Lighting for Video: Hard and Soft Light

When lighting your video, understanding the difference between hard and soft light can help improve the look of your video dramatically. It is also important to understand how to make light hard vs. soft, and know when to use which. We cover the basics here.

In this episode, we used the Aputure COB120 lights which are nice because with the add-on accessories, you can use this as a soft or hard light source. Here we used the Light Dome, the new fresnel lens, and some barn doors on the front of the lens.

Aputure Light Dome Soft Box for COB 120 LED Light

For video talking head or interview shots, my go-to choice for my main light is a softbox. Ever since I got the Aputure Light Storm COB 120t LED light a few months back, I’ve been waiting for their Light Dome softbox to start shipping. And I am not disappointed. This softbox produces beautiful soft light for interview shots, feels like a quality product, and is reasonably priced.

As a bonus, because the COB 120 has a bowens mount, you can use the light dome on any other LED lights with a bowens mount.

The light dome will start shipping soon. Check back for updates.

Softbox for LED Panel Lights: Kamerar D-Fuse

For interview or talking head video shots, I like to soften my Aputure Light Storm LED Panels (LS1s) to ensure that the light looks as flattering as possible. But one of the problems is that to do that, I’ve been setting up an additional light stand in front of the light and mounting a shoot-through scrim. This works beautifully in terms of softening the light but it is a bulky setup.

Kamerar just released a new series of softboxes made specifically for LED panel lights called their D-Fuse line. In this episode we take a quick look at the D-Fuse and compare its results with a shoot-through umbrella and plain old diffusion paper.

They have a version with an opening for 12"x12" panels and another with a 9.25"x9.25" opening for smaller panels (those with 500-ish LEDs). The opening can be a little larger than your LED panel and still work well. They'll also be releasing a grid attachment for the softbox that will help to control where the light spills making a soft, but contrasty look which is often used in photography. Looking forward to trying that out in the next few weeks.

Full disclosure: Kamerar gave me this softbox free of charge. They did not pay me further to do this review and did not specify what I was able to say or not say.

Fluorescent Softbox Kit: Better Quality for Beginners

Octacool A few years ago I reviewed my ePhoto fluorescent softbox kit which is a workhorse kit for talking head and interview style shoots. The upside of that kit was that it only cost $200. Today it sells for even less. But quality and durability were not amazing on this kit. In fact, I never break the softboxes down for fear that I'll break them. When I first received it, one of the porcelain sockets was literally dangling from the head by its wires. One of the bags for the light stands was shredded. The stands are pretty flimsy. But the light worked well if you treated them with kid gloves and left them assembled and out of harm's way...

ePhoto Kit

I'm really hesitant to recommend that old kit, mainly because of the lack of quality.

So for those that are willing to spend a little more, I highly recommend looking at a kit like the Impact Octacool series of flood/softbox lights. The quality is much, much higher and the light it produces is beautiful, soft, wrapping light that will flatter your talent for talking head or interview setups. The light heads are solidly built and should hold up to use on the road much better than the ePhoto kit. You still need to be careful since fluorescent bulbs are fragile, but with care, this kit should last for several years. The stands are sturdier. This is clearly a case where "you get what you pay for" applies.

Octacool Kit

The Octacool lights come in 6 or 9 bulb versions and in kits with light stands and multiple light heads. The 2 light, 6-bulb kit works great for talking head setups. I'd use one as a key light, the second as a kicker (from behind and off to one side), and use a bounce board or reflector to fill in the other side of the talent's face. Solid look without a lot of fuss.