Soft directional light - beauty dish or soft box with grid?

gayle23

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I am planning on creating a small home studio set up just for me to explore and get better at my photography. I don't have lots of cash. I like more dramatic, low key moody lighting so I don't think a soft box by itself would be a great option for me but wandering what anyone's thoughts are on whether a beauty dish would be better than a soft box with a grid for that directional yet still soft lighting. I don't have the money for both to experiment with. Any thoughts would be useful. Thanks I gain so much knowledge from here.
 

ronlane

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You will get softer light from the softbox and a lot of them you can get an egg-crate grid for them.

I just got a 38" octabox yesterday and when I set it up and did a quick test, I was very happy with the softness of it. I also moved it around just to see and the fall off of light made some really dramatic lighting that I haven't done before.

I did not get the grid for it but I could see where it would be very useful.
 

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I use a 22" beauty dish with a grid as the key in many of my portraits. It can produce (IMO) wonderful, directional light. This image was illuminated solely with the gridded beauty dish, high and right:
VPP_2_Small.jpg


A softbox with an egg-crate will work well too.
 

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I don't have the money for both to experiment with. Any thoughts would be useful.
Have a look at photographer's or teaching websites to see what effect each kind of light will produce.
 

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Soft box is a lot softer than a BD. A BD is great for specular highlights. I have both a white and silver BD and 4 softboxes. A BD is a lot easier to setup and stow but not nearly as versatile as a good softbox.

Outdoors I use a BD or nothing.

If you have a BD and use the sock you are softening those specular highlights but then what you have is a smaller softbox.
 

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The MOST-versatile tool would be a rectangular softbox of about 3 x 4 feet in size, which is 36 x 48 inches. That softbox would offer an interior, transluscent fabric removable diffusion baffle. It would also offer removable silver interior panels that could be put in or taken out, as desired. It would have a recessed face or recessed front panel. It would offer a removable egg crate grid option. THAT would be the "dream" 3 x 4 foot softbox.

Recessed face softboxes are more-adaptable than flush-face boxes. Having a fabric egg crate grid on the front is super-useful, especially in small shooting areas, and when you want to keep the light "close", and not have it spill all over, or hit the background. Being able to move the front face or front diffusion panel back, into the box about 3 inches, gives that recessed face control over the spread of the light that leaves the box: less side-spill, more control with the front recessed. Luckily, many boxes that have a grid option available are designed with the front panel recessed, to allow room for the grid to velcro in.

The issue with the 3 x 4 foot size box is that it is somewhat large in smaller environments, like in homes, or in low-ceilinged rooms, and that's where smaller boxes, like the square 28 x 28 inch size, are handy.

I personally think that a beauty dish's main characteristics can be mostly replicated by a well-tuned SMALL umbrella. If you have the funds for just one modifier, I would get a softbox over a beauty dish, for sure.
 

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Designer said:
Have a look at photographer's or teaching websites to see what effect each kind of light will produce.

Gayle, This is a great place to start, but is based mostly on having a speedlight flash, a light stand, and an umbrella as the basic kit.
Strobist: Lighting 101
 
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gayle23

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I use a 22" beauty dish with a grid as the key in many of my portraits. It can produce (IMO) wonderful, directional light. This image was illuminated solely with the gridded beauty dish, high and right:
VPP_2_Small.jpg


A softbox with an egg-crate will work well too.
Great, thanks for that.
 
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gayle23

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The MOST-versatile tool would be a rectangular softbox of about 3 x 4 feet in size, which is 36 x 48 inches. That softbox would offer an interior, transluscent fabric removable diffusion baffle. It would also offer removable silver interior panels that could be put in or taken out, as desired. It would have a recessed face or recessed front panel. It would offer a removable egg crate grid option. THAT would be the "dream" 3 x 4 foot softbox.

Recessed face softboxes are more-adaptable than flush-face boxes. Having a fabric egg crate grid on the front is super-useful, especially in small shooting areas, and when you want to keep the light "close", and not have it spill all over, or hit the background. Being able to move the front face or front diffusion panel back, into the box about 3 inches, gives that recessed face control over the spread of the light that leaves the box: less side-spill, more control with the front recessed. Luckily, many boxes that have a grid option available are designed with the front panel recessed, to allow room for the grid to velcro in.

The issue with the 3 x 4 foot size box is that it is somewhat large in smaller environments, like in homes, or in low-ceilinged rooms, and that's where smaller boxes, like the square 28 x 28 inch size, are handy.

I personally think that a beauty dish's main characteristics can be mostly replicated by a well-tuned SMALL umbrella. If you have the funds for just one modifier, I would get a softbox over a beauty dish, for sure.
Ok cool, I will go for a soft box with a grid first I think and invest in a BD later if I have the funds. I recently watched a tutorial by Tony Corbel who said to go for a soft box that is about the size of what you are wanting to take pics of. I think he recommended the 3 x 4 box too for portraits. Thanks for your time.
 

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Here is what a simple 28 x 28 inch softbox with a fabric egg crate grid looks like, with the subject standing about five feet in front of a very pale, gray-painted living room wall. The softbox was about two-arms-outstretched or a "wingspan" away from her. This was in a low-ceilinged living room, with just one Speedo Brown Line flash at 50 Watt-seconds (full-power on say a Nikon SB 800 flash) firing inside of a low-cost Made in China, no-name softbox with is 6-row x 6-column fabric egg crate grid. Shot last week, with a 50mm lens at f/10 on an old crop-frame Nikon from 2005
DSC_1961_Ameerah_1904x_BW.JPG


I left the forehead UN-smoothed, and the close arm as well, so you can see that the light is mostly soft, but it will reveal some detail as well; if this had been shot with a beauty dish, the skin detail and the shadows would have been harder. I took the Lightroom brush and applied some minus sharpness to the wall areas around her, but most of the rest of the frame is un-retouched, so you can get an idea of how a small, 28" x 28" grid-equipped softbox looks at 67 inches or so from a person. The 3 x 4 foot softbox would have been a bit softer, but also likely would have "lit up" the wall behind her more.

Personally, I kind of prefer the more "shadowy" look of the 28" x 28" boxes to the 36 x 48 inch boxes, especially if I am going to convert to B&W, as I did here. I think for lighting in black and white, a crisper, more-shadowed look reveals shapes better,and looks better too.
 
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gayle23

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@gayle23 - That is a really good person to watch tutorials from. I love Tony's stuff. I am reading his book Light and Shadow at the moment.
Yes, he really seems to know his stuff and isn't overly complicated in how he teaches which is good for me! It's amazing being able to learn so much from free tutorials. I will look up that book. Thanks
 
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gayle23

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Here is what a simple 28 x 28 inch softbox with a fabric egg crate grid looks like, with the subject standing about five feet in front of a very pale, gray-painted living room wall. The softbox was about two-arms-outstretched or a "wingspan" away from her. This was in a low-ceilinged living room, with just one Speedo Brown Line flash at 50 Watt-seconds (full-power on say a Nikon SB 800 flash) firing inside of a low-cost Made in China, no-name softbox with is 6-row x 6-column fabric egg crate grid. Shot last week, with a 50mm lens at f/10 on an old crop-frame Nikon from 2005View attachment 134830

I left the forehead UN-smoothed, and the close arm as well, so you can see that the light is mostly soft, but it will reveal some detail as well; if this had been shot with a beauty dish, the skin detail and the shadows would have been harder. I took the Lightroom brush and applied some minus sharpness to the wall areas around her, but most of the rest of the frame is un-retouched, so you can get an idea of how a small, 28" x 28" grid-equipped softbox looks at 67 inches or so from a person. The 3 x 4 foot softbox would have been a bit softer, but also likely would have "lit up" the wall behind her more.

Personally, I kind of prefer the more "shadowy" look of the 28" x 28" boxes to the 36 x 48 inch boxes, especially if I am going to convert to B&W, as I did here. I think for lighting in black and white, a crisper, more-shadowed look reveals shapes better,and looks better too.
Yes I like a bit more contrast and I love black and white photos. Great thanks for that, it's good to get an example. I watched a couple of tutorials yesterday on using a beauty dish and they seemed to suggest it better for younger skin as it will bring out wrinkles with the light being a bit harder like you said.
 
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gayle23

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Designer said:
Have a look at photographer's or teaching websites to see what effect each kind of light will produce.

Gayle, This is a great place to start, but is based mostly on having a speedlight flash, a light stand, and an umbrella as the basic kit.
Strobist: Lighting 101
I looked this before as someone else on here recommended it. I need to go back to it. Thanks
 

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