Strip boxes are great tools to have in any lighting kit, whether you shoot on location or in the studio. Because of the need to travel light when out on location, I make sure to narrow down my kit to only the most necessary and versatile pieces of equipment. The saying is “if we lug it all the way out there, it better to get used.”
With most lighting modifiers there is an obvious application, or specific thing the tool was created for, then there’s the creative application of that tool. I mean, how many crazy applications have you found for gaffer tape over the years? No matter what pops up gaffer tape seems to be the obvious solution. I like to adopt this same mentality with all of my equipment. Why cant a camera body double as a hammer in a bind, etc.
Undoubtedly strip boxes make for great rim lights. They are essentially skinny softboxes. Because of this they produce a very directional light and with the diffusion panels in place, a soft light to boot. This control allows for precise placement of the light on the rim or edge of your subject adding a three dimensionality to your subjects and separating them from your background.
Those characteristics are exactly why I use my strip boxes in other applications as well. Selective lighting is key when you are layering the light in an image. You have to be wary of contaminating other elements of your photograph with stray light.
For this shot of Elana from a recent shoot in Austin, TX I used a Pro 18" x 42" Asymmetrical Travel Softbox as my go-to key light for the day. This box is already designed to taper off the intensity of the light towards the bottom, and with its thin profile it was ideal for exposing just my model, and allowing me to build in the rest of the scene separately. I went on to use a Medium Apollo Softbox with 40° Grid (28") to light the rest of the booth and background. To finish everything off and add an element of color, in camera, I brought in the new Standard Umbrella - White Diffusion (7') with a green-gelled light firing through it. This just opened up the shadows to taste and added a slight colorcast without the need to do so later in Photoshop.
In this next shot we employed a similar 3 light setup. The Pro 18" x 42" Asymmetrical Travel Softbox as the key again, the Standard Umbrella - White Diffusion (7') for an on-camera fill. This time employing a bare bulb speedlight, I chose to shoot through some wooden slats in the wall, for some neat highlights on the background. The thin profile yet decent length of the stripbank allowed me to boom it right over the model to mimic the direction of the light from the overhead fixture. This placement wouldn’t have been possible with a standard softbox, and a bare bulb speedlight would fit but not have given me the quality of light I wanted.
A final benefit of using strip boxes lies not in lighting our model, but how we permit it to spill in a controlled manner, to make our environments more dynamic. In this image of Raylin in the field, the goal for me was to isolate the model without alienating her from the rest of the scene. I accomplished this through selectively lighting her with the strip boxes and allowing a controlled spill of light onto the foliage in the foreground. By under exposing everything else we get the saturated skies and strong silhouettes in the background.
Soft Light = Good Light
Directional Light = Controlled Light
Soft Controlled Light = PRICELESS