Octabox 150 | Studio Lighting Essentials
It’s main purpose is to produce high-quality soft light for portraiture. But it can do much more than that.
Let’s take a closer look at this versatile modifier: what it does, what it’s for, how it works, and what to look out for if you’re using one.
What is an octabox 150?
In simple terms, the octabox 150 is a large, octagonal softbox. The light it produces is homogenous, meaning it is distributed evenly across the illuminated area.
The 150 in the name refers to the distance from one side of the modifier to the other at its widest point: 150cm across (59 inches)
The Velcro strip around the rim of the octabox is used for attaching accessories – a grid, for example, or a third layer of diffusion material if you want to increase the homogeneity of the light being emitted.
As you’ll see in the video, you can remove the layer of diffusion material to get a closer look at the key elements of a good octabox. You’ll discover another layer of internal diffusion material, which in turn as an extra, circular patch at its centre. This is positioned directly over the light itself to boost homogeneity.
The importance of durability
There are wide range of octaboxes available, with prices varying considerably. If you’re thinking about investing in a budget model, keep in mind that though the light it produces may be adequate, the build quality may not be up to scratch.
The truth is that a lot of cheaper softboxes fall down when it comes to durability. Given that you’re likely to use this modifier regularly, in the studio or out on location, that lack of durability can be a problem in the medium to long term.
Unless you have a large studio, you’re going to have put your octabox away at the end of the day, and get it back out again next time. And unless you have an extremely large vehicle, you’re going to have to pack it up to take it out on location.
All that taking down and putting up takes its toll. A good, sturdy softbox will stand the test of time and withstand being used regularly.
How to attach and remove an octabox 150
When you release any softbox from its light, you have to take care not to damage the protective glass shell on the light itself. In the video, you’ll see me demonstrate my favourite techniques for removing the octabox 150 and putting it back on without damaging the light.
It’s simple: take the light off the stand with the octabox still attached, and put the whole thing on the ground. You can then easily detach the modifier from the light without having to worry about holding on to both.
The same principle applies when you’re reattaching. If the octabox is on the ground, you can easily slot the light back into place, then lift the light and modifier together and reattach the light to the stand.
Get up to speed on speed rings
Every octabox features a locking mechanism referred to as speed rings. These mechanisms, which allow you to attach your light to your modifier, vary from brand to brand. For example, broncolor speed rings enable you to attach broncolor modifiers to broncolor lights.
However, it is often possible to buy adapted speed rings that enable you to mix brands. For example, broncolor also manufactures other speed rings so that broncolor modifiers can be also used with other brands of light.
Similarly, in our studio, we use a Bowens fit adaptor that allows us to attach octaboxes to video lights.
Whatever speed rings you’re working with, assembly is usually via a simple colour-coded system. Line up the blue dots with the blue rods, the red dots with the red rods – job done!
To grid or not to grid?
You may have seen other photographers using grids with their octaboxes and thought you need to do the same. But the truth is, I don’t do so very often.
Why? Because a grid will reduce the softness of the light from the softbox by narrowing the angle of the beam, creating a higher-contrast light. However, grids can be useful if you’re working in a small space and need to minimise spill.
As I demonstrate in the video, you attach the grid to your octabox using the Velcro around the rim. When I then direct the octabox at my studio wall, you can see that the light is still soft directly in front, but gets harder on either side.
When I remove the grid, the light becomes brighter and softer, with a wider spread. If you have enough space that you don’t need to worry about spill, it’s a very versatile light source.
Versatile and forgiving
The light from an octabox 150 replicates light from a medium-to-large window. That makes it very versatile, which is why so many photographers rely on them.
One of the most popular uses of this modifier is portrait photography. The octabox 150 is great for high-quality soft-light portraits. It’s particularly useful for things like business portraits, when your subject is not a professional model and is perhaps not naturally photogenic. The light from the octabox is forgiving while still being strong and effective.
I often use the octabox 150 for fashion and beauty shoots, too. In this case, because I’m shooting with models who can handle higher contrast lighting, I’ll position the octabox a little more aggressively. For instance, in the so-called clamshell setup, the octabox is positioned above the model and angled down onto them at a 45-degree angle.
This modifier can also be great for food photography, again thanks largely to its ability to imitate natural light. Sometimes I even use it without the front diffuser. This reduces the size of the light source and therefore reduces the softness and homogeneity of the light, adding a bit more hardness and sparkle.
Compare 25+ different lighting modifiers
To compare an octabox 150 with a regular softbox (plus many, many other modifiers), check out our amazing Lighting Comparison Visualiser.
This useful tool allows you to quickly and easily understand how different modifiers give very different effects. Don't have a big studio full of professional equipment? No problem – use ours!
If you'd like to learn more about lighting modifiers, we've got dozens of classes on Photography Lighting for you to explore.