I had written previously about buying a softbox lighting setup for taking our train and product photos, here’s that article. I’ve had this same setup now for a couple of years and for a very inexpensive rig, I’ve been surprised at how well it’s held up. This 3-piece set included 3 softboxes measuring 24” x 24” and they’re roughly 15” deep. My set came with 2 conventional light stands and a single boom arm stand as well as photo bulbs, power cables, carrying cases, etc.
For the $150 or so I paid for this set, it’s been a great investment. Each softbox holds up to 5 conventional CFL bulbs with individual on/off controls for each bulb. When all 3 of these boxes are lit up… this set throws a lot of light!
I recently rearranged my workspace to include a pair of $5.99 white tabletops from Ikea (how do they make stuff this cheap?) as a photo surface instead of white poster board. I then added a new table for actual train work and realized I’d need some lighting for this new workspace. I was shopping for this lighting when I thought, what a dope… I have three perfectly good lights and stands right here.
I had always used swing-arm desk lamps, hardware store clamp lights or available overhead light for my work area but now using the overhead boom light, I have absolutely no shortage of lumens when I’m working, it’s a real pleasure. I don’t use the 6500k photo bulbs that came with my set, instead I use 5000k CFL bulbs from Home Depot, very economical and easy to replace when one blows. When I need to take photos, I just reposition the boom stand from the work to the photo table.
I’ve seen variations of my 3-softbox light set for right around $100 on eBay with free shipping and while these aren’t as robust as pro-lighting rigs you’d find in a dedicated photo studio, they work and they work well. Given that a single basic 10” clamp light can cost $15.00, getting a 3-softbox set with stands for $100 seems a bargain.
The other huge benefit of course to using a softbox as a work light is that it IS a photo softbox! I look at a lot of model train pics and YouTube videos online and poorly lit models and scenes appear frequently. Expensive cameras and cheap cameras have at least one thing in common, they love light. A simple softbox set like this can really bring your train photos to life no matter which camera you own.
Good work lights and good photo lights in one for around $100 seems like a good idea to me.If you find you don’t regularly use all 3 of the softboxes, you can always hang one from the ceiling as a room light, very industrial cool!
$5.99 White Ikea Table
Some eBay Options On Softbox Kits
eBay Softbox Kits
CFL 5000k Bulbs / Home Depot
CFL Bulb 4-Pack