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Author Topic: Softbox vs Diffuser  (Read 18739 times)

Leopard Lupus

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Softbox vs Diffuser
« on: January 27, 2012, 12:09:07 AM »
Hello, all!
I have always loved natural lighting and preferred it over the use of flashes and strobes. However, I want to educate myself in proper lighting techniques, as well as what I need gear-wise.
I am currently using a 5D mk ll with a 580ex ll and an off camera hotshoe cable. I shoot indoors concerts (where I am on the stage) as well as outdoor portraits. With the concerts, the harsh lighting is sometimes welcomed. But with the outdoor portraits when I HAVE to use flash, it produces an incredibly awful look.
I have been looking into portable accessories to assist me. Option 1. is a Softbox. Option 2. is a diffuser. Do you guys have any input on either of these, or maybe an option 3?
Thanks in advance!

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Softbox vs Diffuser
« on: January 27, 2012, 12:09:07 AM »

Michael_pfh

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2012, 12:41:53 AM »
I am using a Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible on my 430ex II. Outdoors I am using the amber and indoors the white diffusor cap on the dome. Works pretty well for me. I do also own the Power Snoot which can be used for some nice shadow effects especially in combination with an off camera hotshoe cable. Just checked their website and saw that they are now offering a 'Pro Kit' - that seems to be good value for money despite the price.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2012, 12:44:53 AM by Michael_pfh »
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willrobb

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2012, 01:30:02 AM »
I use a softbox/umbrella combo most of the time for indoor and outdoor portraits. I will say though that for outdoor stuff you need weights for the light stands or have an assistant hold the stands, just a little wind will send them flying.

I bought a 1.2m x1.8m lastolite diffuser recently, but haven't used it yet, I just want to use it on really bright days to stop some harsh light during portrait sessions, but I can also use it to fire my 580 EXII's through.

Recently I find I use the softbox on it's own quite a lot as it gives a nice contrast. The first 3 pics below were with 1 softbox camera left or right, triggered with the ST-E2 transmitter. The bottom one was in an extremely dark room and I used the softbox camera left and the umbrella camera right.

Also, I find if you shoot the speedlites manually and dial down the power a bit you can get pretty decent soft light, but you also the need the set up time for that.

willrobb

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2012, 01:34:27 AM »
Here's another one from a very windy night where I couldn't use umbrellas and only had a few minutes to get the shot. Had two assistants hold speedlites, used the ST-E2 to put a bit more power to the speedlite camera right and mounted the camera on a tripod as I seem to remember it being a 2-3 second exposure to bring out the lights in the background a bit as it was already dark. Without the softbox the light is a bit harsher I think.

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Penn Jennings

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2012, 02:05:44 AM »
In general am not a huge fan of diffusers.  A diffuser scatters a lot of the light and you will have more light striking your subject from different angles.   With a diffuser, your results might vary wildly.  The objects around are more likely to introduce slight color casts.  Outdoors, or in large rooms you might find that the diffuser is not as effective since a lot of the diffused light doesn't strike anything to be reflected back into the image.

A soft box increases the size of your light.  The larger the light, the softer the light.  The softer the better for portraits in most cases, especially women.  The other thing is that most of the light arrive directly from the soft box so the result are far more predicable. 

Thats my experience anyway.

briansquibb

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2012, 02:20:13 AM »
I do a lot of flash outdoors - but essentially infill

I always use a minimum of a Stofen diffuser which just takes the harshness away - typically with fec of -1

I also have a on flash portable softbox which is just that more difusing and gives a good light for infill http://www.warehouseexpress.com/buy-lastolite-ezybox-speed-lite-softbox/p1521595

At weddings if the weather is windy then it is flash stands and the stofens - they are surprisingly stable - again these are essentially infill.

I also have a giant flash through umbrella which I put infront of a reflector umbrella - you would be amazed how soft the light is - and it doesn't blind the subjects either  ;D ;D ;D This can only be used outdoors when dead calm or light breeze with an assistant.

PeterJ

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2012, 02:25:24 AM »
I am using a Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible on my 430ex II. Outdoors I am using the amber and indoors the white diffusor cap on the dome. Works pretty well for me.
Out of interest how securely does the Lightsphere Collapsible attach to the flash? I bought a Lightsphere Universal a few years back and while I really like the effect it gives the way it attaches with velcro and doesn't push down far onto a 580ex II is terrible. Even just in normal use at an event the first time I used it without any rough treatment it fell of 2 or 3 times and before the end of the night put it back in the bag.

Now I just use a small and cheap square diffuser, the results aren't as good as the Lightsphere but it's very tight fitting, stores easily while still attached and I rarely take it off unless I really need 100% output. A soft box would be the best option though if you don't mind the size as a few comments above indicate.

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2012, 02:25:24 AM »

Michael_pfh

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2012, 02:42:12 AM »
I am using a Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible on my 430ex II. Outdoors I am using the amber and indoors the white diffusor cap on the dome. Works pretty well for me.
Out of interest how securely does the Lightsphere Collapsible attach to the flash? I bought a Lightsphere Universal a few years back and while I really like the effect it gives the way it attaches with velcro and doesn't push down far onto a 580ex II is terrible. Even just in normal use at an event the first time I used it without any rough treatment it fell of 2 or 3 times and before the end of the night put it back in the bag.

Now I just use a small and cheap square diffuser, the results aren't as good as the Lightsphere but it's very tight fitting, stores easily while still attached and I rarely take it off unless I really need 100% output. A soft box would be the best option though if you don't mind the size as a few comments above indicate.

The Lightsphere Collapsible is made of some sort of flexible rubber material that fits tight and secure around the flash, it does even withstand strong gusts of wind.

But I know what you mean - the Snoot is attached to the flash using that kind of velcro band. At least on the 430ex II it does come loose after a while, probably that would happen less opften on a bigger flash unit such as the 580...
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picturesbyme

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2012, 02:48:04 AM »
Most of the time it depends on the shot.
I prefer softboxes indoors/in studio as they are easier to setup and control unlike in outdoors especially in windy conditions. Indoors I can also use a tripod more conveniently.

Outdoors - mostly for fill in I use flash with a diffuser but none of these are written in stone so I improvise according to what the cutomer/I/the shot wants :)



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bycostello

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2012, 03:46:23 AM »
horses for courses, as ever depends what you are doing...

a diffuser, stofen i presume u mean, is ok but it works by throwing the light all around in a bear bulb way, the softness comes from the bounced light so will not work out side unless you've a flash that can bounce off the moon.  it is a common misconception that the deveice itself diffuses the light, it is still a small harsh light source.

in contrast a softbox/ umbrella, does make the light source bigger, and the bigger the light source the softer the light.

I'd start with an umbrella and see how you go, they are very cheap and you'll get great results.

bycostello

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2012, 03:50:01 AM »
can i add to that....  if you mean a foldable diffuser like the reflectors.. and are indeed often sold as a combination reflector diffuser... then that will work as well as a softbox but you need to hold it in front of the flash, at a short distance, so fairly impractical unless you have an assistant or even more light stands.

Ekefe

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2012, 04:37:48 AM »
Hallo LL! You're speaking about a guess i've had few time ago. for this I followed the Kirk Tuck's way explained in "Minimal Lighting. Professional Techniques for Location Photography" published by Amherst Media.

He explains how to build a lightweight and very carriable Studio (even if of relatively low power) with a Speedlite Camera flashes set. It'a strategy based on flexibility, portability and low costs compared with the hight power studio flashes (and hight prices and heavy weights) normally used.

I have found this strategy very interesting and fully usable for a lot of situations, and I was able to find all i needed on ebay cheap shops (I'm not able to find too much differences of performance betwen a Branded polyester softbox and a China Made Polyester one...)

My usual equipment reportage and fast response configuration is a speedlite flash only, housed on the Camera side by a Canon SB-E2 bracket, used with a Plastic diffusor and the flash head oppotunely oriented. This for fill in and lowered power flash use only.

To do something more in the Studio Lighting World according my opinion you have to use a heavier equipment. (Heavier but very light indeed: you'll be able to carry it everywhere you want and have a relatively good performances in almost a lot of situations. You can preview to use almost 3 Canon 580 EX Mki/MkII (the 430 cannot be used in junction with the CP-E4 Flash external Battey in order to fasten the re-charge) with 3 Manfrotto compact stand 001B and 2/3 Softbox Kit for speedlites (don't buy too much little softobx unless you don't wast to use them only for face and half-body portraits, minimum is 24") and/or an Umbrella (the same, consider almost 39") mount. Up to you, can use a Manfrotto 314B (or similiar) carriable background system. For Ettl transmission between flashes, Pocketwizard wireless system is the best, but is very expensive. So you can use a Canon ST-E2 Transmitter for relatively close distances use. If you want something cheaper you loose ETTL connections (Manual settings only), but you'd be able to find on ebay a lot of Chinese Made trasmitting/receiving kits.

 

briansquibb

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2012, 05:27:55 AM »
a diffuser, stofen i presume u mean, is ok but it works by throwing the light all around in a bear bulb way,

A stofen is better than nothing. It works even better in an umbrella/softbox than a bare flash.

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2012, 05:27:55 AM »

marinien

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2012, 05:38:48 AM »
For outdoor portraits I use a large Rogue Flashbender (http://www.expoimaging.com/product-detail.php?cat_id=13&product_id=21), eventually combined with a Stofen diffusor. I put the flash direction behind me and shape the flashbender so that it throws the light toward the "models" (my wife or my friends). The light source is thus (significantly) bigger than bare flash. This setup works for me as it is quite versatile and easy to transport.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2012, 04:54:40 AM by marinien »
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Michael_pfh

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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2012, 11:47:40 PM »
For outdoor portraits I use a large Rogue Flashbender (http://www.expoimaging.com/product-detail.php?cat_id=13&product_id=21), eventually combined with a Stofen diffusor. I put the flash direction behind me and shape the flashbender so that it throws the light toward the "models" (my wife of my friends). The light source is thus (significantly) bigger than bare flash. This setup works for me as it is quite versatile and easy to transport.

Thanks for sharing! I had come across their ads before and was thinking about trying since I liked the concept. Will get one now I think. :)
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Re: Softbox vs Diffuser
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2012, 11:47:40 PM »