If you’re looking to get a little more creative with your lighting setup then this is definitely something worth looking at…
Whether it’s product photography, studio style portraits or anything in-between, chances are you’ll be needing artificial light at some stage during your photographic adventures. I’m a massive fan of ambient and natural light when i’m shooting, unfortunately these types of light aren’t always available when we need them. I’ve been getting more into portrait photography recently and having a good key light is an absolute must for this. I’ve been thinking about adding a light stand to my setup for a while. Firing a flash ‘off camera’ allows for so many more creative possibilities and is something i’ve wanted to explore for a long time.
I’d also been looking into reflectors or soft-boxes to help diffuse that light and provide a softer look and feel, which eventually led me to the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe Kit (full name) which is effectively a ‘starter pack’ for photographers who want to start experimenting with off camera or ‘soft’ lighting. Typically when you fire a flash, whether it’s mounted on your camera or on a light stand it will be described as a ‘hard’ or ‘harsh’ light’, you can usually tell from the type of shadow that your subject casts, in this scenario you’ll find shadows with defined and prominent edges. Using a soft-box will give you the opposite of this, the light source will appear much larger in relation to your subject and the light will scatter more evenly; leaving you with a ‘softer’ look and shadows with gradual and smooth edges.
Purchasing the kit offers a cost saving over buying all of the individual parts, so if you’re starting out and at this point only have a flash then this is a great purchase. The kit includes a number of key components; firstly you have the light stand which is collapsable and includes 4 sections which can be expanded from a minimum height of around 90cm right up to 300cm, this stand is pretty sturdy and lightweight at the same time so you can easily carry it around, it’s also air cushioned which gives a nice feel when collapsing and expanding it. Next up you have the soft-box itself, this particular kit includes a 38x38cm soft-box which folds flat and pops into shape when you remove it from the bag, it comes with two diffusers that you can velcro into place, depending on how much light you wish to pass through. The soft-box, when attached to the bracket can also be swivelled and tilted depending on your preference, offering further options for positioning the light.
As well as these two main components you also get a mounting bracket to attach the soft-box to the light stand, a couple soft carry cases and an extendable handle to attach to the soft-box if you don’t want to use the light stand (think of this as a lightweight monopod) which is great as it enables you to quickly change the direction and position of light in a hand held fashion. Just so we’re clear, there is no light source included with the kit, it comes with a hot shoe mount so you can attach your flash to it with ease. I can set mine up from scratch in about 3-4 minutes and the whole kit is really light weight and easy to carry around to different locations. The included carry cases are soft and padded which is a nice touch.
The great thing about the kit is not only how portable and easy to use it is, but also that you can remove the soft-box from the adapter and still use the light stand to mount your flash meaning you can customise your lighting setup to provide the desired effect. I mainly use mine with the soft-box attached but when i want to create a hard shadow or fire a flash gel i’ll use it without the soft-box.
Having a kit like this means you can create studio style shots without the studio, all you need is a small, plain and very light coloured wall. You can literally create a studio anywhere. I tend to set mine up about 3 or 4 feet in front of the subject slightly off to their right, at around head hight, angled slightly down. I find this gives a small soft shadow which creates a really pleasing look and feel to the images. Let’s take a look at a couple sample images…
Overall i think this is a great product for the price, i picked mine up at London Camera Exchange where it retails for around £155, click here to visit their site. The construction feels solid and sturdy, if you’re using out on location i’d recommend using a camera bag or something similar as a weight on the bottom of the stand just to sure it up a bit. The only slight negative is the soft-box bracket is made of plastic which makes it feel a little cheap but that’s not a massive problem and is a welcome sacrifice given the competitive price. If you want to read more about the kit or even see some cool videos then head over the product page on the Lastolite website here.