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Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Jennifer Webster
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/25/2005


I have some Smith Victor studio lights, non-strobe. They came with umbrellas. I would like to get a softbox but I am having trouble finding one locally. I need it by Wednesday morning. Is there a way of making one for quick use.

Thank you for you help.

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7/8/2006 8:26:52 PM

Alan N. Marcus   An idea:
Using PVC piper and fittings from Home Depot etc. Construct a cubic box frame. No glue necessary, just carefully measure and cut each length of pipe. Cover this cube with a white sheet of cloth. Heat a problem? Use fireproof drapery material.

Good luck,

Alan Marcus

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7/9/2006 8:07:23 AM

Jennifer Webster
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/25/2005
  Thanks, Alan, I will try that.

What do you think of diffusres?

Thanks again,

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7/9/2006 8:17:26 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Jen,

The soft box produces shadowless lighting and is a variation on tent lighting. Both are tools used by product photographers when shooting shiny objects like jewelry. Generally, one lights these objects using a white cloth diffuser suspended over the subject. Light is allowed to diffuse through the cloth. The idea is to create an environment whereby the light has no direction. This method subdues shadows by filling them completely.

Using diffuser material on what would otherwise be flood lights is just another way of softening shadows. The use of what is known as a broad light source started with Hollywood. The idea is to make the light source as large as possible. This simulates a North Sky lighting. Stated another way, place your subject in the shade of a building on a clear sunny day. The subject will be illuminated by sky light which is very pleasing because it casts no harsh shadows.

Indoors, arrange the lights to first shine on the walls and ceiling. This bounce light environment can be very soft as it greatly reduces shadows. The umbrella attachments in common use are just variations on this theme. Hollywood and mass merchandise portrait studios use the broad lighting technique.

The advantages are:
The light is very flat and unadorned so one set-up fits all (but not sophisticatedly).
Subject distance from lamps is not critical thus great for active children.
No need to train your help to light for facial types thus perfect for mass merchandiser.

Consider that photography in 2006 is the imagining of three dimensional objects on a two dimensional medium. How can you impart a sense of depth in your work? The illusion of depth is produced by carefully lighting the subject, paying close attention to the position and intensity and color of each lamp. Generally the idea is cause shadows that give the illusion of depth. The shadows produced are illuminated in such a way so they are present but subdued.

In product photography where the subject is shiny metal and gems, tent lighting is necessary. One can also resort to dulling sprays like hair spray water solution with talcum power sprayed on.- flat clear plastic/lacquer etc.

Good luck.

Alan Marcus

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7/9/2006 11:39:54 AM

Jennifer Webster
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/25/2005

THANK YOU for your information. You are alway very helpful.

Off to make some pvc softboxes, Home Depot here I come.


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7/9/2006 1:44:50 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Jennifer: Before you race out to HD, remember you're using hot lights, probably 1000 watt variety. In that respect, you've essentially got a large fire-hazard to work with. If your diffusion material isn't flame retardant and gets too close to your lights, you could have some real trouble.

My suggestion for softboxes used with hot lights is to buy the ones commercially available from Chimera and Photoflex. You can order them directly from both manufacturers for overnight shipment or from in New York.

Making home-grown softboxes for hot lights, in my view, is a dangerous and somewhat foolish idea. If you've ever seen a fire start from a studio light, and I'm talking about the pro lights and modifiers used on motion picture sets, you'll understand what I mean. Hope your liability insurance is paid up. ;>)

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7/10/2006 9:41:59 AM

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