How to Use Strip Softboxes for Dramatic Portraits

Strip softboxes are well known tools in the product photography world, particularly for placing highlights, but what about using them for dramatic portraiture? Check out how fashion and beauty photographer Andrea Belluso brings about a largely in-camera dramatic double-portrait using his Profoto RFi strip softboxes:

Unlike standard softboxes, strip softboxes have a narrow, rectangular shape much like the striplights used in the theater. They give off a deeper, a more intense (yet still soft) light and are excellent for light-shaping. In this shoot, Belluso uses two strip softboxes at high angles above the plane to highlight the Dou Discus gilder’s elegant, curved shape. (He uses a Magnum reflector to keep the far wing from disappearing into the darkness.) The main light is also a strip softbox, this time with a grid in it to give more contrast and to limit the light spread. This way he can better highlight the subject’s face and jacket.

Creating Dramatic Portraits With Strip Softboxes

Belluso’s Lighting Setup

In going for a darker, low-pass portrait, Belluso needed to isolate his subject from the rest of the hangar, while still providing the highlights he needed to accent the glider in the background. In effect, he needed quite a bit of control over the intensity and directionality of his light. With the the Dou Discus gilder, this was done by hoisting the wing strip lights far above the wings and aligning them with the contours. The the smaller strip softbox is set quite close to the main subject in order to keep the light softer, though the grid allows for more shadows and higher contrast.

Andrea Belluso shooting a porttrait in a hangar


Belluso, a photographer for Profoto, uses only Profoto equipment which can be quite pricey.

At the same time, you can’t argue with the results: a clean, beautifully lit dramatic portrait that comes nearly perfect straight out of the camera.

how to use strip lights for portraits

So, if you’ve been looking for a way to add drama to your portraits and/or have been wanting more control over your light in general, investing in a couple of strip softboxes might be the way to go.

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One response to “How to Use Strip Softboxes for Dramatic Portraits”

  1. I loved the video and the final image brilliantly taken photo well done kind regards, BrianGeoghegan

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