Forums > Photography Talk > Soft Box suggestions

Photographer

Mike Williams Photo

Posts: 125

Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

I have a couple of Alien Bees studio lights and have been shooting with white umbrellas. I want to move up to at least one medium to large soft box that is affordable but good quality. I do not have a studio but take my lighting set up on location some times. Suggestions will be appreciated.

Feb 02 13 07:47 am Link

Photographer

C s p i n e

Posts: 3948

Portland, Oregon, US

I dig Photoflex

Feb 02 13 07:54 am Link

Photographer

Fotografica Gregor

Posts: 4122

Alexandria, Virginia, US

I find strip boxes to be very useful - not so much soft boxes -  even with a grid they are big, messy lights....  and yet they do not cover well on full length shots.... 

Broncolor makes a smashing 155cm strip light with optional grid and barn doors for control....

Feb 02 13 08:01 am Link

Photographer

Mike Williams Photo

Posts: 125

Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

Thanks to both of you. I will check them out.

Feb 02 13 08:06 am Link

Photographer

Image Works Photography

Posts: 2890

Orlando, Florida, US

I bought an octabox and works very well. The one I got was the 36' which is a bit stronger than the 47' but perfect for outdoor shoots. It is also the size of an umbrella. Got it all- including the grid for $150. Its out of a company in CA and they make other softboxes too. http://www.photography-lighting.com/ali … boxes.html

Feb 02 13 08:10 am Link

Photographer

Mike Williams Photo

Posts: 125

Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

Thanks GreatMtn. Checking it out. They have great prices.

Feb 02 13 08:14 am Link

Photographer

SKITA Studios

Posts: 1566

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Why not the PCB foldable ones?
Once you've tried one, it's hard to go back to the old kind w/ the speedring inserts, though using the Bowens speedring helps.

Feb 02 13 08:26 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

have you tried the grids for the reflector bowl?

strip lights are useful. you can also just fire the reflector bowl through a sheet.

i use a big standing reflector (lumipro i believe) a lot.

for headshots i like a smaller softbox but i also have a couple bigger ones including a 4' octabox.

but i prefer to use umbrellas when getting more light on the background isn't an issue.

if you need to lug the softboxes on the road then the foldable ones are probably your best bet.

Feb 02 13 08:30 am Link

Photographer

rdf_photography

Posts: 32

Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

lastolite have great foldable one, eazybox I guess it is the name. I have a medium size one, but I am planning to get a bigger one, though not so easy to fold this time ...
many have accessories like a grid or one or two white diffuser sheeets to place in front. I'd say that one diffuser is the standard.

Feb 02 13 08:54 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

also for on-location speedlites can work well. for weddings i just use on-camera flash with a rogue flash bender. keeps it simple so i don't miss shots fiddling with my lighting setups. i'm looking at a new diffuser right now called a wing light.

sometimes for shoots i'll have the wife hold a speedlite with small softbox and then that can be like the sun for back/rim light or held near the camera position it be can be key or fill depending on what i need.

i don't like to have customers/models standing around waiting to if it's a complex lighting setup that needs to be done ahead of time and it's hard to do very many of those during one shoot. maybe if you're working with professional models who are used to mostly being in makeup or waiting for the lights.

Feb 02 13 09:15 am Link

Photographer

Mike Williams Photo

Posts: 125

Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

Great suggestions all. I use a Gary Fong Light Sphere a lot when circumstances won't allow off camera flash or portable lighting. I know some don't but I love the light sphere.

Feb 02 13 09:23 am Link

Photographer

Al Lock Photography

Posts: 16071

Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand

Might also look at the Westcott Apollo and Halo models.

Feb 02 13 12:04 pm Link

Photographer

Phantasmal Images

Posts: 617

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Mike Williams Photo wrote:
I have a couple of Alien Bees studio lights and have been shooting with white umbrellas. I want to move up to at least one medium to large soft box that is affordable but good quality. I do not have a studio but take my lighting set up on location some times. Suggestions will be appreciated.

I do a lot on location as well, and I use two 43" umbrella soft boxes. Compact and easy to transport, and quick and easy to setup. I got a set of two on amazon for $21 +shipping.

Feb 02 13 01:09 pm Link

Photographer

Mike Collins

Posts: 1928

Orlando, Florida, US

Define "affordable".  They can vary greatly depending on who you choose.  Chimera, Larsen (or Legacy), Plume, Bron, Profoto are all pretty much a lot more expensive than those made by Buff, Westcott and Photoflex.

I'd just go go through the prices on B & H and see what fits your budget.  Buff of course is only sold direct.  As does Larsen and Legacy.

Feb 02 13 07:50 pm Link

Photographer

BCADULTART

Posts: 1986

Boston, Massachusetts, US

I've only used Photoflex for the last 25 years, currently have Octodomes, meds. and Large as well as boxes and Halfdomes going back to the 1980s.
Great equipment, been all over the world with me.

Chuck

Feb 02 13 07:55 pm Link

Photographer

Michael Bots

Posts: 5989

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

http://www.ebay.com/itm/310493733606

95cm Octagon Softbox w Grid     -- $50
(Bowens speedring)

-------------------------------------------------------
91cm  Photoflex OctoDome  Softbox
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/3 … ftbox.html

  $236.95   softbox
+ $46.06    speedring
+$122.95   grid
-----------------
$405.96

Feb 02 13 07:58 pm Link

Photographer

BCADULTART

Posts: 1986

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Oh Man,

Stay away from the "knock off stuff" Post for eBay above.  For boxes the Photoflex are the best you can get and you only need to pay for it once.  One note, they had a HUGE problem with the early Octadome rods, but the new ones are good.  I love my medium Octadomes as much as I've loved my medium and large softboxes over the years.

Chuck

Feb 02 13 08:05 pm Link

Photographer

Mike Williams Photo

Posts: 125

Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

Thanks everyone for the great input. You have been a big help.

Feb 02 13 08:17 pm Link

Photographer

J D s Artistic Images

Posts: 72

Port Angeles, Washington, US

BCADULTART wrote:
Oh Man,

Stay away from the "knock off stuff" Post for eBay above.  For boxes the Photoflex are the best you can get and you only need to pay for it once.  One note, they had a HUGE problem with the early Octadome rods, but the new ones are good.  I love my medium Octadomes as much as I've loved my medium and large softboxes over the years.

Chuck

Can you give some specifics other than don't go with anything other than the big names (what are the weaknesses, what specs will not hold up to long term use?)  I ask, because these knock offs "seem" to offer me an avenue, I would not have otherwise as name brands simply are not affordable...

Feb 02 13 09:01 pm Link

Photographer

GM Photography

Posts: 6102

Olympia, Washington, US

Heartbar wrote:

Can you give some specifics other than don't go with anything other than the big names (what are the weaknesses, what specs will not hold up to long term use?)  I ask, because these knock offs "seem" to offer me an avenue, I would not have otherwise as name brands simply are not affordable...

To the OP, I would suggest looking at Buff's modifiers.  They are decent and affordable.  I have their giant foldable softbox and it is one of my favorite modifiers.

Some "knock offs" are just fine.  I have an ephotoinc 22" beauty dish that I paid around $100 that I use all the time and really like.  There used to be a company called Amvona that sold a lot of cheap knock off stuff.  A lot of people raved about them.  I bought a softbox, and one of the rods broke when I was putting it in.  I could not get them to replace it or refund my money until I eventually filed a complaint with the attorney general's office.  I also bought a couple of light stands from them that stopped working after about a year or so (the flip locks got really stiff to the point where I couldn't open and close them).  They basically said "tough luck" on those.  I have an octobox that I bought from them that has held up pretty well.  While Buff isn't a top of the line company like some of the others mentioned, they have stuck around and they stand behind their products.

Certainly build quality is important but so is customer service and support for your purchases.  A lot of the cheap knock off stuff you see on ebay is made (and sold) in China.  How long do you think those sellers are going to be around?  How easy do you think it'll be to get future service / support on those items?

Feb 03 13 06:52 am Link

Photographer

Michael Bots

Posts: 5989

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Or you view the item as disposable and not worry about it or buy complete units as spares for your own parts/replacement inventory if you really like it. 

An 8 to 1 price difference can be compelling.

The complete "knockoff" unit above is the same price as 2 replacement rods ($CDN retail) for the Photoflex product.
Is that 2 day parts availability really that important for this type of product in a non-commercial setting?

Do you worry about after sales service on a pair of shoes?

Feb 03 13 08:51 am Link

Photographer

Willie Sheldon

Posts: 293

Grimes, Iowa, US

I like the Chimera brand of soft boxes.  I spent a few more dollars for the quick rings and they are easier and faster to put together.  I also like the fact that they are also easy to modify, hold up to take down and reassembly.

Feb 03 13 02:50 pm Link

Photographer

ChangingFaces

Posts: 197

Dallas, Texas, US

Fotodiox Ez Pro line of softboxes and octoboxes can be setup in a mater of minutes.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B003EWOC0 … -1&pi=SL75

Feb 03 13 03:17 pm Link

Photographer

John Rieger

Posts: 138

Kansas City, Missouri, US

You might check out the Calumet line of soft boxes - they are well made and cheaper than the Chimera or Plume.  They have 2 series - one is a thinner profile similar to the Plume Wafers.

Feb 03 13 06:57 pm Link

guide forum

Photographer

Robb Mann

Posts: 10688

Baltimore, Maryland, US

Elinchrom makes great boxes. They even sell them with different speed rings. Their Deep Octa is a pretty unique, and awesome, modifier.

Feb 05 13 06:00 pm Link

Photographer

Mike Kelcher

Posts: 12895

Minneapolis, Minnesota, US

Softboxes are made of nylon generally. Black nylon is black and white nylon is white and yes, they do know how to sew in China. I've got expensive ones and cheap ones and several in between. I like huge softboxes and strip lights. I like grids. If you are going to set 'em up in a studio and leave them set up, cheap ones from Ebay are fine and you'll never tell the difference in the resulting photos...because white nylon is white and black nylon is black...and yes...they also have silver reflective material in China.

Generally, the differences are how easy or hard or how time and effort consuming they are to set up and take down. Almost nothing is as easy as an umbrella, but I just got three 72" Larson Reflectasol Starfishes (fairly expensive), that are significantly easy to set up compared to my 6' octagon (fairly cheap) softboxes.

If one six-foot softbox sells for $700 and another for $200, I doubt that you'll find much difference in the quality of construction or the materials used. Additionally, I doubt that the light from one is significantly different than the light from the other, and the designs aren't all that different or important. But, 500 bucks is afterall...500 bucks...and yes, they put the black nylon, white nylon and silver material in all the right places...even in China.

http://www.larson-ent.com/images/full/45.jpg
Larson Starfish. (Made in the USA).  72" $699. Easy to set up, transport and take down. Nice soft even lighting in a wide beam.

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/LARGE-67-1-7M-OCTAGON-SOFTBOX-SPEEDRING-FIT-BOWENS-GEMINI-ESPRIT-FLASH-LIGHT-/00/s/NDAwWDM1Nw==/$%28KGrHqR,!p!FCwnknL%28%28BQ45JOE2U!~~60_1.JPG
67" Softbox, Ebay. $60. Made in China. NOT easy to setup, or transport. No grid. Soft directional light, medium width light pattern.

Feb 05 13 06:58 pm Link

Photographer

David Westlake

Posts: 1531

Mansfield Center, Connecticut, US

I used to shoot the flash through a white umbrella for a soft light.

Feb 05 13 07:06 pm Link

Photographer

Mike Williams Photo

Posts: 125

Chattanooga, Tennessee, US

Thanks everyone for the great information!

Feb 05 13 07:11 pm Link

Photographer

Mike Kelcher

Posts: 12895

Minneapolis, Minnesota, US

David Westlake wrote:
I used to shoot the flash through a white umbrella for a soft light.

Nothing is easier to set up and transport than an umbrella. An octagon softbox uses the same principle as a shoot-thru umbrella.  However, a shoot-thru umbrella has light going through, but also some light doesn't go through and is reflected back toward the light.

A Softbox uses reflective material to "recapture" that otherwise "wrong-directional" light and reflects it to go out to go out forward. The benefit is less stray light, which sometimes matters, but often doesn't.

Feb 05 13 07:19 pm Link