Softboxes – They may just cause cancer

Richard Charpentier Arizona, Commercial Photographer, Notes from Rich, Photography, Portrait Work, RLC Design Leave a Comment

The title of this post could also read, “Softboxes kill puppies.”  That would be an ode to, “QR Codes Kill Kittens,” a great little book about web marketing and the dumb things people do.  But I decided on the post title above.

jodi (4 of 5)

While not a softbox. the Lastolite Tri-Grip is pretty darned intimidating. Heck, it’s downright threatening! Look at how the light streams through it. It’s so white! It cries out, “Terrorist photographer plot!”

Every time I break out a softbox in public I get a response.  You can see the fear and panic in people’s eyes.  And if there’s any authority figure around, you can be sure they’ll be on their way to talk to you pronto.  My conclusion?  Softboxes are extremely dangerous, probably carcinogenic, and I’m sure somewhere on mine are warnings from the state of California that they are linked with cancer.

If you go out photographing in a park most people will ignore you.  The moment you put a larger lens on (let’s say my 70-200mm L Series lens) people take notice.  And if any lighting gear beyond the ever useful pop up flash is seen (bleh), you are now enemy number one.

Yesterday we set off to do a shoot over at McDowell Mountain.  Before scheduling our shoot we made sure to read through the web to find out if any form of permit was required to do our shoot there.  Nothing obvious popped up.  Arriving at the location I did a little light metering and a few test shots.  No lighting gear was setup.  Once the client arrived we opened up the softbox…..and bam!

Excuse me, but you need a permit to photograph here.

The park ranger person was pleasant, but kept repeating herself.  We immediately acknowledged it was our bad, as we found nothing on the website about permits.  The ranger kept repeating, “Well you need a permit,” as we were packing our gear away.  She spent 7 – 10 minutes repeating that as we packed up.  She also provided us a card with a weblink where after much digging we found the permit information.  Interestingly enough, anywhere in the city that is city property requires a permit for commercial photography……..


It is totally amazing how a flash unit and a softbox immediately make you enemy number one.  I’ve been through this many times before both with and without permits.  Years ago I was chased off the Courthouse Plaza in Prescott as one of the security officers didn’t understand permitting.  I’ve photographed there for years, even with a big lens, and no issues.  Break out a softbox and your more scary then the morning druggies who I’d watch make their deals on the plaza without hassle from my gallery window.

My final thoughts?  People don’t kill people.  Softboxes do.  Well, at least they kill photo shoots in many public spaces.


My reflection in the client’s sunglasses yesterday. As you can see behind me, Jodi holding the softbox on a portable stand. I could only get the client to hold still for one shot, as he was terrified of the softbox!



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