out Andrea’s portfolio at www.belluso.com

Written by: Jens-Linus Lundgren-Widén

Products used in this story

Profoto D1

RFi Softbox Rectangular

RFi Speedring

Profoto B1X

OCF Color Gel Starter Kit

OCF Softbox Strip

RFi Stripmask

Profoto B2