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Which Softbox Should I Use? A Deep Dive Into Softbox Modifiers and Kits

Which Softbox Should I Use? A Deep Dive Into Softbox Modifiers and Kits

When you’re ready to take softer and more natural photos, softboxes are one of the best ways to level up. These useful lighting tools come with modifiers and kits to expand your visual range.

Lighting modifiers help you enhance, soften, or redirect your light source. Lighting kits put several light sources and modifiers in one place for easy usage. While there are dozens of different forms of lighting equipment to choose from, softboxes can easily do most of the work.

Which softbox should you use in your photography studio and why? This deep dive will explore softboxes’ different shapes as well as popular kits for intermediate photographers.

Source Image: Pixabay

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What Are Different Types Of Softboxes?
  3. Essential Lighting Terminology to Know
  4. Quick Rundown on Softbox Lightbulbs
  5. What are Softbox Accessories? 
  6. Popular Softbox Accessories For Your Studio 
  7. What Is A Softbox Kit And Why Is It Useful?
  8. Tips For Choosing the Best Softboxes for Your Studio
  9. Conclusion: Softboxes are a Versatile Tool to Bring Out Your Subject’s Best Side

an example of dramatic studio lighting showing a woman in a black dress and white hat in a white room with a long cast shadow

Source Image: Pixabay

Essential Lighting Terminology to Know

Before we dive into the different types of softboxes, you need to know essential lighting terms. Understanding each term will help you make more informed decisions when choosing lighting equipment for your studio.


Also known as soft light, diffuse refers to any lighting that has to pass through a filter. As a result, the light will spread across the subject in a soft, even manner. 

Many softboxes have multiple sides to break up light. Likewise, you can diffuse light by placing a curtain or sheet over your light source. Just be careful not to have anything touch the bulb – you don’t want to start a fire by accident. 

Light Spill

Have you ever lit a subject in your studio, only to become annoyed when your lighting stretched out way too far? This issue is called light spill, an annoying side-effect that’s easily prevented by using the right equipment modifiers.

Softbox lighting modifiers, such as the shoot through umbrella, are reliable for confining light to a specific area. Not only will you control light, you’ll also control shadow.  

Light Fall Off

This subtle phenomenon refers to how quickly your lighting shifts from highlights to shadows. You can change this effect by simply moving your light source closer or further from a subject.

For example, putting a light source very close to an apple will create bright highlights and a sharp, small shadow. Pulling the lighting further from the apple will create softer highlights and a longer, fuzzier shadow. 

Some photographers will even measure their light fall off – this act goes by the name ‘inverse square law of light’. Basically, every time you double your distance from an object, you’ll need to quadruple your light source’s intensity to match. If this method is a little too mathematical, just practice shifting your light source in a studio to get the hang of light intensity. 

an example of a softbox-like umbrella and lighting set up being used outside

Source Image: Pixabay

What are the Different Types of Softboxes? 

The softbox earned its name due to its boxy shape, but it actually comes in several shapes and sizes. These different types will change everything from intensity of lighting to even the style (such as noir lighting).


What is the most versatile softbox? It’s easily the square – this softbox is ideal for creating soft and gentle light with the flick of a button.

Another useful aspect is the square shape which neatly resembles a television screen or a window. As such, you can get extra creative with your photography by carving out a square shape of light.


This softbox earned its title for the dramatic strip of light it creates. Not only that, it’ll also create varied shadows – a sharp shadow on one side and a soft, fuzzy shadow on the other.

Artistic photography with shifting and dramatic light sources will benefit from the strip softbox. You can also use the strip softbox to take particularly surreal portraits with heavy shadows. Since the lighting isn’t even like the square softbox, you can even recreate the classical chiaroscuro technique

Last but not least, you can recreate shafts of light depending on how close or far you position the strip softbox. If you’ve ever admired how the setting sun carves golden lines on your living room wall, recreate it with a strip softbox.


The rectagonal softbox frequently appears in subject-focused photography thanks to how neatly it lights up the focal point. Since the light is more centered than spread out, the background can remain darker for stronger contrast. 

Try using the rectagonal for portrait photography or product photography to keep the subject the focal point. 


When you want to diffuse your light more, a hexagonal softbox is one of the best options available. Thanks to its six sided shape, your lighting will spread around a subject or model very evenly.

Many photographers use the hexagonal softbox to approach a wide variety of subjects that need gentle, even lighting. This softbox is also similar to its octagonal cousin. Speaking of which…


Want your lighting source to be extra buttery? The octagonal softbox is like the square softbox taken to eleven, utilizing multiple edges to create a silky spread of light.

While the octagonal softbox is incredibly versatile for many photography niches, photographers favor it for recreating outdoor lighting. If your weather isn’t cooperating or you just don’t feel like going outside, the octagonal softbox recreates sunlight nicely. 

This lamp achieves this effect by reducing light spills. The edges of an octagonal softbox are still defined, so you get a little extra control while still creating a soft and natural light source. 

Parabolic (or Deep)

The parabolic softbox (also known as a deep softbox) is technically a mixture of a softbox and a lighting modifier. This hybrid lighting source use an umbrella shape and occasionally a grid to break up light. 

While this softbox sounds complex, it’s actually one of the simplest to use thanks to its versatility and easy set up. Opening or closing the ‘umbrella’ will change the strength of the light, as well as the direction. 


What if you needed to spread lighting throughout a very large space? The lantern softbox is the go-to option for photographers who need to snap shots of an entire room.

These softboxes earned their name thanks to their round and lantern-like shape. Photographers will often place these softboxes on a very tall mount to spread light as much as possible.

a close up shot of a hanging light bulb with the background lights blurred

Source Image: Pixabay

Quick Rundown on Softbox Light Bulbs 

Choosing the right light bulbs for your setup will affect how appealing your lighting looks. Some photographers prefer colored lights, while others may go for a more traditional set-up.

Below you’ll learn the financial and artistic benefits of different light bulbs. 

Consider Cool and Warm Light Bulbs

Did you know the preference for cool vs warm light bulbs can come from where you were raised? People in warm environments tend to prefer cool light sources, while people in cold environments often prefer warm.

Switching between warm and cool lighting will greatly enhance your end result – you’ll be able to experiment more with different moods as well as bring out the best in certain colors. For example, cool lighting tends to make warmer objects or subjects pop out more.

Light bulb names are easy enough to sort through. Cool white light bulbs are best for cooler lighting, while warm white is for warmer settings.

Choose LED Light Bulbs Over Incandescent 

LED light bulbs are significantly more efficient than their incandescent cousins. They use around 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs while also lasting much, much longer. 

Since photography studios can be pretty energy intensive, LED light bulbs will save you money on your electricity bill. Likewise, you won’t have to change your light bulbs out as often (with the exception of artistic preference, of course).

a man resting against a wall with sunlight pouring through window blinds

Source Image:  Pixabay

What are Softbox Accessories? 

Once you purchase softboxes for your photography studio, accessories will further expand your artistic abilities. Keep in mind that accessories and modifiers are not the same thing – softboxes are lighting modifiers, while accessories attach to the modifier.

The main function of a softbox accessory is to change the style of the lighting. This style could replicate common lighting patterns found in everyday life, such as the repetitive pattern of sunlight through window blinds. Photographers can even create their own unique designs using strips of paper or plastic to place over the softbox.

Choosing the best softbox accessories for your studio starts with asking: what are you trying to make and why?

a spread of scissors and thread on white paper on a brown table

Source Image: Pixabay

Popular Softbox Accessories For Your Studio 

While there are dozens of accessories you can use for studio lighting, a few are popular for their versatility and ease of use. These accessories will ensure you’re getting the full range of potential from your equipment.


The function of a softbox grid is to control the light spill. Appearing similar to a honeycomb or a chain link fence, all you have to do is place this grid over your softbox before shooting.

While softboxes are wonderful for creating soft and even light, they can sometimes spill that light in unwanted areas. The grid will ensure you create a spotlight-like effect, landing a beam of light only where you want it.


The stripmask is immediately recognizable for its long, narrow shape. Unlike the grid’s more rounded, spotlight-like result, the stripmask creates striking lines of light.

If you want to create a moody beam of light landing over a model’s eyes, the stripmask is a great choice. Likewise, you can also recreate a shaft of sunlight through a curtain. The stripmask’s bold, narrow shape provides wonderful contrast to surrounding shadows and is perfect for dramatic photography.


When you want to project an image or a pattern onto a subject, look no further than the quirkily named gobo. This softbox accessory is incredibly versatile, able to form just about anything you put your mind to.

Do you want to project the image of a running wolf? Create a stencil with a scissor and paper, then place it over your softbox. Do you want to split up multiple streaks of light to recreate light falling through window blinds? Just place several strips of paper over your softbox and you’re good to go(bo).

an example of a photography kit showing multiple cameras and lenses in a black and gray bag

Source Image: Pixabay

What is a Softbox Kit and Why Are They Useful? 

A softbox lighting kit gives you several modifiers and/or accessories in one convenient place. These bundles are useful when you want to save time and money putting together your set-up.

You Get a Carry Case for Easy Transportation

Do you need to take your photography studio on-the-go-? A softbox kit comes with a carry case with convenient pockets and slots for easy transportation. 

Instead of attempting to pack and organize everything into a suitcase, you’ll have an easier time pulling out what you need, when you need it. 

Multiple Types of Lighting for Getting Started Quickly

With so many softbox modifiers and accessories at your disposal, it’s understandable to get a little intimidating. A kit chooses a few basic tools for you so you can get started quickly.

Common combinations in softbox lighting are two or three main light sources with a carrying case and a few spare light bulbs. For example, a popular beginner’s softbox lighting kit has two standard softboxes with several warm and cool light bulbs. 

However, you can technically choose any combination of softbox lighting depending on where you shop. Some softbox lighting kits will come with completely different types of lighting, such as a speedlight.

Save Money Compared to Buying Everything Individually

Buying individual softboxes or accessories can rack up costs quickly. A softbox lighting kit will usually be a little cheaper since everything is already bundled together and isn’t subject to individual shipping and taxes.

a photographer holding a black DSLR in a bright environment

Source Image: Pixabay

Tips For Choosing the Best Softboxes for Your Studio

Now that you understand different types of softboxes and accessories as well as their uses, you need to choose a few for your studio. Some of these can also be taken with you on-the-go, depending on their size and weight.

Choose the Best Size for Your Lifestyle

Do you like to pack up your studio and take it with you? You’ll probably want smaller softboxes and mounts that won’t drag you down from place-to-place.

Stick Within Your Budget

You don’t need to break the bank when setting up a photography studio. Many softbox lighting kits hover between $50 to $100 for standard lighting, a carry case, and a few extra bulbs.

Gauge Your Experience Level

Whether you’re still a beginner or inching into intermediate, your equipment should match. Buying incredibly complex lighting equipment that requires more maintenance could prove too taxing.

The good news is that the most basic softboxes are used by beginner, intermediate, and experienced photographers alike. Simple square, hexagonal, and octagonal shapes are remarkably diverse for a variety of subjects and niches.

an example of effective softbox lighting showing a wedding set up with candles, plates, and plants

Source Image: Pixabay

Conclusion: Softboxes are a Versatile Tool to Bring Out Your Subject’s Best Side 

Softboxes are one of the best tools in a photographer’s arsenal for crafting compelling lighting. Whether you want to go buttery soft or create dramatic strips, an entire world of possibility is at your fingertips.

Softboxes come in a wealth of shapes and sizes such as the standard square, hexagon, and octagon. You can also add variety to your lighting by switching between cool and warm light bulbs. LED light bulbs are the best option thanks to their energy efficiency, costing you much less over time than incandescent varieties.

You can further modify softboxes with accessories such as grids or stripmasks. These tools allow you to shape light or control issues such as light spill. When you want to save time and money putting together a studio set up, a softbox lighting kit is the way to go. These bundles save you money by having multiple pieces ready to go without the need to buy each individually.

With so much fine control over your lighting, you’ll be able to meet the demands of your niche or artistic preference much more easily.


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