Tuesday in the Studio: Using Lightbanks

lightbankOne way to think of lightbank is as more directional umbrella. A lightbank is basically a black box with one side covered in diffusion material that lets light pass through. You will occasionally hear lightbanks called “light box” and even “soft box.”

I prefer the more generic term “lightbank” because it can refer to the many shapes and sizes they are available. The light inside a lightbank can be aimed to shoot through toward the subject or bounce into the back of the box before exiting the front. Some lightbanks let you use them either way so you can have more powerfully direct, yet softened light or the maximum possible soft light experience.

1/80 sec at f/9 and ISO 200

1/80 sec at f/9 and ISO 200

There are lots of reasons to use a lightbank to diffuse the raw light produced by an electronic flash or other light source. One is the clean unobstructed highlight that’s reflected in the subject whether it’s a reflective subject like a product or a portrait subject’s eyes. The other is the ability to use a shorter distance between the light and the subject maximizing the lightbank’s broad light modeling. You also obtain improved control of the light because a lightbank’s flat two dimensional diffuser and opaque shell keeps light from spilling onto surrounding objects or creating flare into the camera.

Plume WaferOne of the downsides of using lightbanks is as they get bigger they also get deeper. Noted lighting innovator Gary Regester decided to create a lightbank that had a thinner-than-normal profile and produced the Plume Wafer. The narrow profile, silver-with-white interior and graduated inner baffles create efficiencies with a choice of light contrast across the front diffuser panel. The narrow profile results from using a combination of an aluminum tubes and fiberglass rods. Special pole pockets reinforce the corners. Inner baffles, rear closures and flash ring adapters are interchangeable.

Author: Joe Farace

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