How To Make A Softbox!

Hey everyone! I am going to show you how to make a softbox for your photography. This only takes about 10 minutes and will save you a lot of money if you don’t want to buy one.

Let’s get started!!

This is a question I often get asked by fellow strobes. Why do you want/need one? Well, being the flash fanatic that I am, it’s because I love to have complete control over my lighting possibilities. And softboxes provide just that – perfection at a reasonable price to me 😉

OK, So How Do You Make A Softbox

A softbox is a type of light modifier that is used to diffuse and soften unruly direct lights. 

You can use it on any Speedlight, studio strobe or even hot lights. It’s the most commonly used and readily available light modifier for strobes, and if you don’t want to put out too much green for an off-camera dedicated flash unit, it’s the best you’ve got.

The softbox is essentially a box with an opening at one end through which light can be released. 

It has four walls – two white and two semi-opaque, so light can pass through without being too soft.

To do this, you attach velcro to the front and back surfaces so that it can be mounted on your flash(es).

 It would help if you also had an internal baffle or diffuser, which is a white sheet of translucent paper held in place by the box’s walls.

This Seems Complicated

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Yes, yes, it is. Making softboxes is an art form in itself and takes quite a bit of practice.

 It’s not very complicated, but it does take time to master.

If you are serious about lighting, I would highly recommend taking things up to the next level by learning how to build your octobox or strip bank (another common type of light modifier).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We want to cover the basics right now so that next time someone asks you how to make a softbox, you can send them here 😉 Let us begin!

How To Make A Softbox At Home

Getting Started

What do I need

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A bunch of cardboard boxes in various sizes (a piece of advice – use old boxes or buy new ones. If you have to, cut them up into various sizes)

Ruler/Tape measure

Pencil

Scissors

Box cutter/razor blade / sharp kitchen knife (use with caution!)

How Do I Go About It

  1. Take your ruler and start measuring the dimensions of your flash head.
  2. Decide on a size for your diffuser, which is usually about 2/3rds of the diameter of the front element.

For my Canon 430EX II, I had it around 90cm (which is roughly half). You can then build your softbox to fit this diameter.

  1. Using the measurements you took, draw out a rectangle on your cardboard box. Depending on how big you want to make the softbox, you can take it up one side or both sides.

It’s usually better to make it bigger rather than smaller if you don’t have enough boxes at home 🙂

  1. Cut out the rectangle with your box cutter. You can then either discard the pieces you’ve cut out, or keep them for later use (like making a strip bank).
  1. Now measure about 4cm on one of the long sides and mark it with an ‘X’.
  1. Cut this piece about 3-4 cm from the end.
  1. Measure about 20cm from the end on the opposite side and mark it with an ‘X’. (if you want a strip bank instead, then make this 40-50cm long)
  1. Cut out this last piece. You should now have two pieces of rectangular cardboard boxes that fit snugly inside each other at one end.
  1. Cut out a piece of the cardboard boxes that is about 20cm by 40-50cm (or smaller if you want more control over your light).

This will be your internal diffuser and can also double up as a reflector card (if it’s shiny on one side like mine).

  1. You can now decorate the softbox however you want. I used a white marker pen to cover up some of the logos and add a few star patterns on it 🙂
  1. If you have any more pieces left over, use them to make a strip bank (a strip box is another name).
  1. Now, all that remains is Velcro fastening. Measure out enough pieces of the sticky-back velcro to fit around the outside of your softbox, and attach them there.

Place another row on the inside, so it’s about 10cm apart all around (depends on how you want to ‘grip’ your flash).

How Much Does This Cost

My box was not symmetrical (so it worked out slightly cheaper), but usually, you’ll be looking at about $5 worth of cardboard for this. It will cost more if you use thicker cardboard or make the softbox bigger.

If you want to go all out, you can spend upwards of $50 on materials like professional-grade fabric, gaffa tape, wire ties, velcro straps etc.

Which Softbox Is Best

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  1. The larger you make your softbox, the softer and more diffused the light will be. Smaller softboxes usually give you more brutal light with a less pronounced shadow. 

These are also called ‘snoots’ because they focus harsh light towards your subject and create a distinct edge to the illumination pattern.

  1. The shape of your softbox also makes a difference. Square and rectangular boxes create more rigid light with less shadowing. 

In contrast, octagonal softboxes give softer shadows and more wrapping around your subject (because there is less of an angle between the walls and the ceiling).

  1. The inner diffuser also affects the outcome. Lighter translucent fabric will give you softer light, but you will lose much power because it is okay. 

A white fabric diffuser may provide you with more brutal light as the light hits the surface and reflects off your subject.

  1. Most softboxes come with different layers of diffusion material ‘stacked’ on top of each other (e.g. a silver metal interior that disperses light, then a white or translucent fabric that diffuses the light further).

 This means that the inside of your softbox will be brighter than the outside area. Be careful not to have it too bright as it can damage your flash and startle your subjects.

Advantages And DisAdvantages

  1. Cheap and easy to build.
  2. Longer flash duration than a strip box or umbrella
  3. Can be used with constant lighting sources like LEDs
  4.  Takes a little long to set up (especially if you’re taking time-lapse shots like the video)

Final Words

The beauty of this softbox (compared to buying one off the Internet) is that you can adjust the size and shape to fit your needs. If you want more diffusion, use a larger piece of cardboard or add some white paper on top of it. 

Make it smaller and not as high if you wish for less distribution, so less light goes inside its back. If you find that your softbox has too much fall off (the walls are too far away from the subject), then try changing the curvature/shape of the box or lowering it to point at a more downward angle.