The Best Position for your Softbox: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey


In this video I show you why simply moving your Softbox will radically change the look and feel of your portraits. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching AdoramaTV brought to you by Adorama, the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers and today you join me in my small home studio. Now you might think working in a small studio space means you have to use a small light modifier, well you’d be mostly right if I’m honest with you but I do have something a bit bigger. I’ve got this. This is a 48 inch by 16 inch strip box. Yes I know it is a big light source. It’s a wide light source when you use it this way around and that’s how I like to use it for headshots, but it also opens up some questions being fairly large where should it be positioned for best use? Should it be in front of the model? Should the model be in the middle? Or should it be behind the model? Well the answer is it depends on the look you want to achieve and that’s what we’re going to explore in this video. So let’s get some light set, let’s get a model in, let’s get shooting! So to help me out today I’ve got the amazing Brian. Brian is going to be the model for this shoot and he is not going to move. The distance between Brian and the background will remain exactly the same throughout all these shots. The only thing that’s going to move is the position of the Softbox, so we can see how that affects the pictures. Now to begin with, I’m going to start with a fairly standard position for a Softbox. In other words it’s in front of Brian. I’ve already metered this out for f/5.6 Let’s take a picture, see how it looks? Okay Brian here we go and what we get here is just a classically lit portrait. There’s a little bit of shadow on Brian’s right-hand side as we look at the picture and when Brian turns to look towards the light source, well it’s a very similar story. For my next setup what I’ve done is moved the Softbox backwards, so now the back of the Softbox is more or less in line with the back of Brian’s head. This is actually my go-to lighting setup for head-shots. It means that most of the surface of the Softbox is in front of Brian. That means we get light coming all the way around, wrapping around and lighting well both the side nearest the Softbox and a little bit on the cheeks over this side too, but being closer to the light it will affect the exposure. I could do trial and error or I can just get my flash meter and work out how much light is on Brian and it is f/8 so I’ve gained a stop. I can either dial in f/8 or just turn the power of the flash down which is what I’m going to do and I can get back to f/5.6, okay let’s take a shot like this. Okay Brian here we go. Now we have a portrait with a lot more contrast. There’s plenty of shadow on the right hand side but there’s also plenty of detail. I can see Brian’s eye. There’s a catch light in it and even when Brian turns towards the light source, this still works and has a lovely three-dimensional feel. Now I’ve moved the light so it is exactly central on Brian. There’s as much light on the back of him as on the front. Now in theory this should give me a split light look; a lit side and a shady side, but before I take the picture to prove that I’m going to check the exposure. If you’ve moved the light, check your exposure, here we go and in fact it’s exactly the same as it was before, so that’s great! Let’s take the picture. Okay here we go. This is exactly what I expected. There’s a bright side and a dark side and in those shadows there’s very little detail, not even a catch light but when Brian turns to look towards the light it’s a different story. This works fantastically well as a portrait and the background, well that slightly brighter because of course the Softbox is closer to it. So finally I’ve got the Softbox, so Brian is in line with the front edge. That means almost all of the Softbox is behind him. That should give some interesting effects. Firstly it means much more of the light is going to reach this background that should go a lighter tone of gray and very little light is actually going to reach Brian. Certainly very little on this side of him at least but the challenging part of this is actually getting the metering right. Now I could get my flash meter and point it at the camera? If I do that I’m only getting f/2.2 I need to meter it for the light. I want to meter it for the highlights, so I’m going to point my flash meter actually at the flash and I get f/5. That’s still not quite f/5.6 so I can adjust it and get back to f/5.6 Okay let’s take this picture. Now the background is much brighter which is to be expected and the shadows on Brian’s face, well they’re creeping evermore to the left-hand side as we look at the picture. When Brian turns towards the light, well actually I can see a little bit of detail in the eye on the right-hand side and this would make a great portrait if the background was a nice deep dark black. So as you can see by moving the Softbox around, we can completely change the look on Brian, so let’s do a little bit more creative photography. I’m going to change the light around and we’ll take a few pictures, so Brian are you ready? Okay let’s do a shoot. So let’s start by getting that Softbox back to the front of you, so let’s move that Softbox so you’re in the middle and then because more light will reach the background I’m going to put a different background in. Something with some texture. Right that Softbox is all the way behind you now, so I’m going to need to turn the chair a little bit just so you look into that front edge of the light. So where should you place your Softbox in relation to your model for the best portraits? Well the answer is; everywhere! Because the more you move your light the more you’ll learn and the more variety you’ll be able to create in your portraits. Now if you’ve enjoyed this video, don’t forget to leave me a comment below and of course don’t forget to click on that subscribe button and to get notifications of all of our new uploads on AdoramaTV, click on the bell icon. I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

100 Comments

  1. Doug Hounslow January 17, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Nice one Gavin. I will try at my home studio, I only have a 12"x36" but, worth a try.

  2. Zack January 17, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Is that an ad200 in the softbox?

    Edit: yes it is, should have checked the description first 🤣

  3. Atif Hameed January 17, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    Love it… ❤

  4. Mike Kanir January 17, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    I'm wondering what the total time for the shoot was. Set manipulation does take a bit of time. Thanks Gavin

  5. Graham Culleton January 17, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Awesome as always Gavin.

  6. Dave Cooley January 17, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Don't forget to change your own position ..

  7. Paul January 17, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    This is just my thing at the moment, very interesting and I'll be trying this out for sure.

  8. Nelson Bustamante January 17, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Did I say you are my best online photographer tutor yet? Thanks!!!

  9. BMB January 17, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve left all my soft box set up ready for when I get home tonight so this video came at good time and given me some good poses for my self portrait project I’m doing. Thanks Gav! I’ll tag you in the final results on my Instagram!

  10. Kevin Stallard January 17, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Gavin thank you for providing so much detail….

  11. Matt Moser January 17, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Being that guy, but C-stand legs in the wrong position. Thanks for the tips.

  12. GUTOM January 17, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Gavin HOEY!

  13. Veselin Vasilev January 17, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you!

  14. Appollo Studio January 17, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Very Fine

  15. Tosin Peter Okunowo January 17, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Can I have a number I could call and ask some questions? Am a beginner. With a small room studio and have 3 softbox. 1 is bigger.

  16. mts389 January 17, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Which pop-up background did you use?

  17. dunnymonster January 17, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Excellent as always Gavin! PS I've got that same collapsable Grey/Blue background, nightmare to get it closed back up! 😋😊

  18. Ivan Boden January 17, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Where can I get that red cover you have on your Sekonic meter?

  19. Mike James January 17, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Thank you, Gavin. (I think you could photograph an empty tabletop and make it fun and interesting… I've always appreciated your enthusiasm!)

  20. Jens Erik Thyholdt January 17, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Thanks. I love all your videos Gavin. Very educational. Been incredibly fun with you in a workshop once 🙂

  21. Barky Von Schnauzer January 17, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    I always get great tips from Gavin and they always work when I try them out. Thanks

  22. Sultan AlZaabi January 17, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Fantastic testing

  23. Kevin Ridley January 17, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    gavin you're my go to guy when it comes to any lighting or effects, love what you come up with keep em coming looking forward to the next video

  24. Tracy Edwards January 17, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Final image in the jacket was great!

  25. clark conway January 17, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    Of all the videos I watch on You Tube, Gavin's are the easiest to understand and recreate which makes for great practice!  Thx!!!

  26. Bhavesh Karia January 17, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    awesome video. so happy to see brian after so long 🙂

  27. Jenny Gavin-Wear January 17, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    Oblong catchlights, hmm.

  28. Pedro Courelas January 17, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    Gavin, the best of the bests…

  29. Hairy Banana January 17, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Reposting videos ? This seems old like at least 5 years old . I guess gavin doesn’t age .

  30. Paul Bivins January 17, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    Your the best Gavin

  31. Simon R January 17, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    So simply explained – brilliant

  32. Jürgen Kaßnitz January 18, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Hi, Gavin, great work, well done ! But IMO the light source shines always from the left side from the photographers point of view, neither from the back nor the front, you`ve only changed the position of the soft box or of Brian a little bit, but nevertheless good looking results.

  33. Jose A. Justiniano January 18, 2019 at 1:24 am

    Very nice Gavin can you do the same wit softbox bulb sistem?

  34. stewart munro January 18, 2019 at 3:14 am

    What brand is the collapsible backdrop ?

  35. Peter Wang January 18, 2019 at 3:33 am

    Another great video, Gavin!

  36. godsakes January 18, 2019 at 7:19 am

    insightful as always Gav

  37. Ryan JAO January 18, 2019 at 8:38 am

    thanks for this ~

  38. Harald Harnang January 18, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I am always learning something, more or less, from Gavin. But I always turn out to be in a happier mode when ending, than when starting. Such a positive attitude. Thanks, Gavin!

  39. Tony Aleman January 18, 2019 at 9:36 am

    48"? Unless gavin is really short. That box is a lot larger than 48".

  40. Scott Williams Photography January 18, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Superb!

  41. Marco Borroni January 18, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Hi Gavin, your tutorials are great! I would have mentioned that side walls with black curtains are needed to achieve the results you presented. I hope my comment complements your excellent video

  42. Chris Waddell January 18, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Excellent!

  43. The Restart Specialist January 18, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    I really love this video and have reconsidered getting a large soft box. This really helped me and really appreciate the video. Do you get the same results when you have the soft box vertical? Thank you

  44. Jay G. January 18, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    What about showing the true reason for using a strip light—vertical backlight!

  45. Impostertot January 18, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Thanks for the tips Gavin. Best shot for me 6:19. Cheers!

  46. Raymond Isbill January 18, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    Another great video. One side not is that the further to the side the light is the more pronounced skin imperfections will usually be. That means more retouching work but it is a great effect.

  47. Doug Butcher January 19, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Gavin, as usual another great tutorial. You make it look so simple. Keep up the GREAT work.

  48. jose rivera January 19, 2019 at 2:27 am

    Thanks Gavin. I always learn a lot from your videos.

  49. Ibu Bumi January 19, 2019 at 8:39 am

    "I got the amazing Bryan!"
    Bryan wave unamusely.

    I chuckled.

    You are so funny, with your pretty accent and your pretty spirit, makes me want to conquer the world. Thanks so much i love you Gavin!

  50. Luis Gabriel Photography January 19, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Always great content from Gavin

  51. glennskitchen January 19, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Great stuff

  52. Mario January 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Gavin I see that you are using mostly a crop sensor camera, why you are not using a full frame?

  53. Debby January 19, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Always superb Gavin!

  54. j k January 19, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you ,can you make video about how to make this constant wall background diy

  55. bill mcfadden January 20, 2019 at 3:39 am

    How far is the subject from the background?

  56. bill mcfadden January 20, 2019 at 3:41 am

    Love how you discuss how to meter properly

  57. Afroj Alam January 20, 2019 at 5:44 am

    thanks man…🙂🙂

  58. J. Janssen January 20, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Hey Gavin. Great video. One question for the last image with leather Jacket. Did you do post editing and If so, how??

  59. Merlene Tanke January 20, 2019 at 10:47 am

    Very helpful and informative. Thank you Gavin.

  60. Shin Illuits January 21, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Thanks Gavin

  61. johan bauwens January 21, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Don't move Brian ! 🙂

  62. FlashedBySanele Makhanya January 21, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    .. brother Gavin your intros always give me life hehehe 😀😄😀😄😀😄😂 and your reviews are simple and effective! Your work is appreciated all the way from the Kingdom of eSwatini

  63. Jim Davis January 22, 2019 at 5:00 am

    Thank you Gavin! Always great tutorials!

  64. Neil Snape January 22, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Well if you put the light higher you have less light on his neck, if you use a round source like an octagon, you have more natural shadows and of course a more attractive round catchlight in the eyes.

  65. mohamed abdel-hady January 22, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I wish to see you photographing food Gavin

  66. BEN HADDADA SOFIEN January 22, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    thanks Gavin Hoey, thanks Adorama 🙂

  67. Marky P January 22, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    Wow amazing video. Explained so well, thanks.

  68. YoungBlaze January 23, 2019 at 8:08 am

    wait shouldn't you have the big leg of the C-stand toward the model? :You are putting brians life in danger!………….lol j/k i just wanted to say that because every YouTube comment that shows a soft-box on a c stand always trigger people……..but all jokes aside #BrianLifeMatters

  69. Sharron Johnson January 23, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    You’re great! Would this work the same way with an Einstien light and med octobox?

  70. James Mason January 24, 2019 at 6:28 am

    Great examples and work as always. Can you please tell me where you got that backdrop at the end from.??

  71. nh1949.art January 24, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Bardzo dobra praca, super porady, tak trzymać 🙂

  72. Iam Zelix January 26, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Gavin is the best. I've learned more from his tutorials in 5 minutes than a lifetime with other videos and tutors.

  73. Ed Figgs January 28, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    You are the best Gavin.

  74. Ruthann Hiner January 28, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Very informative – thanks!

  75. Mr Jee January 31, 2019 at 3:35 am

    I am always curious on where the flash are in these videos. No one seem to explain that. It doesn’t look like you use the cameraflash(?)

  76. James Vela February 1, 2019 at 11:14 pm

    Gavin Hoey is the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be!

  77. shiva prakash February 5, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Amazing!!!!!!

  78. Andre Alfred February 5, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    you didn't list the collapsible background

  79. Sirengo Brian February 6, 2019 at 5:05 am

    I love the way this guy talks.

  80. Niamathulla Sahib Mohamed Kalideen February 7, 2019 at 2:58 am

    Great tutorial

  81. J Deschamps February 7, 2019 at 3:24 am

    Where's that backdrop from? Love it!

  82. Two Masyutas February 14, 2019 at 2:56 am

    Awesome vibes, always! Very rare among self proclaimed photography gurus. Gavin is simply the best technically, artistically and personality wise.

  83. Leo Ma February 18, 2019 at 1:48 am

    Awesome tutorial and good looking model.

  84. Kalai Kennedy-Lynam February 23, 2019 at 2:05 am

    Men photographers are all about that black/white portrait, however, allllll the females I’ve photographed hate….HATE that lighting on their faces. Must be a men vs women thing.

  85. Dasein Dani February 23, 2019 at 5:18 am

    Adorama … Awesome

  86. Amarindra Ardinova February 24, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Gavin, u r my favorite !!!

  87. Mark Iuzzolino February 24, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Did you use the strip box for the effect or could you get the same result with an octabox?

  88. José Campos February 25, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Gavin. Your videos is fun to watch and you learn a lot. If you have a larger room would you still have the box that close? I have a really big softbox 120x 90 cm but i dont use it as much as my 40×60 for portraits headshots. Do you have tutorials outdoor offcamera flash at day time?
    // Jose

  89. Jim Mauch March 6, 2019 at 1:09 am

    With a strip is a standard power Speedlite able to get even light coverage left to right taking into account the all Softboxes have some degree of center hotspots?

  90. mc hobbyfotografie March 12, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    since a few months I have been infected with the photography virus 🙂

    After browsing the internet for tips and ideas, I came across your YouTube channel last week

    Your explanation is great and above all easy to understand

    The only problem I have now is that I have little time to go to work ,, I just keep watching your videos 🙂

    geezz am i addicted now ? haha

    but have a question, Gavin,,
    and saw it a few times in your studio ,,

    you just see the recording of the video clearly with good light,
    and when you show your test photo's are wonderfull dark in the background ,,

    so the question is ,,
    do you tunr the light off in the studio ? when you take the photo or how should I see it?
    it seems to me the light in the studio must have some impact on the photo ?

  91. Svajoniųdarželio pedagogai March 13, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Nice ! I have a question, how to create textured background like yours? 🙂

  92. Rene Timbang March 21, 2019 at 10:08 am

    another great tuturial Gavin!!

  93. norman plant March 29, 2019 at 5:38 am

    Last frame takes the cake – Gav !!!!

  94. Skytalker777 May 2, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Excellent, very helpful!

  95. Salvador Ocampo May 6, 2019 at 4:23 am

    Gavin's is the best , I have learn a lot from him!

  96. sameer saini June 7, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    You make it look so easy

  97. Run N Gun June 10, 2019 at 2:10 am

    That's an AWESOME Soft Box! Thanks for sharing Gary & Adorama!

  98. Mark W August 1, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    There was some great images in there. Unbelievable to think that was just off one light! Brilliant.

  99. Iain Cathro August 29, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Gavin is brilliant – leaning so much from these videos. Thank you.

  100. H2O_Atlanta September 7, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Damn, I've had this same strip box for 2 months and haven't thought to use it like this, nice!

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