MagBox and Disturbing Fair Use

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon1 Comment

Jeff hosts with Erica and Brent joining him at the roundtable to talk about the new softbox product line from MagMod called the MagBox and a very disturbing court ruling of fair use for a photo that was not properly licensed.

Erica, you have had some very good news lately in your life, we have already given congratulations privately but let me be the first to say congratulations on your recent marriage!

Resources Mentioned

Topic 1: MagBox

  • Erica, I know you are a HUGE fan of MagMod flash modifiers.  Which of them do you own already and which do you use regularly?
  • Even though there is a MagMod store over at where you can get those things Erica just talked about, they started things on Kickstarter and as we record here in early July 2018 MagMod has recently launched a new Kickstarter campaign for a new type of modifier they haven’t used yet, a softbox.  Erica, as a hobbyist who very clearly remembers back a couple of years when flash in general made me nervous and I believe there are a lot of listeners who have heard the term softbox but don’t really know what it is, would you take a moment to talk about what a softbox is and how you use one?
  • Brent, do you use softboxes much in your photography?
  • There are lots of options for softboxes.  I personally have the Fotodiox F60 Quick-Collapse Flash Softbox you can pickup for about $50.  I know Connor has long recommended the Fotodiox EZ-Pro line of softboxes which are a little more expensive but not to bad at around $100.  There are other brands at various cost levels with the main difference between them being how easy or difficult it is to assemble the softbox.
  • Let’s talk about what Magmod has done here with their softbox since they approach lighting modifiers so differently and put a huge emphasis on ease of use, accomplishing that ease of use with magnets.
  • MagMod softbox system is made up of 3 components.  
    • MagBox that is the softbox itself, the MagRing that allows you to VERY easily mount two flashes to the softbox, and the MagShoe that allows you to put a single flash on a light stand with one hand.  Not only have these three pieces been designed to work well together, they also work well with all of the other flash modifiers from MagMod so you can bundle them together.
    • MagBox features
      • MagMod is claiming their 24” softbox is the brightest softbox ever created because it doesn’t leak light due to a patent pending technology they have developed they call the FocusDiffuser.  They say it is a diffuser and grid all in one and gives you 2 to 3 stops more of light without having any hotspots. Erica, I want to ask you again here to help listeners who may not be familiar with those terms to understand what diffuser and grid means.
        • Diffuser – softens the light to prevent harsh hot spots
        • Grid – directs the light to prevent unwanted spill, therefore “increasing” the amount of light output
      • Another feature I haven’t seen offered much with softboxes is a place to put gels.  I guess you could gel your flash or strobe before you put it inside the softbox with those from other manufacturers but there is a specific gel holder inside the MagBox along with a zipper on the side of the box that allows for easy access to change the gel without removing the flash.  Do you guys think this is an important feature?
  • MagRing features
    • The MagRing is all about making attaching a flash quick and easy.  It does require their MagGrip be on the flashes, which are $30 a piece and are required for most of the other MagMod light modifiers.  It is possible to mount two flashes in the ring for one softbox which I think is absolutely huge! With the combination of the 2-3 stops of light from the FocusDiffuser and the ability to mount two flashes with such ease means I can get much faster recycle times and/or do shoots without as much worry that I am going to have to waste time replacing the batteries.
    • The MagRing can be used without the MagBox as well.  The idea here is to mount your flashes on a stand in a really easy way and then you can use the other MagMod modifiers like the snoot, grid, sphere, etc.
    • You connect the MagBox to the MagRing with magnets like you do the other MagMod light modifiers, but there is a difference here.  The only way to separate the two once together is to pull a little lever they call the magnetic field disruptor. It means that these things are super easy to put together and they aren’t going to come apart easily.
    • There are also adapters for several of the major brands of strobes so that the MagBox and MagRing can be used with them.  They list Profoto, Bowens, Elinchrom or Paul C. Buff on the Kickstarter page
  • MagShoe
    • This is MagMod’s take on the cold shoe adapter.  It is my job here on the podcast so I am going to look out for those listeners that may not know what a cold shoe adapter here again.  If you have done almost anything with off-camera flash you have used one of these things. Flashes are made to go in the hot shoe of your camera.  That’s that metal bracket on top of the camera where you can mount a flash. It is called a hot shoe there because there are pins just under that bracket through which your camera can talk directly to the flash and tell it to fire. Cold shoe is where you are using the same mechanism to hold the flash in place, usually on a light stand that holds the flash up where you want it away from your camera but because there aren’t any pins the camera can use to talk to the camera it is “cold”.  
    • Cold shoe adapters are pretty much always involved with off-camera flash and they aren’t the most user friendly things.  They have really tiny knobs you have to turn to loosen or tighten the shoe so that it will hold the flash in place and then similarly tiny screws you have to loosen to adjust the angles the flash is being held at and if you don’t tighten them back down very well then your flash falls out of the shoe and crashes on the ground.  Brent or Erica have you ever had that happen to you?
      • Erica – many times
    • It really takes two hands to adjust them and maybe it is because I have used pretty inexpensive cold shoe adapters in the past but they rely on tension a lot and it doesn’t seem to take long for that tension to fail.  MagMod has something really interesting to me here with their MagShoe where they have designed a device that goes on top of that lights tand with kind of a pistol style grip that enables you to adjust the angle of the flash by pulling a trigger that loosens it, move it however need, then release the trigger and it stays solidly in position.  That same trigger keeps it on the light stand, so if you want to take your flash off the stand quickly for a shot you press the trigger and lift it off the light stand. As with all the MagMod gear it looks like it is extremely well built.
    • The 3 pieces are all designed to work without each other for the most part.  I don’t know the MagBox works very well without either a MagRing or the MagShoe, but you can certainly use the MagRing without anything else and the MagShoe without anything else.
    • This stuff looks and sounds pretty awesome.  You can’t get it in the Mag Store yet, they are launching the product through Kickstarter again.  We will put a link in the show notes or you can search google for magbox kickstarter to find the link really easily.  
      • You can back the kickstarter for $50 and get 1 MagShoe, they say they will retail for $55.  
      • A $90 backer gets two MagShoes, saving $15 off retail when they go in the Mag Store.  
      • A $200 backer gets the MagBox and a Mag Speedring so that you can mount a strobe to the MagBox which will save you $30 from what they are going to be retail in the MagStore which means the are going to retail the MagBox for $230.
      • A $260 backer gets a 1 MagBox, 1 MagRing, and 1 MagShoe which they say is $30 off the expected retail price, so in the store later that is going to come to $290.  You can also buy MagGrips for $15 a piece, which is $10 off the $25 price of those MagGrips in the retail store today.
      • There are more options to back the kickstarter we won’t go through here.  As we are recording here in early July 2018 the kickstarter has about 40 days to go and it is well over it goes of $100K with over $600K in pledges.  I do have to remind everyone here that Kickstarter is not a store and there are plenty of products launched there than never see the light of day, so backing a project can mean you part with your money and see nothing come out of it.  MagMod has done this several times now so it seems more likely this will happen than a company who has never done a Kickstarter before, but there is still some risk there.
  • Erica, is this something you are interested in?
    • Yes! Ease of use of the Magmod system, cohesiveness with all of my current Magmod gear, and support of the Magmod company in general makes this a no-brainer for me.
  • Brent, what about you?
  • Jeff: I would LOVE to get two of each thing here.  The quality of MagMod gear is really good and I do enough flash portrait work that useability enhancements would make those shoots quite a bit easier.  Seriously, my wife finds it so hard to use the cold shoe adapters I have that she won’t attempt to adjust them when we are doing shoots. Then there is that MagRing holding two flashes.  That would REALLY help me. The problem for me is the cost. The quality and ease of use won’t be in the same ballpark, but I already have this equipment and I paid far less. This MagBox line is almost 5x more expensive than what I am using.  So I have a really tough decision here, and about 40 days to decide to save myself $30. I have to admit though, I am convinced it will be helpful enough that I am leaning towards pulling the trigger and backing the project.

Midroll: Create Photography Retreat

  • This episode is brought to you by the Create Photography Retreat.  If you are making steps towards mastering your photography by listening to this podcast then imagine the progress you will make if you spend 3 full days immersing yourself in mastering your craft.  If you have been listening for a while you have heard me talk about how incredible it is to get spend 3 days with hundreds of people as passionate about photography as you. The first time we did the retreat in 2017 was so incredible I did a 40 minute Photo Taco podcast about the things I took away that surprised me.  That is reason enough to go, but you also get the chance to meet Erica and Brent in person! That’s worth the price of the ticket right there. I will be there too, and I just love meeting listeners and geeking out over photography. It is really fun to meet people between classes and have them ask me questions about Lightroom or their cameras.  Just so much fun. The retreat in 2019 is in Las Vegas March 28 through March 30th. Ticket prices are a ridiculously low $387. I want you to go and check it out at and we hope to see you there!

Topic 2: Disturbing Fair Use

  • Shifting gears now to something very different, I wanted to talk with you two about a recent court ruling that really shook up the photography world.  It is a ruling regarding a website using a photographer’s photo without permission and the court ruled they were allowed to do so. Let me outline the details a little here:
    • Photographer Russell Brammer discovered that one of his nice long-exposure photos of a Washington, D.C. neighborhood had been cropped and was being shown by a website for the Northern Virginia Film Festival on a “things to do” page encouraging people to attend the festival.
    • It had been cropped but they had clearly taken the photo from his Flickr site and used it without permission or attribution.
    • The photography sent a cease and desist notice and the company immediately took the photo off the page.
    • The photographer then sued the company for copyright infringement and the company responded saying it was fair use.
    • The case went to court and after hearing the arguments the judge ruled in favor of the company saying their use of the photo was fair use.  The judge ruled fair use based on a few criteria:
      • The photo was being used in a non-commercial way in providing information to people about the local area and not directly being used to sell anything.
      • The photo was used in good faith because it wasn’t very clear the photo was protected by copyright and restricted from being used this way and that the company took the photo down as soon as they were asked.
      • The photo was cropped pretty significantly
      • There wasn’t any evidence that the use of the photo harmed the photographer
  • Brent, I want to throw this over to you first for your reaction.
  • Erica, what do you think about this?  Are you thinking about doing anything differently?




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