Stripshow. Portraits using a Strip Softbox as the Keylight.

June 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

STRIPSHOW

PORTRAITS USING A STRIP SOFTBOX AS THE KEYLIGHT

_DSC0906_DSC0906 DSC_1118DSC_1118
Nikon D810, 24-70 f2.8, @ f4, 60mm, iso 100 Nikon D850, 24-70 f2.8 @ f2.8, 62mm, iso 64

Apologies if the title of this blog had you thinking you were going to be reading something far more exciting.

I was planning to blog about my studio gear, but there is so much of it I thought I’d do something a little different that allows me to concentrate instead on individual pieces of equipment rather than try and cram everything in.  So today’s bite-size blog looks at the lighting used in the two images above.

In the studio, my most frequently used lighting modifier has to be my Bowens Lumiair Octabox 140.  I love this softbox, I can use it pulled back to photograph family groups or right up close to a sleeping newborn, safe in the knowledge that, with its double diffusion, it will light baby gently and softly while allowing me to open up my aperture nice and wide.  Another bonus of the Octabox of course (if you are fussy about such things) is that it gives a nice round catchlight.

In my maternity and some portrait work however, I do like to include some nice low key, dramatic images.  In the past I would try and achieve this by severely feathering my rectangular softbox, attempting to light my subject with just the very edge of the light.  This, however didn't give me the control I wanted.

The answer I found was the Bowens Lumiair softstrip 140.  (Yes, I'm a Bowens girl.)

Strip softboxes are more often thought of as a means to provide rim light.  However, when used as a main lightsource they can produce striking and dramatic results (which I love). Being a narrower modifier than its softbox counterparts, the strip disperses its light in a far more concentrated manner, it's long shape producing a uniquely soft and dramatic fall off.

You can use a strip softbox horizontally or vertically, my choice being the latter.  By controlling the spread of light and how it falls on my subject I am able to achieve the dramatic imagery I'm after.  This can be a little tricky, and you do need to learn how to ‘see’ the light in order to make the necessary tweaks however, if you're after low key drama the effort is definitely worth it.  

For anyone new to key lighting with strip softboxes, I would suggest the following;

  • Buy yourself a dummy head
  • Stick it atop anything that will bring it up to an appropriate height (I use posing tubs or in ghoulish 'Lord of the Flies' fashion I'll spear it onto a light stand) 
  • Lock yourself in your shooting space and practice, practice, practice.

The strip softbox is now my go-to modifier for dramatic dark portraits, such as the maternity portrait and that of my beautiful daughter above. 

Finally, whilst the box itself does give me more light control, I do use it in conjunction with a 40 degree soft egg crate grid, which does a fabulous job of helping perfect the light. If you’re not sure how a grid works, it does so by ensuring that the light coming from the softbox goes in a forward direction only and does not spread out from the sides.  With the grid in place, I can direct light even more precisely to the area I want, keeping the light contained as I do so. Made from soft cloth, the grid is also easily removed as necessary.

For those of you who are fussy about catchlights - the long ones are a price I'm willing to pay for the effect I want! 

Thanks for reading my blog – if you have any questions please get in touch!

 

Lorraine.

 


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