using a small softbox for lighting an intimate / boudoir photo session
With intimate photo sessions, I use a number ways of lighting my subject. This helps to bring some variety to the images. It helps mixing things up a bit by not using just one specific way to light the session.
While I sometimes use a softbox, the medium sized softboxes (or the 24″ x 24″ softboxes) are just a little too big to swing around in a small room. With a recent on-location photo session in New York, I used the Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H) a few times. I took it along on that photo session because it is so compact.
So when I arranged with a model, Carly Erin, to do another photo session, I instantly thought of taking this smaller softbox along. With the previous intimate photo session with Carly, I used bounce flash and tungsten light (the Lowel ID-light). But this time I decided to predominantly use this new small softbox. And I really liked the results …
(before clicking on the ‘more’ link,
be aware that the rest of this post has images with some nudity.)
Here is the full image shown at the top.
The first thing to notice here is the fall-off in light. This is due to the small size of the softbox .. but also not due to the small size of the softbox. Let me explain …
By feathering the light from the softbox upwards. My assistant was holding the softbox up in her hand. So by instructing Jessica to move the softbox in an upwards arc, we got the edge of the light from the softbox to fall on Carly’s face. And that is where that specific shadow comes from. The light gently illuminating Carly’s body lower down, is from the light bouncing off the ceiling and walls.
Therefore the light you see in that image, is a mixture of light from the softbox and indirect light from the bounced light. And it works beautifully. While I did this on purpose, with an idea of what I wanted, the feedback from the camera’s preview was essential in getting to the specific result. And I really like the result.
camera settings: 1/60 @ f5.6 @ 500 ISO; flash set to TTL.
My on-camera speedlight was set to Master, but with its own output disabled. This Master speedlight tripped the Slaved speedlight that was in the Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H).
So the result here was due to the small softbox … since the spread of light isn’t as wide as that of a medium softbox, it was easier to feather the light like this and thereby force this kind of light fall-off. So the light fall-off isn’t a negative side-effect of the softbox being small. The light fall-off was intentional, and the small size of the softbox facilitated this.
With this image, the softbox was used directly on Carly:
I liked the way the edge of a table to the left-hand side of the image, caused that shadow. But what you see there, isn’t quite how it looked. Here is the actual image:
We were in the living room area, with Carly sitting in the passageway leading to the bedrooms. The kitchen behind her. There just wasn’t the working space. So with some use of the Clone Tool and Healing brush, and a lot of use of the Content-Aware Fill tool of Photoshop CS5, I was able to make the green wall much larger. So now there is space. The Content-Aware Tool is certainly a great addition to Photoshop, but the person who really should win the Nobel Prize there at Adobe, is the genius that came up with the Healing Tool.
I was lying on my side on the floor to get that angle.
With this image, I really liked how the light from the softbox looked like light streaming in through the window, perhaps with the curtains half-open.
camera settings: 1/100 @ f2.8 @ 800 ISO; flash set to TTL at -1 FEC
My on-camera speedlight was set to Master, but with its own output disabled. This Master speedlight tripped the Slaved speedlight that was in the Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H). With the light on the bookshelf on the background, this image really does have a sunshine-y look to it with the light from the softbox. My choice of settings were such to let the background blow out a little bit by over-exposing it. It also helps that it is so out of focus.
Here is the image with the flash disabled, so you can clearly see what the softbox lit up.
Then, just to change things up, I asked Jessica to point the sotbox into the room to bounce the flash. I pulled down the FEC to -2 EV so that the light from the flash is just a kind of fill light on her, retaining the mood.
Here is the pull-back shot:
While Jessica made the shoot much easier in that I could do minute adjustments to the position of the light without getting up, this small softbox would’ve been ideal on a compact light-stand.
One final image, this time just with available light and bounce flash (with the black foamie thing) to fill in the shadows.
camera settings: 1/250 @ f5.6 @ 800 ISO; flash set to TTL at 0 FEC
All the photos here were retouched similar to described in the article on retouching and post-processing for portraits.
Final comment about the softbox:
When I bought the Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H), I thought it seemed like it might be useful at some point somewhere. But after using it during this photo session, I can see that it will be an essential part of my lighting gear I take with me on photo shoots. I really do like the results.
One thing that helped with some images where we bounced the light from the softbox, was to remove the front baffle, and this gave us more control about the direction we were bouncing the flash towards. The edges of the softbox then flagged the light to an extent, giving us more control over the direction of light.
- minimilast lighting for an intimate photo session (w/ Carly Erin)
- lighting for boudoir photo sessions
- Yes, that was shot at the 50mm focal length, but isn’t a close-up head-shot