The past several months have been pretty busy for me, but not with the kind of work I’m used to. While I certainly continue to photograph my share of corporate events, I’ve been photographing more food and drink than ever before. I’ve worked with local magazines, as well as some restaurants, to capture some marketing shots showcasing several menu items.
Up until recently, I’ve been using a two-umbrella setup with two Godox AD200 strobes. And it worked great. But what bothered me was the amount of light falloff that my images often had, which oftentimes made for something that looked a little flat.
Enter the MagBox system, a 24-inch octagonal softbox created by MagMod. I was first introduced to the MagBox last October as a part of the PhotoPlus Expo. As someone who focuses on corporate photography, the benefits of using it for something like a wedding didn’t really appeal to me. But I knew that having a softbox be a part of my lighting kit would mean I could better control my light setup.
I reached out to MagMod to ask some questions, and they graciously sent me a MagBox Starter Kit for review. I’ve been using it for a few months now, and I have to say that it’s completely changed the way I think about lighting my food — for the better.
As I mentioned above, my main concern here was that having shoot-through white umbrellas meant I couldn’t control the falloff of my lighting, meaning that some areas would get lit that I didn’t intend. While this was fairly simple to fix in post-processing, it was an annoyance that I couldn’t just make my main subject “pop” as I had hoped.
Had you asked anyone about my food photos, you probably wouldn’t get any complaints. The food looked natural and appetizing. I just knew that I could make the photographs a little better.
Despite not coming with a true carrying bag, I found the bag the Starter Kit came in to be suitable for my needs. Taking the MagBox out of the back and clicking it open was a breeze. So was mounting it to the MagRing and my light stand, which held a MagShoe.
I did find the first few times of putting the fabric diffuser on to be somewhat challenging, but after one or two times doing it, it was very quick and easy to attach. Unlike traditional softboxes where you rely on velcro, MagBox relies on the magnets that MagMod has become so known for.
Attaching my Godox AD200 lights was a very quick process, and they were immediately secured upon closing the MagRing door.
What’s a MagShoe?
For me, there was more to using the MagBox than just the softbox portion of the kit. I was equally as excited about the MagShoe, a flexible cold shoe that gave me the ability to make fine-tune adjustments on-the-fly. Gone were the cheap plastic umbrella mounts that we all know and, well, hate. The MagShoe allowed me to have better control over my umbrella setup whether I used the MagBox or not.
Integrating the MagBox
There were two setups I wanted to try with the MagBox. First, the MagBox on its own pointed directly at the plate of food I was photographing. I knew this would give off more of a direct, moody lighting effect, and in some instances, look almost low-key. But for certain situations where I just needed a small pop of light, it did so to perfection.
You can see that the shadows are much stronger in these photographs. Which, depending on the look you’re going for, isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
I also wanted to try integrating the MagBox into an umbrella setup. More specifically, I wanted to continue to light the subject with the MagBox, but also fill in the shadows with a single shoot-through umbrella that was placed off to the side. For me, this is when MagBox truly shined and created some food photographs that I feel are some of my best yet.
Plus, using the MagShoe with both the MagBox and my umbrella, meant that I could easily change the angle of my light source without having to unscrew and forcefully click an umbrella mount down or up. Instead, I could adjust everything with just a single hand, which worked really well.
As someone being new to softboxes, I quickly learned that pointing it directly at the subject wasn’t always the best idea — especially when it came to things like portraits. Instead, I sometimes found myself feathering the light by changing the angle to be just slightly above or below the subject. This still provided the light I needed, but without overpowering the subject. It also really helped in reducing reflections on the food or plates.
All in all, the MagBox has given me better options to control my light source than I had previously. I’m excited to integrate this into my photography kit and am already thinking about purchasing their FocusDiffuser, which helps to limit the light output even more.