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Add Soft Lighting to your off-camera flash

The modern day external flash unit is a vital accessory for indoor portraits, still life, food shots and more.

Light that originates from a small source such as an external flash unit is harsher than light that originates from a larger source. To “soften” the lighting especially for portraits, photographers often use “modifiers” to alter the lighting to something more pleasing. Most of the modifiers work by spreading the light out over a larger area.

LumiQuest has been a well-known maker of modifiers for many years. Among their bestsellers is the Softbox III. When I was attending the WPPI Expo, Heidi one of LumiQuest’s principals gave me a quick demonstration of this lightweight device. I was so impressed that I ordered one when I returned home.

The concentrated light from the flash bounces inside the reflector of the Softbox III and passes through the translucent material covering its face. Instead of harsh light originating from the small flash head, a softer light originates from a much larger reflector.

Follow along as I show you how I’ve used the Softbox III to improve the lighting on some of my recent portraits.

When it’s disassembled, the Softbox III folds flat to a 8″ x 9″ size, making it convenient to take anywhere.

As folded, it easily fits in the outer pocket of my camera bag so is always available when I’m carrying my external flash.

Before using it for the first time, you’ll have to complete a one-time preparation.

The Softbox III attaches to the flash unit with a series of velcro strips.

Here I’m peeling the adhesive backing from a small velcro strip and sticking in onto the outer shell of my flash unit.

Now I attach the four sides of the Softbox III by pressing each flap onto the velco thereby forming the body of the reflector.

It takes a quick 60 seconds to go from flat to ready-to-use.

When fully assembled, the Softbox III looks substantial but weighs only a few ounces so adds virtually no additional weight to your flash setup.

Here’s how the setup appears when my external flash is mounted on an L-bracket sitting above the camera lens.

So how nice of a job does the Softbox III do in softening the light?

Below are a series of photos – left side is the external flash without Softbox II and right side with Softbox III attached.

without Softbox III

with Softbox III

without Softbox III

with Softbox III

without Softbox III

with Softbox III

Notice that the Softbox III reduces the intensity of the shadows. You’ll also see a substantial reduction in contrast. And another by-product is the larger size of the catchlights in the eyes.

Judging from the above result, I’ve found that the Softbox III an effective way to improve external flash portraits. It’s affordable at less than $40 and very convenient for using just about anywhere.

For more information about the Softbox III or any of their similar modifiers visit LumiQuest.

Please note that Stay Focused has no connection to LumiQuest.


Written by Arnie Lee


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