Alongside tripods, softboxes are one of the most popular and reliable tools that modify light for photographers. For example, if you are into product photography, a softbox for product photography can make your photos come out much more professional-looking.
What is a Softbox
Simply put, a softbox is a cloth that typically fits around artificial light and stays mounted on a light stand. The front of the softbox is a piece of translucent fabric and silver or white inside, while the exterior is black.
It diffuses the artificial light and it works to reduce hard shadows, it is something that you will see being used a lot for portrait photography, food or product photography in general, and in video shoots.
How does it work
It works as a speed light or says flashlight that provides continuous light. The light reflects off the silver interior walls then travels through the cloth, which ends up creating a soft and even light effect.
It is a popular tool because of the diffused light it produces and its versatility in photography. A softbox is quite useful because it let you carry on with your work even in harsh weather like cloudy days, etc.
What size softbox do you need?
After the brief introduction of the softbox, let’s get back to the topic and talk about the real reason why we are here.
There are a lot of different-sized softboxes available, it is hard to know whether you getting the right one or not. At the same time that’s a good thing since it gives us more freedom to play around with a variety of sizes and distances from our subject.
Large softboxes, for example, work great for portraiture photography. The light a large softbox produces makes the skin flaws less visible. They are also great for full body shots and even for group shots, due to being able to spread much more light.
What you can consider a large softbox would be, one that can go up to 180cm
Small and Medium Softbox
Smaller softboxes do wonder in product photography or macro shots as they produce contrasty lighting. And is what we can call “In your face” lighting it will cover just the area you need it to cover, unlike large softboxes.
Small and Medium softboxes are pretty much the same, it mostly depends on the size of the subject you trying to photograph.
What you can consider Small-Medium, would be one that goes from 45cm up to 90cm or so.
The difference between Umbrellas and Softboxes:
Before I wrap it up, It is worth mentioning the differences between an umbrella and a softbox.
Both of them have the same objective, softening the quality of light from a bare bulb, and both of them are effective in their own way.
While the Umbrellas are the best portable option since they can break down for easy storage, softboxes are great to replicate window light.
The light quality is also somewhat different due to their forms. A Softbox will produce a wider and flatter type of light while an umbrella will produce the light into a curved shape, basically, like its form factor.
So, I can’t say which one is the best, because it is mostly about the type of photography you are taking. But becoming familiar with both types will increase your creativity and versatility way more.
With all that being said we came to the conclusion that the right size of a softbox, for large groups and portraitures would be a big softbox and for food photography or product photography a small/medium one.
To measure it in the best way, take it in a common-sense manner, for example.
The closer the softbox stays to the subject, the quicker the light will reach, and vice-versa, the further it is the slower the light will reach, at the same time wider.
The closer your softbox is to your subject, the quicker the lights fall off, and the further your softbox is from the subject, the wider and slower the lights fall off.