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How to Set Up Softbox Lighting

Published: 30/08/2021

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A softbox is an accessory that helps photographers control lighting when there's too much shadow, reflective surfaces, or low-light spaces. To ensure proper exposure for spectacular interiors and exteriors, I'm sharing tips on how to set up softbox lighting for real estate photography.

How to Set Up Softbox Lighting

First, ensure proper assembly of the softbox, external flash, and light stand. Consider the distance between the external lights and the subject to determine the best position and angle for the softbox.  The softbox should produce soft light whether it's beside you, facing the subject directly, or toward the ceiling.

Using other lighting accessories apart from external flashes, seems daunting at first, yet that won't be the case when you fully understand how softbox lighting works.

Setting Up Softbox Lighting for Real Estate Photos

It's possible that the lighting fixtures don't match the window light, which can cause overexposure to the view outside. Large properties with ill-placed lights can create dark corners. However, you can set up multiple softboxes, bouncing flash using a softbox, or use a softbox as a secondary light.

Black softboxes

The global lighting market size expects to hit $163.72 billion by 2027. Among the key players here are photography lighting tools. The good thing is that there are several real estate photography techniques you can use with the help of a softbox. 

Diffusing Light for a Soft Glow

You can use a softbox as the primary diffuser for your bulbs, resulting in a directional fill light over the scene. You can also include an umbrella to splash some light over furniture or objects in the foreground.

Put an external flash on a stand to the left of your scene and cover it with a softbox. In this way, you can also use the setup as an alternative to sunrays shining over the patio or terrace.

Placing Softbox on a Flash to Reduce Glare

One of the trickiest things in taking real estate photos is that houses can have lots of reflective surfaces like mirrors and metallic objects. To avoid glare, use a softbox to cover the off-camera lights.

For instance, you can put the lights and softbox setup behind you or near the doorframe so it won't completely cover one side of the room or bring shadows to the other side.

Single Bounced Fill-Flash for Interiors or Exteriors

One of the simplest ways to improve lighting for interior photos is to use a single bounced flash. In this way, you can fill any shadows to highlight particular objects or features.

Place the external light beside you (i.e. ETTL), cover it with a softbox, and angle it toward the ceiling. When you bounce the flash, this will produce a soft light that can prevent overexposure.

Multiple Wireless Flashes with a Softbox

Multiple lighting setups can be time-consuming, yet it's one of the most reliable lighting techniques for real estate photography. The goal is to highlight a home's best features and work the lighting around it. 

For example, you may want to highlight the high ceilings or exquisite moldings in a large room. In such cases, you need to angle the softbox toward the subject's position for even illumination.

Modifying Flash for Composite Photos and HDR Editing

It's common for real estate photographers to shoot bracketed images, which you need to stitch in a photo editing software to produce a realistic high dynamic range (HDR) photo.

If bouncing flash generates blown-out white spots on the scene, you can place a softbox over the external lights to soften the flash power. From there, you can set a softbox on each side of the camera-and-lens setup.

Primary or Secondary Light for Exteriors

Shooting outdoors means having several light sources, including your lights, the sun, and the location's lighting fixtures. You can use a softbox either as the main or fill light. Either way, it can help balance the exposure despite the sunlight.

If there are shadows, you can place another softbox on the opposing side of the first softbox to fill in shadows.

Assembling a Softbox for Photography Lighting

The exact process of forming a softbox varies since there are various brands, styles, sizes, and shapes. However, these are the general steps in assembling a softbox.

  • Unfold the softbox by spreading it to the ground, with the reflective side facing up.
  • Get one of the rods. Slide the smaller end of the rod into the fabric pouch on one of the four corners of the softbox fabric.
  • Slide the 3 remaining rods on their respective sides to form an X pattern.
  • Put the speed ring insert into the speed ring. Use screws to lock in the speed ring. Loosen the screws a bit so you can rotate the softbox even when mounted.
  • Turn the softbox over and take the speed ring's long end facing up.
  • Extend the Velcro flaps together for ventilation.
  • Mount the softbox onto your external light.
Photographer shooting with softbox lighting

Considerations When Using Softbox Lighting for Real Estate Photography

The global photographic services market expects a 10% compound annual growth rate by 2021. One way to ensure you can join the growth is to make your portfolio unique from your competitors.

To do that, it's important to level up your photography techniques. However, learning how to set up softbox lighting for real estate photos also involves various factors.

  • Positioning the softbox close to the subject generates a soft light. Meanwhile, placing the softbox away from the subject may create shadows in the corners of the frame.
  • Choose the softbox size depending on the coverage and quality of diffused light you need.
  • It's common to use rectangular softboxes in real estate photography since the shape guarantees a wide, horizontal coverage.
  • Make sure there's a removable front diffusion screen or the white side that releases the light.
  • When including realtors or agents in the photo, it would be best to put the softbox close to the subject's best side for flattering lighting.
  • Use remote triggers for your camera and flash triggers to ensure stability.
  • Use gel filters if the white balance of the external lights doesn't match the available light's color.


Setting up softbox lighting when taking real estate images enables you to use diffused and gentle light. Make sure to assemble the softbox, external lights, and light stand. Then, consider your subject's distance, available lighting, and desired effect when positioning the softbox.


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