Review: Collapsible Soft Box and Plate to Pixel Book
I started my food blog a little over a year ago, and as a result I have developed an interest in food photography. I’ve read a lot of information and tips on food photography and I’ve taken photography classes. All of the information I’ve collected indicates that the best type of light to use for good photos of food is natural light. The problem is that most of the time I’m preparing food for dinner, which means it’s already dark or near dark by the time I’m ready to take a photo. While I would love to use natural light for my photos, that isn’t always an option for me, and taking pictures of food under my kitchen light always has that yellow-ish look, and despite my best efforts on photo editing software, I can’t brighten up the picture in a way that looks natural.
I read a fantastic book entitled Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin. This is an excellent book for beginning food photographers! The book explains camera settings and how they relate to food photography, as well as lighting, setup, props, and food styling. If you’re interested in food photography or improving the quality of your food photos, I highly recommend this book as it has a lot of great information and it’s written in a manner that even a novice (like me) can understand.
In the book, the author discusses lighting and offers suggestions for ways to take quality photos when natural light isn’t available. There are several great tips, but one that particularly interested me was the use of a Soft Box or Light Box. It’s basically an enclosed box that allows you to concentrate light inside. You can place the item you’re photographing inside and you’ll get better, brighter light.
I was intrigued by this idea,but I didn’t want a big clunky box that I would have to store when I’m not using, so a friend suggested that I try a collapsible Soft Box. She had seen it on Amazon.com and thought it would be a good idea. It’s fairly inexpensive, so I decided to give it a try.
I purchased the Cowboy Studio 30 Inch Photo Soft Box with 4 Backdrops. It comes with a small nylon case with a zipper for storage. I liked the storage case because it’s very compact and easy to store when not in use. The softbox is quite large when expanded; I was initially planning to use it on a card table but it was too big so I placed it on my dining room table instead. Since it’s so large, there’s a lot of room inside which makes it easy to place several items inside (if you want to photograph a place setting rather than just a plate, for example).
The fabric that this Soft Box is made with is very lightweight which means it acts as a light diffuser. The idea behind the Soft Box is that you place bright halogen or flourescent lights next to the box that point in the direction of the item you wish to photograph. This allows for the lighting you need to take a brighter photo, while the box acts as a diffuser so the light doesn’t shine harshly on the item you’re photographing.
The Soft Box helps with improving the quality of my photos when I don’t have the option of using natural light; the combination of the light and the Soft Box makes for a brighter, more natural looking light than my kitchen lighting. The fact that it is collapsible is a big plus; when I’m finished with it I can collapse it into a small carrying case I can easily store. Plus, it’s very easy to open and collapse the Soft Box. I’m still experimenting with the light and placement of lighting, but overall the picture quality is better with the Soft Box.
The main drawback to this product is the backdrops. The Soft Box came with four backdrops (white, black, blue and red). The material for the backdrops is thin and a little flimsy, and it attracts lint very easily so I had to use a lint roller frequently to remove lint. It looks as though the backdrops were stitched together in square patches; I ironed the backdrops but the square shapes didn’t iron out so the squares show through on pictures. The black backdrop wasn’t really a “dark” black so it almost takes on a gray-ish hue which also shows through on pictures, and the white back drop was almost transparent. In addition, the backdrops fasten to the Soft Box with velcro and they fit very loosely, so if you’re looking for a seamless background effect in photos, you won’t get it with these backdrops.
If you’re looking for a way to take better food photography pictures when you don’t have the option of natural light, I think this is a good product to try. It’s inexpensive and definitely improves lighting for food photography. Just plan on using alternatives for backdrops when using this Soft Box, as the backdrops included with this product were less than stellar.