Speedlight, on-camera flash, hot-shoe flash, or a flashgun, whatever you call them, they sure are a handy tool that can take your photography to the next level. Whether you are shooting indoors, shooting in poorly lit conditions, photographing in high contrast scenarios, or just want to freeze the action, a speedlight can be your best choice.
If you want to further step the game up by a notch, you can use a bigger flash unit, but a speedlight has certain benefits of its own. A speedlight is more compact, cheaper, and also requires less power to operate while almost doing whatever a bigger flash unit can.
One major drawback of using a speedlight is the fact that they are a pretty small light source. How is that bad? Well, small light sources are what we call hard light sources in photography. They can thus produce harsh shadows and even unwanted specular highlights or hotspots that appear as bright areas on the subject. When taking portraits, it usually appears on the face and on the forehead. This definitely is not a good thing at all.
The way we can overcome this challenge is by diffusing the light coming off of a speedlight. By diffusing the light, it becomes softer and wraps around the subject better. This also makes the shadows softer, illuminates the subject in a more uniform manner, and gets rid of any hotspots and specular highlights. In short, the final image appears much more pleasing to look at.
Softboxes are one of the most popular, convenient, budget-friendly, and effective light modifiers that you can find in the market to diffuse light. You have probably seen them being used with the bigger flash units. They basically work by making a light source appear bigger than their actual size by bouncing the light internally, and by diffusing it through some kind of translucent fabric. As a result, you get a very even and soft light.
By using a speedlight with a softbox, you get similar results like when using a strobe/flash. A softbox allows you to get soft, uniform, and beautiful light. And the good thing is that the entire setup is very much budget-friendly.
Now that you understand how using a softbox with your speedlight can help you take better images, let’s look into the top 5 softboxes you can use with a speedlight that you can find in the market.
Top 5 Best Softboxes for Speedlights
We understand that everyone’s requirements can be different. While you may find yourself mostly indulged with studio portraits, others may be looking for a softbox that’s great for working in outdoor scenarios. So, keeping in mind the usage scenario and individual requirements, we have come up with the following top 5 best softboxes that you can use with your speedlight.
Godox 32×32 Inch Softbox
The Godox 32×32 inches softbox works with the S-Type bracket with the Bowens Mount so that you can conveniently use any of your rectangular speedlight with it. The 32×32 inches size means that it is a fairly large-sized softbox. The large size may not make it the perfect choice to be used outdoors if you are looking for portability, but works perfectly if you will be working indoors. If you find yourself working in an indoor studio setup either for photographing people, food, or for product photography, we highly recommend that you give this softbox a shot.
The reflective material in the softbox is made of high-quality material. This is important as it ensures that the maximum amount of light from your speedlight is bounced internally before being directed towards your subject. As for diffusion, the double diffusion layers ensures that the output is soft and evenly distributed. And considering that the size is not too small, this softbox greatly amplifies the size of your speedlight i.e. the larger diffusion makes it appear as if your light source is fairly big in size and results in a softer light.
The collapsible design of the softbox makes it easier for you to carry it around. It deploys in seconds and requires minimal setup. I love how easy it is to actually set it up. The only quirk with this softbox can be felt when folding it. It took me some time to get used to the folding process but after 3 times or so, the process started making sense.
Neewer 24×24 Inch Softbox
While we have categorized the Neewer 24×24 inches softbox as the best softbox for outdoor photography, you can rest assured that it does an equally good job when used indoors as well. The slightly heavier weight of this softbox (approx. 3lbs) is what gives it an advantage when using outdoors when conditions get a bit windy. It is compatible with the Bowens mount as well as with the S-type bracket that is adjustable for all brands of speedlight with a rectangular head.
The material feels very much durable and is good enough to be used outdoors conveniently. The softbox also sports a detachable 2 layer internal diffuser that lets you control the different levels of light output. This also helps in making the light softer and in even distribution of light. An important aspect that makes this softbox better suited for outdoor usage is the fact that it has a compact and portable foldable design.
When packed, the softbox folds into a small circular shape with an approximate diameter of just 8 inches. But in this case, as well, learning to pack it will need a bit of practice. And it’s not just great when packed up. It pops up quickly and is pretty quick and easy to install. When you are using this softbox for the first time, I suggest that you open it very carefully. It tends to open up quite aggressively and may even catch you by surprise.
Neewer 32 Inch Octagonal Softbox
This 32-inch octagonal softbox from Neewer is an umbrella styled softbox. What this means is that you need to point your speedlight away from the diffuser and into the softbox. As a result, the light gets reflected from the shiny walls of the softbox before being diffused out towards the subject. The softbox is made of fairly thick and durable nylon material, while the central pole is made of Aluminium and the rods of fiberglass. The diffuser is attached to the softbox with velcro.
When purchasing this softbox, it is important to understand that it does not come with a bracket to hold the speedlight. You will thus need to have a light stand and a bracket to be able to work with this kind of softbox.
The large and octagonal shape of this softbox is what makes this a perfect choice for taking portraits. The large size ensures that the size of the light source is amplified. This produces a soft light, and the transition from the highlights to the shadows appears really smooth. When using this softbox, you can happily say goodbye to harsh shadows.
You can further modify light coming off of this softbox by using a grid. Since the softbox is designed with a velcro strip that’s quite broad, you can use an egg- crate grid with velcro to attach to the front of the diffusor panel. This allows you to further concentrate the light on your subject and prevent any kind of spillage in the foreground or the background.
And in case you feel that the light coming off of the softbox is not sufficient, there’s a convenient workaround with this softbox. You can simply get yourself a multi-speedlight adapter, and use the huge space inside the softbox to use multiple speedlight units at once. That’s the benefit of this being an umbrella styled softbox.
The only quirk that I have when using this softbox is the time it takes to set it up. While opening up the softbox is quite easy, mounting the speedlight and then placing the diffusing panel in places takes a little more effort. In case you need to get a hold of your speedlight in the middle of a shoot for some reason, keep in mind that your work will be halted by quite some time.
Fotodiox F60 Quick-Collapse Softbox
This has to be my personal favorite and the top recommendation to anyone looking for a general-purpose softbox for speedlight. The Fotodiox F60 is a 60cm (24in) hexagon-shaped softbox that’s made of premium grade material. It features tabs on the back of the speedring to release the rods conveniently. The best feature of the Fotodiox F60 has to be the added grip that works great for handholding the softbox, as well as to use it on a light stand.
The unique design of the Fotodiox F60 makes it an idle softbox that you can either use indoors and in outdoor locations. Looking at the build quality of this softbox, we can make out that Fotodiox has made no compromises on the build quality of the F60. The dome of the softbox is made of durable pro-grade Omni-bounce silver reflective fabric with a black backing. You can attach the diffuser on the front of the softbox using velcro. The softbox also features a second layer of diffuser baffle on the inside that you can attach in case you need softer light.
Setting up the Fotodiox F60 softbox takes a little bit of effort. In order to open the softbox, you first need to click the rods into place around the rear speedring, slide the speedring onto the pistol grip flash mount, and you’re ready to shoot. On the other hand, tear down is a breeze as you just need to hit the switch next to each of the rods. This releases the rods from place and slides it off the pistol grip flash bracket. It may sound complicated but once you get your hands on it, you’ll see how convenient it is. Also, everything can easily fit inside the included carrying bag for easy travel and storage.
The ingenious pistol-grip is my most loved feature of this softbox. If you are working with an assistant outdoors, they will find it very comfortable to hold the softbox – all thanks to the grip. And in case you don’t have an assistant, you can mount the same grip on a light stand.
Many of you may also appreciate the fact that you can remove the softbox portion and use the bracket grip as an umbrella mount for your speedlight. Talk about versatility. The Fotodiox F60 is a true all-rounder and our best performer without a doubt.
Waka Flash Diffuser Light Softbox
Consider the scenario when you’re running and gunning to get the job done and you don’t have the time to carry around and set up bigger softboxes. Such kind of situations can usually come up whenever you’re shooting events, weddings, or any other functions. Having the speedlight on-camera usually gets the job done. But, it is also one of the most unflattering lights. Light from a speedlight is harsh, and possibilities that your subjects will have a big shining patch on their faces are pretty high. These are some of the situations where you will find that something like a Waka flash diffuser comes in handy.
The Waka flash diffuser is so handy that we recommend that it should be a part of every photographer’s kit. They are very small, have negligible weight, and are very convenient to carry around. The collapsible design of the softbox means that you can simply throw them in your bag and you won’t even know that they are there. But, when it comes to usage, they really make a difference.
Unlike other softboxes that are used off-camera, the Waka flash diffuser is an on-camera softbox that goes right over the speedlight and sits comfortably on top of your camera. And setting it up is super convenient. Simply place the softbox over the head of the speedlight, fasten it up with the velcro, and you’re done. The softbox will follow you wherever you run.
Besides functionality, the benefit of getting the Waka flash diffuser is that it comes in two shapes – rectangular and octagonal. This is to ensure that it fits most of the speedlight brands in the market. And with the stretch opening mechanism of this softbox, you can rest assured that it will fit your speedlight with ease.
The rectangular softbox is 8 x 6 inches and the octagonal softbox is 8 inches. This variation in shape means that you can try out both of these softboxes and use the one that works the best in a particular situation. And considering how cheap the Waka flash diffuser it, this is definitely a steal deal.
But as they say, you get what you pay for. While the image quality is definitely a step-up than when you’d just use a speedlight, the build quality of the softbox is definitely not something to boast about. They are prone to breakage, and occasionally, they do tend to slip off. But still, considering the amount that you’d pay, the softbox still is still a great value for the money. A great choice for someone who’s looking for a “mobile softbox” for a speedlight.
Choosing the Softbox for Your Speedlight
Now that you are acquainted with the best softbox for speedlight, it is up to you to decide which one will be best suited for you. When considering to purchase any softbox, be sure to consider the following:
- Will you be using it mostly indoors or outdoors?
- How portable do you want the softbox to be?
- Will you be using the softbox in run and gun situations?
- What is your budget?
- Do you want to splash your money on the best there is or do you want to try out the budget options as well?
- Build quality
- Do you see yourself using the same softbox in the distant future?
- Or, are you okay with something that’s one-off?
Once you try and answer these questions religiously, you will definitely have a better understanding of what will work the best for you. And with the refined consideration basket, your decision-making process will be a whole lot easier.
But, if you still ask me, I’d definitely recommend the Fotodiox F60 for its excellent build quality, design, and versatility. And if you are a little short on budget, but still want to step-up from the harsh light from your speedlight, definitely have a go for Waka flash diffuser softbox. It may look and feel cheap, but you will definitely notice the value it adds to your photography.
If you have some other softbox for a speedlight in mind that you think deserves a mention, do let us know in the comments. Our readers will definitely benefit from your valuable inputs as well.