When working in a studio there are numerous ways that light can be controlled and modified to achieve a desired effect. The range of lighting types and modifiers are huge so I am going to focus on some of the more commonly used types and the ones I am most likely to be using throughout this project.
By moving the lighting around but maintaining the same distance to the subject we can create different effects.
It is important that whenever the lights are moved that the same distance from the subject is kept. This is because a light meter reading is very specific. If the light or subject distances change then a new light meter reading must be taken. If in doubt then take another reading.
I intend to demonstrate these effects using a soft box from directly in front of the subject then from 30°, 45° and 90°.
The soft box is a light modifier that diffuses the light passed through it. As the light travels from the flash it passes through a translucent white screen. This scatters the light creating and even soft effect on the subject. They can be used on Flash or continuous lighting.
The images on below are by Chris Radley, an Edinburgh based professional photographer. He used the soft box for this portrait shot.
Soft light works well for for creating pleasant skin tones, softening harsh shadow edges creating a light that is is quite flattering. It is something used often for female portraits as it can have a natural effect of hiding some small skin imperfections. When using a soft box I prefer to place it towards the front (around 30°) of the subject to get the maximum effect. Soft Boxes also come in a variety of sizes with larger versions spreading and dispersing more light for an even softer effect.
Soft boxes are amongst the most commonly used modifiers in studios today, they are light and can often collapse for easy portability or storage. The variety in sizes offers the photographer a huge range of lighting options and they can be used for portraits, commercial, product, food and fashion images. The Soft Box can be used as both a key light, fill light or both.
In order to explore this important modifier more I made some images using a Soft Box in the Uni studio.
Direct Soft Box
I started by attaching a large Soft Box to a Bowens flash unit. I positioned the unit directly in front and slightly above the subject. The light is broken up as it passes through the translucent barrier and scatters evenly across the subject. The face is evenly lit and with no shadows.
Soft Box 30°
Staying with the Soft Box I wanted to move the angle of the light source to demonstrate the changes in how it effects the subject. With this image I have moved the light source to 30° right of the camera. With the light now coming in from the viewers right you can already see that the opposite side of the face is already looking darker and in more shadow than the previous image (right)
Soft Box 45°
Moving the light further round the changes are becoming more apparent. With the increasingly acute angle the light is unable to reach around the far side and the faces is getting much darker compared to the previous image (right). With the soft light generated by the soft box it makes the transition from the light to dark feather neatly across the face. The features although still soft are more defined, with greater feel and texture. The direct light from the front can often feel flat.
Soft Box 90°
Bringing the light source all the way around to being 90° right of the camera the light has seen a dramatic change from the last image (right) and from where we started. Half of the face is now in complete darkness and even with the Soft Box modifier the shadow is becoming more pronounced. This very style of lighting has a sinister feel to it and works well when trying to create a mood of mystery and deception.
Soft Box Summary
The Soft Box is a versatile and easy to use modifier which is why it is so popular in many studios. With the various sizes available it allows the photographer to be able to create a range of lighting styles and by varying the size and distance from the subject he can also tweak how hard/soft the light will be. Moving the light source to different angles it allowed me to alter the mood, with the box at the front the lighting is soft and quite flat and offers a gentle, tranquil feel to the mood. However moving the light round the subject their features become more defined and less flattering. This can change the feeling to sombre, mischievous, threatening and intimidating. Understanding these techniques are a great start to controlling the atmosphere of any studio made image.