4 Creative Ways to Use a Softbox

Softboxes are by far the most popular light shaping tools for photographers. They provide you with all that you need in order to create an array of lighting scenarios for most types of shoots, from portraits to fashion to wedding and beyond. But it takes some creativity to get the most out of softboxes. Andrea Belluso shows us four creative ways to use a softbox:

Belluso is a fashion and beauty photographer who shoots high-street fashion. He demonstrates four different lighting arrangements in this video: silhouette, top light, hard light, and a softbox turned even softer when used within a cage.

Side Light

This arrangement uses a total of three lights, two of which are fired through softboxes of two different sizes. The first one, which in this case is the rim light, is a B1 inside a 1/3 softbox. The light is gelled with a blue gel, which produces a blue highlight on the subject’s shoulders and torso.

side lighting with a softbox

Softbox as a side light

The main light, also a sidelight, is a larger D1 inside a 1/6 strip softbox with a stripmask. The stripmask narrows down the spread of light.

The third light, a background light—also a gelled B2—is aimed straight at the background.

softbox lighting for fashion shoot

Side Light

Hard Light

This technique uses a softbox to produce a hard light. The farther the source of light is from a subject, the smaller its relative size and the harder the light produced by it. Belluso puts this theory into practice in this setup. He also removes the internal and external diffusers on the softbox and uses a gelled B1 to fire at the background to produce colored shadows.

hardlighting with a softbox

Softbox as a hard light

Hard light gives you a lot of detail in the model’s clothing and accessories. You can literally see the individual strands of thread on the garments worn by the model. The shadows are sharper, and overall the image looks a lot more ‘edgy’ than when shot with a softer light.

hard light with softbox

Hard Light

Top Light

A ¾ softbox with a soft grid is the key light for this setup. The background light is a B1 with a gel.

unique lighting ideas with softboxes

Toplighting with a softbox

Due to the top angle of the light, the bottom part of the image has a lot of deep shadows. Notice the pleated areas of the model’s pants and the bottom of the shirt.

toplighting with sotftbox

Top Light


In this lighting arrangement, the main light comes from behind the subject through a diffusing screen fired by a 4/6 RFi softbox. The only light from the front of the subject is reflected. An off center light (a B1 with a warming gel) adds some warming colors to the subject’s head.

cage lighting

Caged Softbox

soft backlighting with softbox


Hopefully this helps you think more creatively about lighting with a softbox. Try out these setups and let us know how it goes!

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