Forget Gary Fong and other bulky diffusers...

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by hjoseph7, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. I noticed that when I use the built-in wide angle diffuser on my Canon 580EX II speedlight, the light is softer and more even, also there are less hot spots and shadows. All this and I'm only losing about 1/3 stop of light. Compared to bounced lighting it comes pretty close, plus the image has more snap to it. This made think about maybe leaving the bulky 3rd party diffusers at home and just using the built-in diffuser.
    One small issue is that the zoom on the flash is automatically set to the minimum of 17mm. So far I'm just testing, but I wonder how that would affect the image if I'm using a long lens...
  2. Try it in a large room with dark walls.
  3. The light is not softer and more even from the diffusion panel. It's a very small light source and the "diffusion" is not making it any softer. What you are seeing is lots of reflected light from the ceiling, walls and floors filling in the shadows since the light is being scattered in a wide field of view.
    I'm not a fan of any of those on camera diffusers. Flash that is bounced and done creatively is FAR better, especially if you can use something to flag all the direct light off your subject.
    Read more here ->
    (note all the linked related articles)
  4. "What you are seeing is lots of reflected light from the ceiling, walls and floors filling in the shadows"
    Oh well I knew this was too good to be true, or somebody would have thought of it a long time ago.
  5. Fantastic link Sheldon thanks. I was not very happy with my bounce lighting.
  6. Another vote for Joe Demb's reflector and diffuser. Very packable unlike those tupperware gizmos.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Gary Fong has a collapsible diffuser. It works well.
  8. Yest another faithful user of Joe Demb's Flip-It / Flash Diffuser products.
  9. Another vote for bounced flash with a Demb Flip-it. The flip-it gives you a lot of control over the amount and direction of reflected light. You can use it with a diffuser.
  10. I took 4 pictures in a moderate size room with a windowed wall to the left of the subject, a white wall to the back of the subject, a white ceiling. First shot was bounce off ceiling. Second shot was bounced off ceiling with built-in diffuser, 3rd shot was flash straight on with built in diffuser, 4th shot was flash straight on.
    By looking at the playback I would say the shot with the flash straight on with built in diffuser came out the best, not perfect but the best ?
  11. I'm a fan of the Fong Lightsphere with the Chrome-Dome. This combination allows me the flexibility of shooting in a room with an 8-foot white ceiling or room with a high ceiling where I'm getting little or no reflection. These are shots of my recent high school reunion- Nikon D700, 24-70mm f/2.8G Nikkor, SB-800, Fong Lightsphere with Chrome-Dome:
  12. The best thing you can do is learn lighting. Now lighting is a huge subject that can't be covered in a forum thread! However, there is a difference between diffusing a light source and soft light. Diffusing a light source is simply the scattering of the light rays. This in turn reduces contrast and lowers secularity. Exactly what you are seeing when you use the diffusion panel. When you use the diffusion panel, you still have a hard light source. You light is smaller. Hard light will have more "pop", more contrast, than soft light. When you bounce the light from a flash, you now create a softer light. You get softer light when your light source is larger than your subject. Walls and ceilings tend to be larger! Like diffusion, soft light will lower contrast and reduce specularity even more. It will also give you a more gradual (softer) transition to shadow. Bounce diffusers simply allow you to bounce light (therefore giving you softer light) while re-directing some light forward for fill. Now the light going forward is hard light (the forward light is still a small light source), but since it is fill, it doesn't create it's own shadows. And this is why many like the Demb Flip It: you have some degree of control over how much light goes forward. I also like the Flip It because you can use it to flag the flash. Both are things you can't do with a GFLS.
    All of that said, a hard light will have more "pop" than a soft light. The problem with direct flash is, well, it is direct. Direction of light will give you shape, color, and texture. Getting the flash off the camera will give you a better image, hard or soft. Hard or soft simply determines the shadow edge transition. And if you like more "pop", you like hard light!
  13. Suit yourself, I love the Gary Fong. Sure, getting creative and finding unique ways to bounce may be desired for some shots, but when I'm working a room with a lot of people and don't have much preparation time (or space), the GF is great.
  14. Haven't tried the Demb Flip it yet, but I have heard allot about it. I have tried several other products with some succes such as the Lumiquest Pocket Bouncer, the Shell by adorama, the Hughes softlight reflector, Metz units with secondary reflectors, Chuck Gardner DYI reflectors, Sto Fen Omnibounce, however they all have their pitfalls.
    If you are at a busy gathering, sometimes you don't have time to fiddle around with some of that stuff. Bounce lighting is great, but if you are constantly looking for the right walls and the right ceilings and the right angles to bounce your light off of, you could miss some of the action.
    Some of these products like the Lumiquest Big Bounce and The Shell by adorama can be quite obstrusive too, I mean all of a sudden your'e like The Guy From Mars.
    The Sto Fen Omni bounce is OK if you remember to keep the flash head at a 45 degree angle, but it can also produce overly warm pictures. There is no getting around it, every time you bounce the light off something the color temperature changes.
    Sending a little bit of hard light forward helps, but it can also cause shadows, something you were trying to avoid in the first place. When I do use these products I try to change the color temperature in-camera to avoid PP, but even then you never know.
  15. Harry, the ungainly Fong Lightshpere is sometimes derisively referred to as the "Fong Dong." Trust me, I wouldn't use the stupid-looking things if they weren't necessary and didn't work.
    Shooting digital, direct flash can result in spectral, stark-white patches where facial skin is oily. Once facial highlights are blown, they look like crap.
    Sto-Fens and the Sto-Fen-like diffusers sold with Nikon SB-800 flashes just don't cut it in expo halls and banquet rooms with 50-foot-high ceilings. The Fong Lightsphere isn't perfect, but it is a good product for the quick people shots you take at events, understanding that, at many events, you're shooting in- as Bob put it- "a large room with dark walls."
    If I win the lottery, I'll have an assistant follow me around with 3x3-foot softbox. Until then, I'm a one-man-band, and will have to rely on a product like the Lightsphere.
  16. A business card and hair band do exactly the same job as all those white reflector things and costs nothing.
    Go to an art supply store and get some foam paper, get a couple of white ones and a couple of black ones, it will cost less than $8 and gives more flexibility and control than all those expensive and bulky diffusers.
    I had this all setup so I took a quick picture of the business card thing and of my foam paper collection, which not only functions like the link to Neil Van Niekerk's flag style bounce use, but is also great as separate flags, reflectors, bounce surfaces, snoots, and even protection, you can wrap them round lenses, flashes or bodies in your bag to save space too. All in all one of the rare bargains in the photo accessory department :)
  17. Harry I see I am the only one who actually agrees with you and have the exact same experience you are describing. I shoot with an Canon 5D II and Canon 30D with the 580 EX II flash. I have tried the Stofen, the Gary Fong and all kinds of other craxy reflectors and bouncing. I agree I get the best results when I point my flash directly at the subject. The most I may do is flip down the built-in diffuser which in my opinion works great or I may do a -1 flash exposure compensation. I prefer this to save battery life, get faster recycle times and to make sure my flash covers the full subject from head to toe or as close as possible. However, I also use fast glass. All of my lenses are 2.8 or faster and I shoot with a few primes that are 1.8 and 1.2. I do get my flash up high on a stroboframe so my shadows are down behind the subject.
    Overall, I am one that agrees I prefer straight forward with no accessories other than my Canon battery pack. I try to set camera as close as possible to as if I were not using flash and only use flash when my shutter becomes too slow especially when objects are moving.
    I often watch other photographers bouncing their flash and I can see their flash missing the target completely or only lighting the head and shoulder of their subjects and not getting adequate catch light in the eyes or causing deep dark shadows which look like bags below the eyes. Just my 2 cents...
  18. Thanks M.P and Scott. I think I'll stop by the art store tomorrow and get some of that foam paper and experiment a little bit. I guess it's better to have more than one trick up your sleeve when it comes to lighting.
    M.P. I'll have to try the -1 exposure trick which I have used in the past, but mainly outdoors when I'm doing fill flash. I'm not giving up on bounced flash, sometimes it's neccessary when you want to avoid quick light fall-off in your pictures, but to use it each and everytime you really have to be good.
  19. Is this Gary Fong any relation of Carl LaFong (about four minutes in at ). :)
    Sorry about that....
  20. There is no one correct way to use a flash. So much depends on what you are shooting. I am confident in the situation Harry describes that works well. There are thousands of other situations it will not. I prefer to shoot with the flash off camera or bounce off a wall. Often neither is a good option. So then I turn to diffusers bouncing, from the ceiling, bouncing or diffusing through paper, direct flash, a desk lamp, a flashlight, a smart phone screen as a light, whatever it takes to get the shot.
  22. I am skeptical about bounce flash for many events. Bounce flash is all well and good, but it so often completely alters the natural appearance of the event that I now very rarely do it, preferring to drag the shutter to provide some recording of ambient light. I also generally find most diffusers make such a small difference to the size of the flash light source as to not be worth it: all they do they do is just reduce the flash output and get in the way. I sometimes do use a flash bracket as portrait format shots look better with it. Bounce flash is moot anyway with many venues as bouncing flash won't work with the wrongly-colored walls or high ceilings. It depends what you are shooting, but I'm with M.R. on this for most events and parties and the like.
  23. Robin, when I first started taking event photos in the mid-1970s, I had to shoot with old-school Vericolor film at ISO 100 to get negatives that would print well without being overly grainy. In dark banquet halls, it'd look like I was shooting flash in a cave.
    The great thing about current DSLRs is that you don't really have to drag the shutter to get ambient light. On my D700 bodies, I can get very printable images at ISO 800; allowing very decent ambient light while still maintaing a shutter speed of 1/30th-1/60th.
  24. Yep I shoot at ISO 800 too.

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