How effectively use honeycomb grid over soft box in single light setup

April 20, 2016   9898 views

To improve your studio technique, I always recommend to complicate the conditions of the shoot. When you work for yourself, for your portfolio, when you don’t have a client giving many "valuable" instructions.

For me, working as a fashion photographer, one of the most enjoyable amusements is to recreate my own photos using only one lighting unit. Using reflectors, flags, softboxes, gels, many other studio devices, I try to create the same light pattern, which I created once before with several lighting units. Of course this requires a tremendous amount of time, a well-equipped studio, has not a 100% chance of success, but this kind of working helps us to get the greatest experience. To make our "small" discoveries, to create our own algorithms of studio working, to feel the nuances of each lighting modifier. Leaving only one lighting unit in the studio for a week, believe me, you will begin to notice that your technique made a huge leap that week.

And despite the fact that shooting with single lighting unit (as well as, on the contrary, shooting with at least ten units) should not be “an end in itself”, I always like minimalism. And even in the real working shoots I have my internal limits on the amount of light. I always have self-organization, always trying to use as small amount of lighting units as I can.

Honeycomb grid softbox in lighting setup, spot soft light

Here in this picture I made for this tutorial I used only one softbox as a source of light. This one lighting source (softbox 2’ x 3’ or 60 x 90 cm) creates both the contrast light over the model and the contrast gradient on the background. I often use such technique as the opposite gradients. The gradient on the model (the transition from light to dark) should be opposite the gradient on the background. This creates a compositional completeness of the picture. One side of the picture doesn’t outweigh another and the alternation of light and dark spots creates a certain rhythm in the photo. If the light is above model and her upper part is lit more, it is necessary to provide more light at the lower part of the background. Ignoring this principle often leads to compositional imbalance that certainly adversely affects the visual perception.

In order to implement such a setup with a single lighting unit, I had to put honeycomb grid over the softbox. I had to make a narrow lighting spot, I needed sharp edges of this spot. To have an ability to divide the background behind the model into dark and bright sides. Using softbox without honeycomb grid wouldn’t allow to do that! Why? Look at the diagram:

Honeycomb grid softbox tutorial lighting setup

Open softbox usually has a very wide spot of light, with very broad and smooth edges. It will be very difficult in this case to divide the background into two parts with different brightness. The situation changes radically if we put honeycomb grid over the softbox. Look at the diagram I made for this tutorial:

honeycomb grid softbox setup, tutorial, lighting in studio, diagram

You can see that the nature of the lighting over the model has not changed. She is lit by the same light that was before, with the same softness. But the shape of the lighting spot changes dramatically. It becomes smaller and its border becomes sharper.

Now, if you look at the model from the camera, you will see that the background is divided into lit and unlit parts. That's all so simple. Turning softbox on its axis, we can find the right position of the edge of the lighting spot. At the same time, without changing the nature of the light over the model, we can very quickly make the whole background dark or vice versa totally lit by the light from softbox. And in both cases, the model will remain within the lighting field and the nature of light will not change over the model.

Of course, some alternative to the honeycomb grid is large black flag. It will give us more control over the lighting field but it will take more time and more space. And sometimes It is more and more easy to use such a simple and effective solution – honeycomb grid over the softbox.

Once again I will fix the information that honeycomb grid does not change the nature of light in the lighting spot. It only changes the size of the lighting spot and makes its edges more sharp. That allows us to ascend to the next level of our possibility of controlling the light.

What I tried to show in this picture!

Go ahead! Good luck!