Well, of course, it won’t be just one type of light, you will also have a bare flash to play with. But if you can only have one modifier, I would say get a big octabox. But first, let’s define the octabox or as photographers fondly call her, the Octa.
The Octa is (usually) a fairly big source of light that has an octagonal front surface. Unlike a softbox for example, which has a square or rectangular surface. Of course, there are smaller octaboxs as well, but usually, when photographers want to use an Octa, they want that big semi-round light.
Here is why: a big octabox provides a very soft and very flattering light. This makes it a great candidate for a soft key, or for an almost-unnoticeable fill which does not draw any attention to itself. Let’s consider a situation where you can only use one light (maybe because you only have one light ;) ), the octa would be great and flattering to your subject. By balancing it with the available light, you can define it as key and bring your subject out. Or use it as fill and kill any annoying shadows.
Another bonus is the round catch lights. I know that catch lights shape is a matter of taste, personally, I find round catch lights to be more natural.
I am currently using three octaboxes, let’s have a look at each one:
Here is one example the Octa is only used as fill, its a deep 120 centimeters in diameter Octa by Jinbei.
Here is another photo, this time with a “regular” Octa, a smaller 90cm Godox.
And here it is again used as key:
Another Octa I use is the Godox 140cm. It’s a behemoth which allows me to do things like this:
This last one – the Lastolite Ezybox II Octa – is not my Octa, but it has kind of cool and different design and it folds in an interesting way, so I borrowed it for a shoot:
Come to think about it, I tend to use Octaboxes even if I need more than one light:
But still it’s a great single light source:
And all those:
One word of caution though, Octaboxes eat a lot of light, especially if you use double diffusion like I do. I find that speedlights will (sometimes) work if you are shooting at night or at sunset/sunrise, but they are definitely not powerful enough to shoot in daylight. For that, I use the Godox 360 series. It’s a powerful bare bulb strobe in a hotshoe-strobe form factor, it’s extremely powerful and its light spread is great for using in octaboxes.