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Softbox Lighting Comparison for Beginners

7 Minute Read

Have you ever taken a photo and found that the lighting wasn’t quite right? Or maybe you are just starting your photography journey and don’t know where to begin with softboxes and lighting. In this article we will break down some of the styles of softboxes, from all in one kits to individual softbox modifiers to help you find the perfect fit. 

Softboxes and modifiers are a great way to soften and shape the light but they come in many shapes, sizes and kit options so it can be overwhelming at first to know where to start.  For instance, if you plan a product or fashion photography shoot, you may want minimal shadows to showcase the product or garment. In this case you may need a softbox with a larger surface area that will help disperse the light rather than relying on a flood or spotlight effect, which only enhances shadows. Choosing the right softbox for your needs is essential so we have put together a beginners guide to help you choose the best softbox shape for you. 

 

Types of Videography/ Photography Softboxes

Two images. First image: Male photographer taking photos of a male model sitting in front of a yellow backdrop. Second image: Male model sitting in front of yellow backdrop


To help you master lighting, we will work through five different shaped softboxes and explore what separates them from each other. The five shapes, rectangle, lantern, umbrella, octagon or parabolic, are common in the industry. Each one offers a different look, so it's good to have a general understanding of how each one works and the unique light they produce.

 

Rectangle

Woman sitting in front of a white backdrop with her arms crossed


Probably the most common type of softbox photographers use is in the shape of a rectangle. These popular entry-level lights mimic a window and provide a consistent even light onto products and people.


If you are looking for an all in one rectangular-shaped softbox, the ‘Illuminate Mate’ Double Rectangle Softbox Lighting Kit is a great option. It features two rectangular softboxes, light stands and two 135 bulbs. The dual setup provides the ability to balance the light on either side of the subject. They also have a diffuser layer to soften reflections and spread light more evenly, making them ideal for food and product photography. In addition, thanks to their 50cm x 70cm size, the soft lighting coverage is flawless for product and headshot photography.

 


The catchlight is aesthetically pleasing when reflecting in someone’s eyes or when focused on a product, or when trying to mimic natural window light for food photography. Considering their affordability, accessibility and easy setup, we highly recommend this lighting kit for photographers and videographers looking for an easy to use cost efficient all in one set up. 

 

We also recommend another softbox lighting setup for photographers looking for a rectangle softbox look; the Kreator Kit. This lighting setup consists of two similarly looking softboxes but offers more versatility. Once set up, photographers and videographers can use the 5500K colour temperature LEDs to control their output. By doing so, creatives gain access to a two-point lighting setup where one acts as a key light and the other a fill light. You’ll still gain the unique rectangular catch-light, but the advantage is that you can control shadows in the final shot via dimming. As this is the case, we recommend this softbox lighting kit for beginners photographing or filming products, headshots or moving into commercial/editorial shoots.

 

The final rectangular softbox kit we want to highlight is the  DIY Corporate Headshots Photography Lighting 'LINKEDIN' Kit. The size of the softbox is the same as the 'Illuminate Mate', but how it differs is in its illumination output.


When you first use the kit, you'll notice eight bulbs, with four of these bulbs belonging to each head, making two quad heads. There are so many bulbs per head for good reason. The effect it creates is a beautiful catchlight in the eyes of the person being photographed. Plus, additional bulbs provide a much more even light. This kit is ideal if you're a beginner and planning to photograph people in the studio. The rectangular softboxes will act like large soft window lights, providing ample soft, flattering light for portraiture.

 

 

Lantern

Female photographer taking a photo of a baby in front of a brown backdrop with balloons


Lantern softboxes make it appealing for videographers and photographers who require an evenly lit scene/set, such as baby photography, interior photography or portrait photography. The light produced from these softboxes is extremely soft and offers an even spread of light with flattering light drop-off.


Lantern softbox characteristics are vastly different from rectangle softboxes. The first noticeable difference is their three-dimensional circular shape. The design is crucial to how the light falls when using this style of softbox. Light falls omnidirectionally rather than a directional light from a traditional rectangular or square softbox. A good example of this is the  Spectrum Pro Collapsible Softball Lantern Softbox 65cm (Bowens Mount). This light modifier can be paired with your favorite Bowens mount light like the Spectrum Mini Beam 60-S LED Light


When considering these lights, think about the size of the studio space and what you are shooting. Is it larger or smaller set-up? If you find yourself in a larger space or are shooting multiple people, you may need to think about the size of the lantern softbox you plan on using. In this case, the Spectrum Pro Collapsible Softball Lantern Softbox 80cm (Bowens Mount) offers 15cm more diameter, meaning light will spill to greater distances giving you a wider spread of light. Both of the products mentioned here are Bowens mounts, so you will still require additional lighting, unlike the rectangle mentioned above softboxes which are mentioned above. 



Umbrella

Woman posing in front of a pink sparkly backdrop with an iPad


When you think about studio lighting, you may picture an umbrella. These unique softboxes act as a surface where light is either bounced off of or used as a light diffuser. Baby and newborn photographers commonly adopt these studio photography lighting kits as they are easy to use and quick to assemble. One of the best sellers we recommend is the 
Spectrum DIY Newborn & Baby Photography Lighting 'TWINKLE' Kit, as you gain access to two soft diffuser umbrellas for soft light and an additional two silver reflective umbrellas for stronger light.

 

If you find yourself covering events, you may want to consider the  DIY Party & Events Photobooth Lighting 'HOLLYWOOD' Kit. Made for both videographers and photographers for photo booths or events, this unique setup is designed to capture the fun and spontaneous events that unfold at weddings, corporate events or birthday parties. Consisting of  umbrellas, light stands, 135W bulbs and a backdrop stand. This dual light makes anyone look great, regardless of if you are using a Camera, iPhone, Smartphone or iPad. Umbrella kits offer a portable and easy to use solution for on location or studio work.  

Octagon

Woman looking at phone and smiling with her hands on her hips in front of a purple backdrop


Commonly referred to as an ‘octa’ in the industry, an octagon softbox is specifically designed to disperse soft light evenly, with a wider light spread than a rectangle softbox. The lighting benefits can be attributed to the larger circular surface area of the softbox. When using two octagon softboxes together, the results are impressive. Take the 
‘Illuminate Mate Octabox’ Double Softbox Lighting Kit as a good all in one example. When both 135W lights are at full power, the light-emitting is ideal for studio, product, portrait and professional photography, and a light source for any film work for streaming.

 

If you need more control over colour temperature, check out the Octagon’ Kreator Kit’ Double Dimmable LED Bi-Coloured Octagon Softbox Lighting Kit. This kit differs from the one above as it allows you to adjust the colour temperature of the lighting from warm to cool. This is great for those looking for more control over the light colour and output. 

 

Parabolic

Woman posing in front of a brown backdrop


Do you want the best softbox available? Take a look at a parabolic softbox for your studio. These larger sized, deeper softboxes help disperse light softer than any other softbox on the market, making them ideal for photographing or filming almost anything. 


One parabolic softbox we highly recommend is the  Collapsible Deep Parabolic Softbox 120cm/47.2" (Bowens Mount). This lighting accessory is the perfect choice for fashion and portrait photographers. The greater surface area and larger size reduce shadows, making skin flawless and products present with even lighting. Do consider the size of your studio space, as not all parabolic softboxes are the same size. If 120cm is too large for your studio, consider a 70cm or 90cm parabolic softbox. These modifiers feature a Bowens mount so can be paired with any compatible lighting options. 


The Spectrum Pro Parabolic Softbox range offers even more control with the included grid. This handy accessory will help angle and focus the light to get the desired lighting effect. These softboxes are also fully collapsible so are easy to set up and pack up.

 

Comparison Table

Type of Softbox Modifiers

Rectangle

50cm x 70cm 5 Head 55W Single Rectangle Softbox Kit (5500k)

Lantern

Spectrum Pro Collapsible Softball Lantern Softbox 80cm (Bowens Mount)

Umbrella

Hypop 33" (83cm) Reflective Umbrella Softbox

Octagon

'S-Beam 150' LED Octagon Softbox Lighting Kit - Spectrum-PRO

Parabolic

Spectrum Pro Collapsible Deep Parabolic Softbox (Bowens Mount) 120cm

Size

 

50cm x 70cm

65cm to 80cm

84cm

70cm

120cm

Shape

 

Rectangle

Lantern

Umbrella

Octagon

Parabolic

Number of Lights

 

2

-

2

2

-

Material (e.g. Fabric)

 

Fabric

Fabric

Fabric

Fabric

Fabric

Interior Colour (e.g. silver)

 

Silver

White

Silver/White

White

Silver

Bulb or LED

 

Bulb

-

Bulb

Bulb or LED

-

Colour Temperature

 

5500K

-

5500K

5500K

-

Accepts Grids (e.g Y/N)

 

N

N

N

N

Y

Price

 

From $199.99

 

$349.99

 

 

Removable Front Face

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Quick Open Type (e.g. Click/Locking Type)

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mount Type

 

-

Bowens Mount

-

-

Bowens Mount

Bag Included

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Light Stands Included

 

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Uses

 

Studio, Product, Commercial, Professional photography and videography and headshots 

Video recording, live streaming and film making 

Studio, Product, Commercial, Professional photography and videography and headshots 

Studio, Product, Commercial, Professional photography and videography and headshots 

Fashion and portrait photography and videography 

 

 

Final Thoughts - Which one is right for you?

Female photographer taking photos of a baby lying down on a pink backdrop


Understanding these easy-to-use accessories can make all the difference to your photographs. Each softbox shape has different lighting characteristics, making them ideal for different types of photography. It is important to take the time to consider what you will be photographing or filming and pick the right softbox for your needs. 

 

When choosing which softbox is right for your photography or videography, take into account the size, where your studio is, whether you want an all in one set up or one that is more customisable for the future.. Ultimately, the softbox options highlighted in this article will help elevate your content no matter what kit you choose.

 


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