If you can only have one light, strongly consider a big octabox

Feb 5, 2017

Tom Saimon

Tom Saimon is a boutique wedding and fashion photographer based in Haifa, Israel. Tom founded one of most sought-after wedding photography boutiques in Israel and shoots over 100 weddings a year, making him not only an established photogrpher, but also an authority in the industry. Tom is regularly featured in fashion and wedding magazines as a style benchmark

If you can only have one light, strongly consider a big octabox

Feb 5, 2017

Tom Saimon

Tom Saimon is a boutique wedding and fashion photographer based in Haifa, Israel. Tom founded one of most sought-after wedding photography boutiques in Israel and shoots over 100 weddings a year, making him not only an established photogrpher, but also an authority in the industry. Tom is regularly featured in fashion and wedding magazines as a style benchmark

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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.

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Tom Saimon

Tom Saimon

Tom Saimon is a boutique wedding and fashion photographer based in Haifa, Israel. Tom founded one of most sought-after wedding photography boutiques in Israel and shoots over 100 weddings a year, making him not only an established photogrpher, but also an authority in the industry. Tom is regularly featured in fashion and wedding magazines as a style benchmark

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7 responses to “If you can only have one light, strongly consider a big octabox”

  1. Steve West Avatar
    Steve West

    Great article with lots of excellent examples proving your point!

  2. Stephen Avatar
    Stephen

    Interesting that you don’t feel the need for something bigger, like a B1, or 600.

  3. James Thomas Avatar
    James Thomas

    I concur

  4. Deborah Payne Avatar
    Deborah Payne

    Are you using strobes/speedlites in your Octa, or is it continuous light? I’m learning more about light to take better portraits. Thanks.

    1. Mark Bebee Avatar
      Mark Bebee

      Given the photos they appear to be studio monolights with a battery pack. Speedlites would have quick fall off due to just not being powerful enough during the day. Starting out a small octa and a speed light may work. Problem: boxes end up in frame because there isn’t the power and closer you are to your subject the harsher the light becomes. It won’t be so soft and not look as natural as the shots above. Search for “Strobist” they offer some great free information on lighting starting to advanced.

      1. Deborah Payne Avatar
        Deborah Payne

        Thank you for your reply. And I do follow Strobist as well.

      2. jeffmcc Avatar
        jeffmcc

        I can get soft light while keeping my light close.