How to Feather Your Light Source with a Soft Box

Anyone can use a strobe and point it directly at their subject but this won’t always give us the best image. This video tutorial shows us how we can finesse our light source using a technique called feathering that creates more natural looking images. We can start to learn how to control our light with a soft box:

Feathering is simple: it’s the act of adjusting our soft box and our light source to gain control over what is being lit. We’re reminded that large soft boxes around our light will cast a softer light and small soft boxes will cast a harder light. Feathering works both outdoors or in a studio with some small differences.

Feathering Outdoors

If you start your shoot by just setting up your light source, pointing it head on at your subject, and clicking, then everything will be lit. This includes the ground, grass, and background objects.

feathering light

Everything will be illuminated and the image will look like you’re using a strobe. We can feather our light to create a more natural looking vignette. We do this by pointing the soft box towards the camera and up off the ground. This puts your subject in the edges of the light and stops it from illuminating the ground and stray background items. A feathered light also looks more natural rather than artificial.

feathering vs full strobe

Feathering in Studio

Feathering your soft box in the studio is basically the same concept, however there are a few more advantages and ways to play around. If using a background sheet, you can feather the light the same way you would outdoors by directing the soft box up and towards the camera. This will move the light on the background as well, and from there you can play around with how much or how little you want to illuminate the subject or the background for a stylistic effect. You can also introduce a fill card to help bring back some of the shadows created by tilting the soft box.

studio lights

Feathering is a very simple way to improve your photography with the gear you may already have. Next time you use a strobe or any light source with a soft box, try moving it around to create different effects.

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