Softbox Video Key Lighting

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Using a soft box as your main light has become a desired lighting technique in both the photo and video industries. If you are going to do work in both photo and video, you should think about having a soft box that can work in both of these fields and is adaptable to a variety of light sources that you may own.

In this lesson we will demonstrate the lighting potential of a large, heavy-duty soft box.

Topics Covered:

  • Setting the Main Light
  • Using Grids for Directional Control of Light
  • Using a Reflector for the Fill Light

Setting the Main Light

The medium CineDome is the soft box used for this lesson. Because of its extra deep design, this light modifier creates a more dramatic soft wrap-around light, with soft shadows that have more contrast than traditionally shaped soft boxes.

The medium size CineDome is ideal for both striking photo portraits or video interviews from headshots to 3/4 length.

To get started on our lighting progression, we set up the medium CineDome with our Starlite and a 1000-watt bulb. This assembly was placed on Photoflex 2320 LiteStand and, since it would be our main light, we set it up approximately 45 degrees to camera left.

To power the Starlite, simply plug it in and turn it on.

We positioned the model about three feet away from the background so we could project the light on our subject and the background as well. We then posed her and checked the light pattern (figures 1 and 2).

There are a number of ways that the CineDome can be positioned, but in the best position, the center of CineDome should be at about eye-level with the model and should be as close as you can get it without it being visible in the camera frame.

A common setup problem is positioning the CineDome too far away from the model.

Remember, the closer that you place the CineDome to your subject, the larger light source it becomes, and the more the light wraps around your subject. This gives you the most natural looking lighting results.

Using Grids for Directional Control of Light

We installed Grids to the front of our CineDome main light in order to control the light on the subject and background.

The CineDome already has a slightly narrower light coverage angle than a traditional soft box, and the purpose of the grids is to narrow that angle even further. This will deepen the shadows on the model’s face and keep the light just on the subject, and not on the background.

The grids attach to the CineDome with the sewn-on Velcro® that lines the perimeter of the grids. The soft box has the receiving Velcro strip sewn-on the inner rim.

To attach the grids, line up one corner of the grids with one corner of the soft box, and then press into place along rim of the box.

The image below shows our set-up without the grids on the main light and figure 5 shows how the light spread was reduced once the grids were attached to the main light.

As you can see below, the change in the portrait or interview from our first lighting set-up is substantial. To more easily see this change we only need to compare it to our first results above.

When we initially set the CineDome up, we placed the face in the vertical direction. Now that we have installed the grids narrowing the light spread, we are not getting enough light on the right side of the model’s face.

So, we rotated the CineDome 90 degrees to put the soft box in the horizontal position. This will improve the wrap-around ability of the CineDome and place more light on the right side of the face and on the model’s hair.

Wow! What a difference the simple rotation made. This is why Photoflex doesn’t make soft boxes square.

Compare the results. Below is the CineDome in the vertical position, and the following image shows the results with the CineDome in the horizontal position. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, each photographer can choose their preference.

We now have broader light coverage on the model, but the shadows are still very dramatic without being too high in contrast.

To fill in the shadows on the right side of the face, we brought in a LiteDisc reflector on a LiteDisc Holder, mounted on a 2218 LiteStand. We are using a 42″ white/soft gold LiteDisc with the white side facing our model for this set-up.

We positioned the reflector to bounce the light from the main into the right side of our model’s face to “fill” in the shadows and give the face a more three-dimensional feel. However, the fill is not so bright as to decrease the dramatic shadowing produced by the CineDome.

Below is a result of our main and reflector fill set-up and it’s great.

Below is a comparison of our shots without a reflector and with a reflector fill.

However, we would like to make the portrait more dramatic. Adding the grids back on to the CineDome should be the way to go about that.

In figure 16, we have, once again, added the grids to our CineDome and rotated it back to the horizontal position.

We changed the reflector from the white surface to the soft gold surface, and placed it in approximately the same position as the previous set-up. The soft, but dramatic, shadows combined with the dark background really make an impressive combination.

Figure 17

Below is a comparison of our shots taken with the main light with no grids and with a reflector fill (figure 18) and with the main light with grids and with a reflector fill (figure 19).

Below is a progression of images shot with the CineDome as the main light:

  • Main light only – no grids
  • Main light – no grids – with white reflector fill
  • Main light – with grids – with soft gold reflector fill

When we compare the results of this lighting lesson progression, we can see that the resulting photos or video interviews are all great. There are no right or wrong images here, only choices. This is what we should want from our lighting equipment: versatility.

Using the medium CineDome, the Starlite and the 42-inch white/ soft-gold LiteDisc together is a winning combination. When you combine the fact that the CineDome not only works great with the Starlite, but you can also use a strobe, or a 3K hot light in the medium size, you realize that this is one of the most versatile soft boxes on the market.

Basic Lighting,

Indoor Portraits,


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