In The Studio with the Plume Wafer

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Plume WaferA lightbank is simply a black box with one side covered in diffusion material that lets light from a source pass through and illuminate the subject. Lightbanks diffuse the raw light produced by an electronic flash or other light source and produce a clean unobstructed highlight on the subject whether it’s a reflective subject like a product or a portrait subject’s eyes.

You occasionally hear lightbanks called “light box” and even “soft box.” I prefer the generic term “lightbank” because it can refer to the many shapes and sizes that they are available in. The light source—monolight, light head, even a speedlight—inside a lightbank can be aimed to shoot through the front diffusion screen toward the subject or can be bounced into the back of the box before exiting the front producing an even softer light. Some lightbanks let you use them either way so you can have more powerfully direct, yet softened light or the maximum possible soft light experience.

lori.waferOne of the most important rules of portrait lighting is that the larger the light source is, the softer it is. Also the closer a light source is to a subject the softer it it. there are also the inverse rules; Small lights equals harder light and moving the light source farther away accomplishes the same thing. For many portrait photographers, including moi, I like to use big sources close to the subject.

The downside of using lightbanks is as they get bigger they also get deeper. Lighting innovator Gary Regester created a lightbank with a thinner-than-normal profile— the Plume Wafer. The narrow profile, silver-with-white interior and graduated inner baffles create efficiencies across the front diffuser panel. The narrow profile results from using aluminum tubes and fiberglass rods to make a big, soft light source that’s easily manageable in a tight space like my 11×15-dfoor home studio.

In the  portrait at right, one monolight with Wafer mounted is at camera right; no reflector was used. Background is Savage’s Economy Background kit. Camera was an Olympus OM-10 Mark I with Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and an exposure of 1.125 sec at f/11 and ISO 400.

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If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from with new copies selling $17.50, just a few bucks more than used ($15.34.)