UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


DIY Ball-Bungee Speedlight Soft Box Mount

I don't use my soft boxes very often, as a shoot-through umbrella is a more efficient diffuser, cheaper and more portable. But a soft box does give a nice, rectangular specular highlight, without the visible ribs of an umbrella.

(If there are any ribs visible in my vicinity, I prefer them slow-cooked, and smothered with a Carolina-style, mustard-and-vinegar BBQ sauce...)

But for headshots, a speedlight/soft box combo has plenty of power to work in close -- remember that power/distance relationship. And it gives you those cool, window-like highlights in the eyes.

Quick tip: You can accentuate the window-like specular from a soft box by putting little gaffer's tape dividers on the front panel.

Be sure to take them off when you are done, as the tape will leave permanent residue if you let it stay on and dry out. And do not use duct tape, as it will mar the surface instantly. You can use black masking tape, though.

(I leave mine on, because I like the effect and generally use the soft box or nothing but people.)

Here is her eye up close in that previous frame. She is not really catching the vertical divider, mind you. I was just playing around with a quick and dirty CLS setup here, and not shooting to show the effect. But you can still see the horizontal divider working.

(Did he say CLS? Yes. I am trying to learn more about it to see when it makes sense to use it and explore its limitations.)

Anyhow, back to the ball bungee soft box thing.

As much as I would like to take credit for this idea, I got it from Pat Murphy-Racey, who was on my Purple Team at the Eddie Adams workshop in 1989. Pat used to have a business (and cool website) that sold turn-key arena lighting systems, which is where I found out about what he calls "The Cheater."

He used those thick blue rubber bands you get what you buy broccoli. But I don't like broccoli. So I use ball bungees. The longer models work best (mine are about 8" long, unstretched.) The shorter ones are a very tight fit. If you are using rubber bands, you need four broccoli rubber bands (better get eatin') or maybe those "Live Strong" style rubber band bracelets.

Don't leave them stretched for days on end, though. They'll weaken and snap.

So, here we are, speedring on stand, via the typical umbrella adapter. This will allow you to mount the soft box on a stand and tilt it.

Note that my speedring (that is what the little thing that connects a soft box to a normal flash head is called) has a 1/4x20 female thread in the bottom. I think this is pretty common, but yours may not have it. If not, this system is still good for hand-holding a speedlight and softbox (or for having someone else hold it) for a quickie portrait.

Stretch one band/bungee around as shown. Put the ball on the edge for a firm hold.

If you are using rubber bands, you'll use two in each direction. You could also use a wad of normal rubber bands in place of a single big one, I suppose. But the ball bungees turn out to be very secure, so I recommend those.

By the way, if you can't get ball bungees in your country, you can get them at Amazon for $10 for a pack of 25. They are very useful things to have around the house.

Then you place the other band/bungee across in the other direction. This creates an "H-shape" elastic suspension across the opening of your speedring.

It probably seems pretty obvious by now, but all you do is to wedge your flash into the middle of the bungees. The hold is surprisingly strong.

Remember that you'll want to turn your flash in the appropriate direction to make your beam of light best cover the soft box panel. I like to set my flash to its widest beam spread, and I get good coverage.

Here it is, all assembled and ready for the soft box to be mounted to the speedring. It is very secure. I would have no problem suspending this thing over water, for example.

You can dial your flash way down and take a photo of the front panel of the box to get an idea of how smooth your coverage is. (I.e., do you have a hot spot in the middle of you panel.) You can always use a Sto-Fen or Tupperware as a diffuser to smooth it out. But that eats light, and is really not necessary, IMO.

Remember to swivel the base of your flash independently to expose your infrared sensor if you are triggering via CLS or eTTL. For close-in headshots, the wireless TTL mode will pretty much get you dead-on exposures, as the main subject area will be lit by the flash.

But manual is always available and offers more control and precision, whether you trigger with CLS/eTTL, by PC cord, or by radio remotes.

So, that's one way to mount a speedlight in a softbox. What are your little tricks/gear/hacks for doing this? Share 'em in the comments.


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
My current project: The Traveling Photograher's Manifesto