How the MagBox Reignited My Love of Off Camera Light

I’ve always been obsessed with magnets. Ever since Apple implemented the Magsafe charging connector and their Macbooks (RIP), I’ve tried to think of helpful ways to add magnets to all sorts of things in everyday life. I’ve got a magnet hack for my Peak Design bag (See Post Here); I use magnets to mount portable speakers; and I’ve attached magnets to most of the doors around my house.

Over the years, I’ve seen more and more photographers using MagMod gear—and I’m always jealous. I want to use it too, but the honest truth is that, in the vast majority of my work, I shoot natural light. I’m primarily a wedding photographer, and I shoot most weddings by myself. It’s particularly difficult to lug around light stands without an assistant if you want to be efficient with your time and energy. I do have an ongoing epic portrait series (see below) using OCF with various modifiers, but those are rare and random opportunities.

But as luck would have it, I received my MagBox 24” Octa Pro Kit a week or two before I was scheduled to do a series of portraits for NFL player Vernon Davis of the Washington Redskins. He was a client of mine (I photographed his engagement session), and he needed a variety of looks for upcoming promotional campaigns.

When I unpacked the MagBox 24" Octa Pro Kit, I was intrigued. Oddly enough not because of anything magnetic, but because of the incredibly smart bag design.

I absolutely love the fact that the MagBox, when collapsed, slides through an inner tube of the carrying case. Genius!

I’ve started storing all kinds of useful things in that tube, but primarily it holds my light stand and what has become my favorite “look” with the MagBox… the Focus Diffuser.

The first thing I did once everything was unpacked and setup, was mount it to my Profoto B10 flash and see what various looks I could get out of it.

So, that’s me and the MagBox with no diffuser, with the Focus Diffuser, and the Fabric Diffuser. Just a simple test to start getting a feel for the look this thing would output. As I took more test shots I quickly realized there’s a definite sweet spot of distance with this thing. Normally, I would choose to do OCF portraits with a modifier that’s much larger than 24” to get a very noticeable “painterly” look, but I decided as long as the MagBox was within a few feet of my subjects face I could still achieve that look. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

The above photo (1/250th, f/2.8, ISO 50, 80mm) has the MagBox set camera right JUST out of frame. Her hair is blowing from the HVAC unit she was standing in front of. 

Oh, and as a geeky sidenote - the above photo and all the rest in this post were made with my Phase One XF w/ IQ3 back.

Here are some more examples of the “painterly” look I was consistently happy with as long as the MagBox was close enough, and the Focus Diffuser was attached.

I’m notoriously bad at remembering to take wide BTS content to show flash placement. The above photo was 1/500th, f/2.8, ISO 50, 80mm.

Here is a fantastic example of how close I like to get the MagBox. Sometimes this means I’ll have to comp it out in post:

The images below are examples of when the light starts to look a little too harsh for my tastes. It’s just a touch too far away from the subject.


So, with these initial tests done I packed up, and enlisted my good friend Nathan to help me since I really wanted everything to be quick and seamless while working with Vernon.

Nathan was completely mobile with a monopod to move wherever I wanted freely. The entire session with Vernon was lit solely with the MagBox 24" Octa (Focus Diffuser attached), and the sun.

It was a particularly hot and sunny day, so having a crazy fast sync speed with the 80mm leaf shutter was very helpful in overpowering the sun and not needing TOO much flash power. The above photo had the MagBox camera left just out of frame (1/1600th, f/2.8, ISO 50, 80mm).

The portability of the MagBox ended up being a crucial part of the shoot, allowing for an incredible number of setups and looks in less than an hour of shooting together. 


Above photo is 1/1250th, f/2,8, iso 50, 80mm

Given the rock solid performance (I knocked it over a few times, and it took the abuse with no tears, holes, or any problems at all) of the Magbox 24” Octa (especially with the Focus Diffuser attached) I’m beyond thrilled to have a new workhorse light modifier in my gear bag. Perhaps I’ll even start paying an assistant to come help during weddings because this thing is seriously addicting.


Wanna challenge yourself and maybe even win a MagBox 24" Octa Pro Kit? (Um, Duh-hoy!) Follow Sam on Patreon to get in on his #3StepClick Photo Contest.



Sam Hurd started out as a political news and celebrity portrait photographer in Washington, D.C., but was instantly drawn to wedding photography as a space to promote more inventive ideas.

He focuses on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple but have the potential to transform difficult or uninspiring shooting environments into one-of-a kind opportunities.

To find more of Sam's educational content, please join Team MagMod in following him on Patreon. We 100% endorse him since we actually pay to subscribe to his Patreon. He's amazing, and so are his techniques.

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