The Grocery Sack Softbox

The Grocery Sack Softbox

A perfect time to finally write a post about the good ol’ grocery sack softbox, seeing as I used it once again for, get this, the Mercedes-Benz photo shoot (which I just wrote about, see that here). As you’ll read, the main theme of that post is that quite often location photography doesn’t go quite as planned, leaving photographers to attempt some impromptu photographic problem solving. As a big lighting guy, one such situation I will sometimes find myself in is the lack of a certain type of light modifier. Either I’ve exhausted the arsenal of modifiers I have on me at the time, or none of them fulfill the exact need I’m looking for. I’d need both hands to count the number of times I’ve called upon the humble plastic sack to modify some light in a pinch.

Yes, that’s right, the same sack you used to tote your groceries home, ones that cost you nothing, the same which bags cat poop on it’s way to the garbage. In my world, they have almost as much practicality as duct tape. I’ve used a free plastic sack in certain shooting situations simply because it was able to do the job better than a $200 softbox. Light is light. You can modify it in a dizzying number of ways, proof by the crazy and endless number of products you can purchase for strobes and speedlites (none of which are exactly what you’d call “inexpensive”). Maybe that is why some photographers would never even think of taking a plastic sack and depend on it to massage light perfectly onto a subject’s face during a professional photo shoot. Maybe if the humble plastic sack cost $25 bucks a pop it would catch-on with the lighting accessory snobs. Idea…

Yes, it’s the Matty Uber Softbox. This amazing, adaptable, highly portable, and adjustable modifier can be yours for $25 (plus S+H). But I won’t stop there, no… call now and I’ll double that order, ’cause I’m awesome like that. Limited editions will come with the Safeway logo already X’d out.

So back to this Mercedes shoot… I was already in a mad scramble to squirt-out some halfway decent images thanks to a major weather shift. All of my backup modifier gear was in-use, and I needed to add a flash inside the car, pointed out to light the front of our female model and catch some accents of the car interior. It would be placed in the male model’s lap as he sat in the driver’s seat. Bare bulb wasn’t going to cut it, too harsh of light on the models face, which didn’t fit the rest of the lighting setup. I didn’t have a diffusor panel on me that would fit the jet fighter-like cockpit of the sports car. Luckily (I use that word almost sarcastically), someone had brought the production team some waters, in nothing other than a plastic sack straight from the store. I pulled the waters out and put that sack to use. And yes, it felt downright ridiculous using the cheapest modifier on the planet inside a quarter-million dollar car, but it worked, and that’s all I cared about at the moment.

100 dollars, 10 dollars, no dollars… doesn’t matter what the gear investment is if you have a creative lighting brain to problem solve with. I’ve repurposed all kinds of random things in shooting situations, including taping a business card to the side of a speedlite to use as a flag. If you want to get real crazy with it, you can even use a colored plastic sack in the event you forgot your color gels (I know, I’m blowin’ your minds right now… more sarcasm…).

You’d be amazed at how often those sacks happen to be laying around at shoots, begging to get used. Either one is hidden away in your car or your client toted a change of clothes in one, etc. Or… cough… you can order your special edition Matty Premium Plus Universal Uber Softbox Sack (hurry while supplies last).

So, here is the shot that literally was saved by a free sack I found at the shoot and repurposed. Without this light coming from inside the car, the entire front side of the model would have been lost to shadow, as well as the highlight details of the car interior. By far the most important light in this 5 light setup.

Photo of light/sack setup in model’s lap. Photo courtesy of Maggie Miller.

Hurry and order now, they’re going fast!

Included is a highly adaptable mount, fitting just about any light.

Just look at this magic… almost too good to be true 😉

More to come to the blog, hold tight…