Idea: SB-III Barn Door Mod

I have played around with the LumiQuest Soft Box III enough now that it is one of the few light mods I always pack if I am gonna be shooting people. You don't use it like a normal soft box -- you want it in real close, so it gets softer and is powerful enough to overpower the sun.

But I also noticed that one of the things I love about it is that fast fall-off you get when working in very close, like in this photo, shot for the ad. I love that soft light with fast fall-off so much that I have often found myself enhancing the fall-off with a nearby gobo.

This shot, if you'll remember, used the slightly smaller SB-II right overhead and a gobo in really tight to keep the light off of the top of his head. (A little fill was added in, too -- more here.)

And when I use two SB-III's as rim lights I tend to put them in close enough so that I have to worry about lens flare. So I usually have to gobo them there, too.

That got me thinking: If I am usually gobo'ing the light anyway, why not just build a single barn door into the unit itself? Saves a stand and a clamp, right?

Equal Parts Cardboard and Gaffer's Tape

I wanted the flap to be adjustable, retractable and to fold flat along with the SB-III when packed. So I just covered some cardboard with some black gaffer's tape and attached another strip lined with Velcro to secure it at the chosen angle.

Nothing fancy. The "hinge" is made out of gaffer's tape, too.

In addition to two ways listed above (blocking rim flare and shielding the top of someone's head from a nearby top light) I'm betting will most often use it to make a shaft of soft light for close-in, TTL flash portraits.

Holding the camera in the right hand and the light source in the left hand makes a nice cross light to back/right sunlight. And if you can gobo off the light as it works around the (camera left) side of your subject's head, you can definitely do some very cool stuff with nary a light stand in sight.



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Anonymous Will Alan said...

This is the first thing I noticed when using this to light insects and flora for macro. I've been waiting to build a simple grid from webbing for mine.

February 20, 2009 2:22 AM  
Blogger Tim S. said...

Great idea to integrate with a gafer tape hinge.

I"m tempted to purchase the LumiQuest Soft Box III, but was concerned with how sturdy the plastic hinged edges hold up to constant folding over time and especially use in cold temperatures. I realize it's not like investing a pricey lens, but I do want it to hold up to constant use.
I have only photos to go by and have not held one to exam more closely.

February 20, 2009 3:54 AM  
Blogger Neil Partridge said...

On a slightly related note... I always find that when making barn doors/snoots/etc it takes a bit of trial and error to get the velcro/gaffer tape just where I want. If you end up with tape residue, a great product to remove it is Zest-It in the UK or Citrus King in the USA. It's very economical, environmentally friendly and smells nice too.

February 20, 2009 4:47 AM  
Blogger Mark Howells-Mead said...

Good tip, and one I'll definitely be trying out as soon as I can! One question, though: if you're hand-holding the flash within a couple of feet of the camera, are you using a cable or wireless trigger? I've found that with the cheaper triggers, having the receiver too close to the transmitter stops the flash from firing. (I'm guessing that it has something to do with radio wavelengths?)

February 20, 2009 5:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Bet version 4 has one of these built in...

February 20, 2009 5:06 AM  
Blogger Georgios said...

Hhmm... David,

"you want it (SB III) in real close, so it gets softer and is powerful enough to overpower the sun"...

does that mean if you had to shoot the reluctant poet again you'd choose a different set up to this?

February 20, 2009 5:42 AM  
Anonymous Pat said...

Very nice. The simple ideas are always the best.

I haven't got a softbox for my flashguns but may give this a go with my studio softbox ;-)

February 20, 2009 7:20 AM  
Blogger susan said...

Hey Dave,
Mohammed looks pretty good. We miss you at home. Does gaffer tape fix everything?
Mrs. Strobist

February 20, 2009 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Fotografi said...

Great trick. You are really full of resources.

February 20, 2009 10:00 AM  
Blogger zack said...

I wish you had more setup shots like the one where you describe using the SB-III's in close. Maybe, you could keep a tiny person with a point n' shoot in your light bag to document your shoots. Or maybe I could just cowboy up and buy the DVD's...

On another note, I love Strobist and have learned so much from this site. I've been reading for about a year and half now (only into photography for 2...), and have become addicted to off-camera lighting.

I perform Improvised Comedy in Chicago, and have some of my shots on our website. Still learning, but I owe so much to strobist. Thanks David!

check out the site if you get a chance.

February 20, 2009 10:05 AM  
Blogger Matthew G. Monroe said...

Myself, I'd be very interested in seeing some sort of aftermarket grid or "eggcrate" built for this mini-softbox. Perhaps the fine folks at HonlPhoto could be (gently) prodded towards such a product...

February 20, 2009 10:51 AM  
Blogger desrosphotographe said...

Great picture. I really like ti use soft box sor my shoot to. It give good control and nice light. It is impressive what we can do with small flash.

February 20, 2009 11:38 AM  
Blogger treadwm said...

Cool! I made one of Karl Zemlin's DIY softboxes and can't wait to add this mod to it.

And yes, tape can fix everything!

February 20, 2009 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Todd Keith said...

Great shot ... I also love the little softbox. It's sooo portable and useful. Thanks for sharing!

Join iStock Photo HERE

February 20, 2009 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have used the barn doors you recommended a while ago (the 10 dlls ones from adorama), attaching it to the SB-800 and putting a translucent material in front (a pieces of grocery plastic bag does the trick). This way i can control the "size" of the tiny softbox created with the barn doors.

February 20, 2009 3:10 PM  
OpenID onegoodphotographer said...

This whole thing looks great! I have been wanting to do some portrait work and I believe I could use this. However, B&H and Amazon have it and it says they had it in 2003. Your article indicates that this version is new with limited availability. Which is it? Thank you!

February 20, 2009 4:19 PM  
Blogger Paulo Rodrigues said...

David, you can use heavy duty foil for the hinge of your barn door to make it stiff and hold itself in place.

I did a wee tutorial here.

February 20, 2009 6:27 PM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks David, this is pretty funny because I was considering doing the same exact thing with my SB III this past Monday! Thanks for giving the idea a direction.

February 20, 2009 7:05 PM  
Blogger Hub of Photography said...

Hi David,

The softbox clip with barndoors work fine on our SLP Kit with a professional touch.


February 21, 2009 5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be easier just to vignette the image in Camera Raw or Light Room? After all isn't his cuff one of those stray "bright spots" that Joe McNally derides as distracting or diverting?
Even if the vignette was too much on the bottom you could still go in and dodge it out couldn't you? I like to vignette stuff and then go back in and use the dodge tool set on the Highlight setting at about 17% and it looks really good for my taste.
Also Dave, have you tried using different combinations of white and silver, dull and/or shiny cards for the gobo flag set up? Maybe a black card and then about 2/3rds the into the card. depth wise, put a little strip of something a little more reflective? Just curious.SRE

February 21, 2009 6:53 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Great tips and fun articles on your site! Thanks.

February 21, 2009 6:58 AM  
Anonymous Fokke van Saane said...

I have an SBIII and did some home made mod's too.
I use velcro on the little flaps so i could secure it tighter to my SB28.

I like contrast in light. I love softboxes but i don't like that it spills on the walls so often. I like it to be able to direct it some more. So I have made an eggcrate for it. I glued velcro to the four sides and did some stitching with 2 inch black cloth. Sorry for the lousy pictures. If you're enthousiastic i can make better ones... :-)
without egg crate:
With egg crate:
Here are some quick examples of the effect.
Without egg crate:
with egg crate:
The eggcrate easily folds together inside the SBIII.

February 21, 2009 11:50 AM  
Anonymous mikey said...

(OT, following your FAQ suggestion to send you tips via comments)

Hi David, I was in the audience when you went to Google last year. Thought you might be interested to hear that the new(ish) Leica D-Lux 4 has a hot shoe, and although the manual doesn't say so, it seems to be perfectly happy to sync the flash at any shutter speed, up to 1/2000. I have tried this with a Vivitar 285 and Canon 430ex. Using the Cactus ebay remotes is a little more convenient (since either flash is way bigger than the camera) but now it tops out at just under 1/1000, which I already knew was the top speed of these remotes from experimenting with a hacked Canon G7.

Happy to send more information or pictures or whatever, if you want it.

February 22, 2009 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Van Morisson said...

This mod is a very clever idea. Eat your heart out Har, har.

February 22, 2009 11:46 AM  
Blogger Heipel said...

My SB III lasted exactly one field trip -- it was about minus 15 C and snowing, if that matters -- and when removing it from the flash the velcro on the SB III tab tore off the tab. I'm pretty careful with my stuff so I wasn't yanking blindly or anything.

Got my money back as I ponder if it was a single bad product or if the fault is more inherent?

February 22, 2009 8:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

re Velcro tab-

Wow, that is a first one on me -- those "Velcro" fasteners are actually molded into the tab, not just adhesive. I wouldn't even think that could be possible.

Short answer is no, I certainly do not think that is a trend. Glad to see you got a full refund. Not surprised at that at all.


February 23, 2009 12:04 AM  
Blogger Heipel said...

Thanks David.

I was confused by the velcro separation as it appeared to be an adhesive failure but the remaining three tabs with velcro didn't appear to be glued to each other ??... If that makes sense.

Anyway, I'll be buying another this weekend -- and also giving the barn door modification a try, as well.

Just love this site (and your DVDs).

February 24, 2009 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anthony Lopez said...

ingenious idea with the softbox flaps. definitely going to try this.

March 09, 2009 8:53 PM  

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