October 21, 2014, 03:10:40 PM

Author Topic: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits  (Read 1475 times)

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Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« on: April 16, 2014, 05:35:09 PM »
Hello everyone,

I've been working on my photography skills (as a hobbyist) for a few years now, but I've not really committed to off-camera flash yet. That is something I wanted to do for a while but I always delayed the experience, mainly due to monetary constraints. I did not want to buy cheap and buy twice... well I did some 'buy cheap' but that is another story.

For the record, I own a Sigma EF 610 dg super (full manual control), a chinese e-ttl flash with GN~48m (no manual control - remember the by cheap line?) and an old manual flash with a GN~24m. As you must already have guessed, I mostly plan on using the Sigma.

I also own a set of Cactus V4 transmitter (...buy cheap anyone?), but they don't work with the Sigma (apparently those seem to want full ttl info or nothing to fire, even in manual mode). Anyways, it is not that much of a problem as the flash can be triggered by preflash (even in ttl) and I'll probably go for a long e-ttl sync cable for times when the trigger is obscured.

Now I have a few questions here.

1- Is a single cobra flash in a softbox assisted by a reflector enough to light a full body portrait indoor?

2- What about outdoor for fill?

3- What would be the largest softbox a single speedlite can fill while maintaining a uniform lightning in those two situations?

4- Would I be better off with some cheap continuous lightning solution than a single speedlite?

Also feel free to provide any more info you find relevant, but keep in mind that my budget is already pretty stretched so I can't afford much. Examples of results you got with a single off-camera speedlite and comments on how you were set-up are also welcome.

Thanks.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 09:27:21 PM by IMG_0001 »
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Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« on: April 16, 2014, 05:35:09 PM »

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Re: Cobra flash softboxes for portraits
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2014, 06:45:53 PM »
Nobody? Aren't those questions legitimate?
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Cobra flash softboxes for portraits
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2014, 08:59:51 PM »
"Cobra flash" is not a term in common use in the English language, the reference (in the topic title) may have confused people?

Regardless...to your questions:

1) Probably not, at least not with soft light.  A Speedlite-sized softbox (see #3) would need to be relatively far away to light a full body portrait.  Closer and larger = softer light.  A head shot, at most a torso, would be fine.

2) Fine for fill, light doesn't need to be as soft.

3) I'd say 600 sq in or smaller, so up to a 24x24" softbox, a 30" octabox, or a 12x48" stripbox would work (and actually, that last one might do ok for a full body portrait, placed close to the subject).

4) Can't answer, sorry...no experience with continuous lighting.

Hope that helps!
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Re: Cobra flash softboxes for portraits
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2014, 09:20:11 PM »
Thanks Neuro.

I thought that by using a diffuser inside the softbox to emulate a barebulb, more than 24x24 would have been possible... I'd need to check for a kind of stripbox then.  Otherwise, would you suggest a similar size limit for an umbrella?
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2014, 09:40:31 PM »
Many softboxes have an internal diffusion panel.   The size limit I suggested was less about even filling, more about not having enough power with a single hotshoe flash in a large modifier.

You can use a larger umbrella than a softbox, but softboxes control spill better, so a larger umbrella will put less light on your subject. 

I have a Lastolite 12x48" Hot Rod Stripbox, $160 and works great.  When looking at softboxes (including stripboxes), be aware that many require a speed ring / adapter to be bought separately, and an umbrella swivel if you want to mount it at an angle on the light stand.  The Lastolite one comes with the hotshoe flash mount and a swivel.
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2014, 09:55:05 PM »
It depends on how realistic you are with regards iso and aperture.

Here is one 600-EX-RT in a 50" Westcott Apollo at full power, the room shot is f2.8 and iso 200, 1/160 and clearly overexposed at around 7 feet to the wall, the shot of the box illumination, which is remarkably even (the flash was zoomed to 20mm) is f10 at iso 200 and 1/160.

The 50" Apollo is a true 50" x 50" and can easily cover several full length subjects, it has a front screen but the beauty of its evenness is that it fires the flash into the box, not out of the box. I normally use it with three flashes on a triple clamp.
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2014, 09:55:53 PM »
Thanks again,

I knew that most modifers needed specific hardware to mount them to the light/lightstand, but are those bits and bolts brand specific or mostly universal?
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2014, 09:55:53 PM »

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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2014, 10:01:37 PM »
Neuro and I seem to be the only ones who reply to threads like this  :)

I have both styles of speedlite softbox, the Apollo (umbrella) style where the flash points into the box, and the Lastolite (traditional) style where there is a hole in the back of the box and the flash fires forwards. There is no doubt in my mind that the Apollo style is much more efficient for speedlite use, not least because it is much easier to fit multiple lights inside almost any box, but also I find the evenness and diffusion much smoother with the Apollo style.
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2014, 10:06:57 PM »
@PBD, do you have any luck optically triggering flashes inside an Apollo-type softbox?
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2014, 10:13:01 PM »
Thanks private, very interesting those Appolos, I'll need to inquire. Your pictures also give a good idea of the 'max' performances one can expect from a single speedlite in a softbox. I could probably live with iso 200, maybe even 400 as the images are going to be for my own personal enjoyment and I mostly want to learn the trade of off-camera flash.

Thanks again!
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2014, 10:24:02 PM »
@PBD, do you have any luck optically triggering flashes inside an Apollo-type softbox?

Good point!

If not, I'd need to consider going on with a wired trigger or YN e-ttl wirelss as my cactus don't play with my flash... Maybe I should consider the latteras I could then supplement my sigma with the my chinese flash. It has manual adjustment of the ttl output, although its a bit fiddly.
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2014, 10:26:19 PM »
@PBD, do you have any luck optically triggering flashes inside an Apollo-type softbox?

Indoors yes with both the ST-E2 and a Master flash, but consistency is not perfect and the flash is better than the ST-E2. Until my 600's I was using 550EX's and an ST-E2, but I also made a 50' (yes foot) ETTL cable with a Cat 6 cable and an off camera cord that I ran into the box and used as the "on camera" Master and controlled it via the camera flash menu, this works very well as the softbox flash with it's accompanying spread becomes the optical controller.

Outside, no luck at all!
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2014, 05:53:29 PM »
So you used a wired master flash within the Apollo and optically triggered the others with it. That would sound like my kind of starter solutiion. I could even use my chinese flash from the cactus and optically trigger the Sigma with manual control over the output in order to tune the result.  In extreme cases, I could even add my third small flash on the second cactus receiver to give even more power on my key light or as a rim/2nd light. Not the optimal setup, but may be workable to start with.
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2014, 05:53:29 PM »

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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2014, 10:47:41 PM »
So you used a wired master flash within the Apollo and optically triggered the others with it. That would sound like my kind of starter solutiion. I could even use my chinese flash from the cactus and optically trigger the Sigma with manual control over the output in order to tune the result.  In extreme cases, I could even add my third small flash on the second cactus receiver to give even more power on my key light or as a rim/2nd light. Not the optimal setup, but may be workable to start with.

Outside yes, I used a long ETTL cable that I made myself and had the key light on it as the Master inside a softbox and controlled it via the camera menu. It then controlled any other flashes in A, B or C Group.

Indoors there is no need for the physical ETTL cable link, even standing behind the softbox the optical triggering works pretty well, but I always used an on camera 550EX as a controller and they have full tilt and swivel control to line the head up best for bouncing the control light, I don't know how well a pop up controller would work, but my ways both worked very well.

I also used Yongnuo RF-602's on occasion, but mostly outside in dymanic conditions, an assistant with a softbox mounted 550EX at a function, for instance, or for real estate interiors where I was really tucking remotes away in corners of wardrobes or other rooms and hallways to even exposures.

It was all these different scenarios that pushed me to invest in the newer RT system and I now just have one speedlite system for all my varied shooting situations, no cables, triggers, receivers or transceivers, nor the additional batteries! However for simple portrait shooting situations the optical triggering system is more than capable of dealing with flashes inside softboxes.
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2014, 07:31:16 AM »
Thanks a lot, within just a few post, you two gave me so much precious info on how to use what I already have as well as neat cues on where I could look for in terms of future gear acquisition. That is much appreciated.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2014, 08:23:00 AM by IMG_0001 »
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Re: Cobra flash (edit:speedlite) softboxes for portraits
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2014, 07:31:16 AM »