Quick Tip: Size Matters

Tip: A soft key light is a beautiful thing.  It evens out skin bumps and age lines, taking years off your subject’s face.  In a studio, we use big softboxes.  In the great outdoors, a big white reflector does the same job.  The bigger the softbox/white reflector, the softer the light.  Silver & gold reflectors are a slightly softer version of a mirror.  The added size means added stop and coverage area.


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  1. Catherine, my question is when using an umbrella instead of a soft box, does shooting through the umbrella have the same affect? I have recently noticed I am putting the umbrella closer to subjects when seated or lying down. I love the light but don’t know if it is the same thing you are talking about here.

    • Hey Ed,

      I hope you don’t mind my answering in her stead…

      Basically, yes. A shoot-thru umbrella isn’t going to be quite as soft as a softbox, as you don’t have that inner baffle, and you’re also losing some light out the back. Overall, though, I find it works very well for creating a fairly soft light when you don’t have a softbox available. In fact, whereas I use the boxes in the studio, I often prefer to use umbrellas when shooting out on location, as I get much of the same effect, but it’s much more portable to carry and setup.