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DIY vs. Professional Soft Box

jcgoodsonjcgoodson Member
edited August 2013 in flash & lighting
Before purchasing my first soft box, I figured I'd try my hand at a homemade soft box -- basically foil-lined cardboard with a double layer of white ripstop nylon, 24in x 24in. Since I don't have a professional soft box for comparison, I'm uncertain if the quality of light I'm getting with the homemade contraption is comparable to the quality of light one might expect with a store-bought device.

I've posted three photos below. The first is with the do-it-yourself soft box. For comparison, the second is ambient light only and the third is with direct flash. The soft box and flash were placed to camera left about five feet from the subject. I used TTL flash with zero FEC.

Is the quality of light in the first photo comparable to the quality of light one might obtain with a professional soft box? To my eye, the homemade soft box softens the light a little compared to direct flash, but not as much as I'd like -- just not sure if a professional soft box of the same size would be any better. Thanks in advance for any comments.



  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited August 2013
    Hard to tell which is which. The order they are posted in above are not the same as in the attachments dialogue box. My guess is the first image above is the softbox? To add to your post I have no issue what so ever to shoot direct if I have to but prefer a modifier if I can use it.
  • Sorry for the confusion. The order is (1) with soft box (SoftBox.JPG), (2) ambient only (Nothing.JPG), and (3) direct flash (DirectFlash.JPG).

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited August 2013
    That was easy to figure out actually, the top is the softbox and you can tell that by just looking at the shadows on the girl's right and left arms, and her nose. Good job for DIY.

    Bottom one [direct flash] they are harsh; top one [softbox] they are soft, so yeah, it's a good job really and the light is much softer, especially the shadows on 'her' right arm are virtually gone and even though they 'appear' to be heavier between her dress and her left arm, it's a softer transition onto her arm itself.

    The only thing I would do it raise the light a little more, check the shadow on her nose, so it's not so 'side on' like the direct flash, and comes down a little more like sunlight would and be just that more 'professional'.

    Works for me!

    Edit: Cute girl you have there Justin, presume she is yours.
  • Thank you Zenon and Trev for your comments here and on my other recent post. I guess I've been spoiled by the beautiful light we get from the BFT and bounce flash. While the soft box is certainly softer than the direct flash, I find myself wanting more. I guess I'll have to experiment with the soft box and see what kind of results I can achieve. I'm mostly interested in using the soft box when bouncing may not possible, e.g., outside.

  • Continuing my previous comment ... could I do this with a soft box? For this photo, I lit the girls by bouncing off a white wall about ten feet to camera left.
  • I never clicked on the attachments because then I have to delete them from my downloads :). I probably should have - lazy me :) I figured the first was the softbox by the quality of the light. Nice job on the DIY. Hard to tell how much difference a store bought would be compared to yours. Some have internal baffles to reduce hot spots. The difference will probably be as subtle as your direct/softbox comparison and if you are happy with yours then you can save some cash.

    Only thing is a store bought may be easier to store and transport. I don't know what yours looks like so it is hard to suggest something.
  • If you want to go softer, I'd ditch the foil for bright white non-glossy paper in its place... then move your light toward your subject as close as you can, just outside the shot would be good. Softer yet , you could add another diffuser near the flash tube. All that stuff eats power, but moving the light closer will help.
    Best of luck, Russ
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The quality of light in that topmost (softbox) image, is good. It looks like light from a softbox. It gives you that more gentle gradient between light and dark, as can be seen on her cheek.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    jcgoodson said: Continuing my previous comment ... could I do this with a soft box? For this photo, I lit the girls by bouncing off a white wall about ten feet to camera left.
    The light there is from a large light source. You'd need a really big softbox to give you the same effect as what you got there by bouncing light off a wall behind you.

  • Mr. Neil Van said: "The light there is from a large light source. You'd need a really big softbox to give you the same effect as what you got there by bouncing light off a wall behind you"

    Do I get better results bouncing an on/off camera flash on the rigth suface than using a not so big soft box?

    Big soft boxes are very expensive. This is a lot of good news to me.

    Is it possible to get big profesional soft box like results just using a nice surface on what to bounce an on/off camera flash?

    If so, what are the characteristics of a really nice surface to bounce flash on?

    I suppouse that flash power, angles and distances does matter a lot.

    I just bougth two external flashes and a wireless trigger (Yongnuo)  online  and can't wait for it ot arrive and test all what I have been learning on this site and the books of Mr. Neil Van wich are great.

    I admire Mr. Neil Van for sharing so much of his knowledge on this site and his books.

    Thanks a lot Mr. Neil Van.

  • Hi vyask,

    I'm glad to see someone found this thread useful two years later. Since I made this post, I've experimented with bounce flash and various light modifiers.  To answer your question, whenever I need a large light source, I bounce off a nearby surface -- and most any surface seems to do as color casts can typically be corrected in post. For example, this image was taken with exactly the equipment you just purchased (plus a reflector): two speedlites bounced off a wall to camera-left (and triggered by a Yongnuo unit, although I don't think the triggering mechanism is terribly important). In addition to wanting soft light, I made the choice to bounce (versus the more direct light from a gridded soft box) because the baby in the image was moving around. Movement with more focused light would just make it harder to capture a good photo, so the wider coverage area of bounced light was helpful.


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