I’m always looking for new and creative ways to play with light. When I had the chance to test out the Vello Octa Softbox for Portable Flash (Large, 12″), I knew that it was portable enough that I could get some interesting angles and views with it.

While getting ready for an off-camera lighting workshop, I decided to play around with using the softbox to provide edge lighting on a subject against a black background. The setup was pretty simple, with my Nissin i60A flash mounted on a light stand, with the softbox attached. I also used a Nissin Air 1 Commander to control my flash output and trigger the light.

I wanted something with Dan that could show some emotion — to be frank, I wanted a “ticked off” moment. Initially, I tried a shot without the apple but felt like I needed to add an element of color. We found a prop apple in the studio, and I asked Dan to throw it up in the air a few times, showing very little emotion on his face.

I shot in manual mode, with a low ISO of 200 and f/4 aperture. The flash duration was fast enough to capture a sharp apple, at 1/80 of a second. By allowing for a bit of ambient light in the scene, I was able to achieve some motion blur on the back of the apple. You could probably get by with down to 1/60 of a second if you wanted to provide even more motion blur, and to brighten things up.

My flash, on the other hand, was set to 1/16 power. I wanted enough flash to light the side of Dan’s face, while also lighting part of the apple.

I was pretty happy with the photograph, as the background was perfectly black and Dan was bright enough that I could make some adjustments once I got back home.

I started off with doing some basic Lightroom adjustments and then brought it into Photoshop to reduce the motion blur and reflection on the apple.

I finished by using Perfectly Clear’s Beautify preset to help boost the lighting and sharpen Dan’s eyes and mouth. It made for a much more “crisp” look.

Why Use a Softbox?

In this case, the softbox helped to not only diffuse the light coming from my flash, but also spread it out. It made for a more natural lighting to the side of his face, versus not having a softbox, which would have created some harsh shadows and highlights.

The nice thing about the Vello Octa Softbox for Portable Flash (Large, 12″) is that I could have positioned it on-camera or on a light stand, like I did with Dan, to create a more creative and edgy look to the photograph.


Tools like softboxes — no matter the size — can really open you up to some creative options when it comes to lighting. Choosing to go with some edge lighting, as I did with Dan, provides for a moody and really cool photograph. And while this certainly won’t be his next professional portrait, it’s a fun one that we can reminisce about and continue to learn from.