30 x 120 Stripbox | Studio Lighting Essentials

The 30 x 120cm softbox, also known as a stripbox, is probably my favourite softbox in my collection. Why? Simple: because I love the light it provides.

In this video, I take a look at this versatile modifier – what it is, how it works, and how to use it in your photography.

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What is a stripbox?

Even at first glance, the stripbox looks different from a standard softbox. Its dimensions give it an unusual and interesting shape.

As we know from our studies of the physics of light, this rectangular shape means that the stripbox provides a large, soft light source in one direction, while at the same providing a small, hard light source in the other.

This means you can achieve many different variations simply by altering the angle or tilt of the modifier – something I do frequently in my own work.

As the name suggests, a stripbox is a long rectangular softbox.

Using the stripbox in the studio

I use this stripbox for all sorts of shoots, in all sorts of ways.

For example, for a standing product like a bottle of wine or a fragrance, I’ll use it in the vertical position, directed through some diffusion material.

Karl using two stripboxes in Wine Bottle Photography.

Wine Bottle Photography

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I also use it often for edge lighting on a model during a fashion or beauty shoot. In that position, it gives a beautiful contouring light all the way down the side of the body and around the head and hair.

Another position I like for the stripbox on a fashion or beauty shoot is horizontal and elevated, pointing slightly down on the model from the front. This gives a beautiful linear catchlight in the eyes and a lovely sculpting down the side of the face, plus a nice shadow under the jawline.

Karl using two stripboxes in Bright and Stylish.

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There really are a multitude of uses for this modifier. You can even use two in conjunction – side by side, or one on each side of the subject, or in an L shape, one above the other.

Beware of budget models

My stripbox, and the one you can see me demonstrate in the video, is manufactured by broncolor. It costs around $250 and comes with speed-ring adapters that enable you to put it on other brand lights.

Other stripboxes are available of course, with the Elinchrom and Profoto versions coming in at a slightly lower price without any great drop in quality.

Where you should be careful is with much cheaper stripboxes manufactured by less reputable independent brands. Though they cost significantly less at around $100, they are of a noticeably lower quality, both in terms of build and effect.

One of the really important things in any softbox is the quality of the internal diffusion material, which is responsible for that lovely homogenous light. Budget models often only have the front diffuser, leading to a central hot spot of light which then falls off. This means you don’t get the true homogenous light that is the trademark of any good softbox.

The internal diffusion material makes a big difference – and some budget stripboxes don't have it.

Stripbox sizes and accessories

Though the 30 x 120 model is my go-to stripbox, other sizes are available. For example, broncolor also offer a 30 x 180 stripbox, which can be useful if you want floor-to-head-height edge lighting on your model.

Across other brands, you’ll find various other sizes. But regardless of the dimensions, these modifiers all work in the same way – and it’s up to you to get the best results you can with them.

In terms of accessories, one that’s really useful is the so-called striplight accessory. This clips easily over the front of the modifier and allows you to reduce the light from the softbox to an even narrower beam. This will make the light harder and easier to direct at a specific area of your subject.

The 'striplight' accessory narrows the beam of light emitted by the stripbox.
You can also get grids for stripboxes. As I’ve demonstrated in other videos in this series, grids attach easily to the front of your softbox. They restrict angle of the bounce of light and stop it spreading out sideways. Personally I don’t find them particularly necessary or useful, but if you’re working in a very small space, you might benefit from giving them a go.

Lighting Comparison Visualiser

Use our awesome tool to try out every modifier in our studio and compare the results.
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A quick and easy way to compare modifiers

In the video, you’ll see me use our handy Lighting Comparison Visualiser tool to compare the 30 x 120 stripbox to other light sources including a bare bulb and the Octabox 150.

As you can see, the stripbox gives a lovely linear catchlight in the eyes. It provides a lovely sculpting light that is both flattering and accentuating. Compared to the Octabox 150, the stripbox gives a slightly harder shadow beneath the chin because of its narrower width.

Perhaps most notable is the brighter exposure of the face, which contrasts with the darker background. This is of course due to the narrower beam of light emitted by the stripbox.

Comparing the 30 x 120 stripbox with the Octabox 150 using the Lighting Comparison Visualiser tool.

The Octabox 150 can’t be positioned as close to your subject as the stripbox, which leads to more light bouncing around the studio and potentially spilling onto your background.

Understanding these nuances of Photography Lighting – the Inverse Square Law, for example, or Angles of Incidence and Reflection – is crucial to improving your photography. That’s why we offer hundreds of classes designed to deepen your knowledge of lighting and help you control it like a pro.

Ready to further enhance your lighting skills? Explore our guide on the Silver Umbrella and discover its unique properties for creating stunning portraits. Alternatively, click here to see our previous tutorial on Deep Umbrella (160cm).

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