Using softbox lighting is one of the essential techniques for getting your portraits or product photos to look professional.
Whether you’re using flash (strobe) or continuous lighting, a softbox can help create a diffused, evenly distributed ‘soft’ light source – far more flattering than the bare bulb.
If appropriately used, softboxes can replicate beautiful window light, whether you’re in a studio or on location.
Softboxes and umbrellas are affordable, lightweight and straightforward to use and often come bundled in convenient all-in-one lighting kits.
Let’s take a look at the most popular options for lighting your next photoshoot.
Best Softbox Lighting Kit in 2021
Image Product Features YICOEOUR #1 CHOICE
- Remote Control & Dimmable Tricolor Light
- Suitable for Multiple Scenarios
- New LED Light Bulb
- Rotatable Lamp Holder & Adjustable Light Stand
View Price → RALENOPOPULAR CHOICE
- Portabe and Easy to Opperate
- Uniform Light
- Color Reproduction
- Nylon Reflect Diffuser Pannel
View Price → Fovitec
- Flexible Options for Set-up
- Great for Portraits
- Easy to Master
View Price → HPUSN
- Energy Efficient Bulbs
- Suitable for Various Photography
- 210° Rotatable Head & Adjustable Stand
- High Quality Material
View Price → LimoStudio
- Easy to Use
- Energy Efficient Bulbs
- Ideal for Large Space
View Price →
The YICOE Softbox Lighting Kit is the best entry-level option for anyone wanting to attempt and learn softbox lighting in their next creative project, and affordable for a home studio.
The single compact kit includes a 20″ by 28″ softbox light – best for portraits, headshots and small product work.
What’s excellent about YICOE kits is the energy-saving device is remotely dimmable and adjustable to temperatures between 2800 and 5700 Kelvin (K).
It includes a 210° rotatable lamp holder and height-adjustable stand – angle it to suit your needs.
It’s perfect for a desktop vlogging station to illuminate yourself while your background falls into shadow.
If you wish to step up your lighting game, the RALENO Softbox Lighting Kit is the best solution fit for home studio work.
It includes a pair of 20″ by 28″ softboxes – each fitted with a 5500K constant light and mounting bracket. It also contains two height-adjustable stands that extend up to 85″ from their 27″ folded size.
Thanks to the travel bag, the portable set can be packed away or transported to your next photo shoots.
The two 5500K lights produce a natural glow, softened by the diffusing panels. With the RALENO bulbs, you cast natural illumination from two directions – pushing back shadows without washing out facial features.
To create the best softbox lighting results, the Fovitec 3-Light Studio Lighting Kit is a great option.
It features a pair of 5-socket lighting heads – each with a 5500K colour temperature. Each head fits a 20″ by 28″ quality softbox light that’s durable and equipped with light-diffusing panels. These mount to 7’3″ collapsing stands.
Plus, there’s a single light that attaches to a 4.5′ boom to position directly above your subject.
The Fovitec kit includes a bag for storing the 11 45W bulbs and a carry bag for the stands, heads, boxes and accessories.
The HPUSN Softbox Lighting Kit is a professional continuous lighting solution perfect for your next project.
It features two 85W E27 fluorescent lamps, providing natural illumination with a 5400K output. These plug into the powered control heads attached to the two 20″ by 28″ softboxes made from highlight reflective material.
The HPUSN Softbox Lighting Kit also includes two collapsable stands that extend from 26″ to their full height of 79″.
The stands have independent locking to control the 210° rotating directional heads.
With this set-up, you have natural and controlled illumination coming in at the sides.
To illuminate a large studio or workspace, the LimoStudio LMS103 Soft Lighting Umbrella Kit is the best option.
This professional kit includes three energy-efficient, 45W CFL bulbs pumping out 1820 Lumens at 6000K. Each mounts to an E27 base and fixes to lightweight alloy stands that extend to 82.3″.
This set includes four separate umbrellas for optimal light shaping and control. Two are black and silver 33″ reflective umbrellas for bounce lighting of a large area.
The other two are 33″ opaque white umbrellas for shoot-through lighting control. While umbrellas aren’t ‘enclosed’ like softboxes, they still provide softbox lighting – diffused, even and flattering.
To illuminate a large space for photo or video shoots, the LimoStudio kit is ideal.
Plus, store the entire kit in the carry case – no matter where your work, the kit comes with you.
How do you Shoot with a Softbox?
Shooting with a softbox is a simple way to add natural illumination to your scene or subject.
A softbox unfolds into a square, rectangle or octagon box. The light attaches via a bracket that sits inside the box facing the open end. The bottom of this bracket attaches to a height-adjustable stand.
The softbox’s open face features an opaque film or diffusion panel to soften the light. Additional diffusion panels and fabric ‘grids’ help to further soften the light.
If shooting flash or with a constant bulb, light passes through the diffused panel to fall on your subject.
Which to Choose: Softbox vs Umbrella
When choosing between softbox lighting and an umbrella, I recommend having both.
Choose a softbox kit to photograph products or headshots and an umbrella for creating ambient brilliance that fills a room.
- What is the difference between softbox and umbrella lighting?
Softboxes and umbrellas are both modifiers that attach to a stand for use with a flash, strobe or continuous bulb.
A softbox light is a nylon ‘box’ – usually in the shape of a square, rectangle or octagon – that has reflective material on the inside and black material on the outside.
An umbrella looks just like a regular umbrella constructed from the same materials as the softbox. Umbrellas can be reflective on the inside for bouncing or completely opaque for softer illumination.
- Why do photographers use umbrellas?
Umbrellas are a simple and affordable means of dispersing light into a larger space. If you have a studio space or stage that requires soft yet even light, an umbrella is best.
- Which way do umbrella lights face?
A reflective umbrella has an open face pointing at the area you wish to illuminate and points away from the object and towards the reflective surface.
A shoot-through umbrella is white and opaque, with the pointy end facing the area you wish to light. The big difference is it points towards the area that you want to illuminate.
Softbox Lighting FAQs
What is Softbox Lighting used for?
As a softbox provides directional light, it’s ideal for lighting a specific object – such as with product photography. The softened illumination points at the object to provide natural, controlled light.
A softbox is best to dissipate or add shadows effects and provide depth to a photograph.
Which is better, ring light or softbox?
Ring lights and softboxes produce very different results – one is not better than the other.
A ring light is circular, very portable and best for video / vlogging as it illuminates the face – plus, they’re the best at creating perfect white circles in each eye.
A softbox is much bigger but produces a far softer amount of illumination to give natural results.
Where should softbox lights be placed?
Depending on the power of your lights, place a softbox close to your focus point – but out of frame.
By having the softbox close to your subjects, you have better control and will push back unwanted shadows. Softboxes need a stand that allows you to control the height and angle of direction of each softbox.
Can you use a softbox outside?
Yes, you can use a softbox outside for brilliant results. Provided you have a stable surface to place your stand and power source, a softbox works in the same way outdoors. A softbox is best to minimise the dappling effect caused by the sun.
When I first started with product and portrait work, I was using a flash and bouncing it off the ceiling to dissipate the light’s harshness.
While this worked fine for playing around, it wasn’t until I first did some research, gained some advice and started using a softbox and umbrella that I understood their importance.
Thanks to softbox lighting kits like this, the quality of photos will elevate once you have greater control of how best to light up a scene. With a softbox or an umbrella, your subject will ‘pop’ forward from the background and everything will look more professional overall.
What have been your experiences with using a softbox or umbrella? Feel free to ask questions or share advice about the use of these tools.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.