Landscape and Seascape photography by Ian Middleton. Buy prints and attend photography workshops
Ian Middleton Photography


What is an on flash softbox? 

Do you often notice that when you use your on camera flash, or hotshoe mounted flash, that your subjects' faces are too white, while the rest of the scene is either too dark or contains nasty shadows? This is because the flash is too bright, and too direct. Well, an on flash softbox is designed to reduce the brightness, and spread the light more evenly.

This article will attempt to help you understand how to soften and diffuse light by using a range of mini softboxes. If you would like to try out any of these products, you can do so on one my workshops or tours.
Direct Light vs Diffuse Light

In order to fully understand how these softboxes work, you must first understand the difference between direct light, and diffused light:

Direct Light Effects:

Direct light comes from a small source and from one direction, and therefore produces bright and dark sides to the subject it illuminates. The result, as you can see by the illustration to the left, is a high contrast scene with hard light, hard shadows and hard edges with lots of definition.

The same effect is created when we use direct flash, the intense beam of light from the small source of the flash head projects just a small beam of hard light onto the subject, which can often result in unflattering definition (nobody likes the laughter lines and wrinkles to show up in their photos!) and hard shadows behind.

Diffuse light effects:

Diffused light comes from a large source rather than a single small source. Technically, light is diffused when it passes through a transparent object such as a large white sheet, or a window. The result is that the light is scattered and spread and the diffuser become the light source rather than the original light source. Therefore, the larger the diffuser, the softer the light.

The figure on the right shows how the light is repeatedly scattered through increasingly larger surfaces.


Softboxes and diffusers
The sky on a cloudy day acts a natural softbox. the figure to the left shows how this effect can reduce the shadows and produce softer results with less contrast and definition. Obviously, the larger the diffuser, the softer the result. Another way to diffuse the light is to use a large window or a reflector.

In a photography studio large reflectors and softboxes are used to soften and spread the light around the subject. Naturally these devices are not portable, and would certainly not be welcome at parties.

So what can we use?
Lumiquest softboxes
Lumiquest is a company that produces a great range of mini softboxes and flash diffusers specially designed fit over a range of flashes.

The Lumiquest Softscreen

To the right you can see how this clever little device attaches to an SLR's pop up flash. As an on camera pop up flash's head is very small, then this is the worst kind of flash to use. As you can see in the photo below left, the woman's face is bleached white and the veins and lines on her head can clearly be seen. The whole image overall is washed out.

But just a small amount of diffusion can make a big difference.

The photo below right shows how the softscreen has reduced the glare, softened the face and brought back some of the colour that was washed out by the harsh white light of the intense flash.
Direct flash without Lumiquest softcreen
With Lumiquest softscreen
The Lumiquest Softbox

This device is designed to fit over your hotshoe flash. Because it's larger, the light is spread more widely. The light source is enlarged to about 10 times the size of the flash head.

Notice here how the glare on the white pillow has been eliminated
Direct flash without Lumiquest softbox
with Lumiquest softbox
The Lumiquest Softbox III

The softbox 3 works in the same way as the previous example, except that being twice the size it produces even softer results and is about 20 times the of the flash head.
Direct flash without Lumiquest softbox 3
with Lumiquest softbox 3
Try them out on one of my workshops
I have teamed up with Lumiquest and am now able to offer you the chance to try out these wonderful photography accessories for yourself on one of my Workshops or tours. I have all three of the above ready for you to try out. Don't worry if you don't have a hotshoe flash, because I can provide one for you to use.

Visit Lumiquest's websites and social sites:

More info about my workshops here