Pop quiz: What's your favorite Speedlight modifier?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by studio460, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. I know this has been discussed to death, ad infinitum--this thread is more for fun and curiosity than anything else. I've tried them all, and usually ended up hating them all. What's your favorite?
    1. None.
    2. Your arm.
    3. Your arm holding a piece of 8.5" x 11" copy paper (a favorite among Getty shooters I know).
    4. Demb Flip-It (or, homemade facsimile thereof).
    5. FlashBender (which size?).
    6. Lumiquest Big Bounce, et. al.
    7. Trendy "boutique" brand.
    I didn't mention Stofens or Gary Fong LightSpheres, because I just don't believe in them (kind of like fairies or Leprechauns).
  2. Well I will mention a fong lightsphere. IME, it gives quite consistent results. Pulling the cap to bounce, and, when bouncing isn't an option, shooting through the cap gives excellent diffusion, especially for close in work.
    Second to that, I always carrying some 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock, folded in half, with rubber bands... a bit more inconsistent, but largely effective...
    I'm not sure exactly what you mean by 'I just don't believe in them'. Like I said, it works and works consistently enough to give generally excellent results. Then again, I guess maybe I 'didn't believe' flash could look so good until after I'd tried it... of course it still takes some learning ;-)
  3. Ha! I didn't mean to knock anyone that uses them effectively, and correctly (which I'm sure you do). I just always think it's funny when I see photographers using Stofens and Fongs outdoors.
  4. Marcus said:
    Pulling the cap to bounce, and, when bouncing isn't an option, shooting through the cap gives excellent diffusion, especially for close in work.​
    I didn't realize they could be used in that fashion. Everyone I've ever seen using them has them pointed up! Even outdoors, or in interiors with million-foot high ceilings!
  5. Ultimate Light Box from Harbor Digital Design. It's bigger than a Fong Lightshere and very versatile. You get a small diffuser, similar to a Stofen, but with a wider angle and you get the lightbox which can be accessorized in a number of ways.
  6. Rick said:
    Ultimate Light Box from Harbor Digital Design.​
    Neat! I like it! Never seen that one before! Now, I may have to add one more to the "collection." I also really like Harbor Digital's Speedlight snoots and honeycombs--they fit nice and snug on my SB800 and SB600s without any stupid Velcro strap. I have a pile of 'em!
  7. I think I might like these a bit better. It's got a larger front surface (8" x 5" x 3") vs. the Ultimate (6" x 3.75" x 4"), yet has a one-inch thinner profile. However, the Harbor Design product has the superior attachment method (form-fitted to your specific flash brand and model).

    Graslon Prodigy w/flat diffuser: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/899539-REG/Graslon_4300f_Insight_Diffuser_With_Flat.html
    Graslon Prodigy w/domed diffuser: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/899525-REG/Graslon_4100d_Prodigy_Diffuser_With_Snap.html
  8. Wow! Graslon also makes tungsten-conversion front diffuser inserts for the Insight:
    Graslon flat tungsten-conversion diffuser: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/899532-REG/Graslon_4134_Prodigy_Accessory_Amber_Flat.html
    Graslon domed tungsten-conversion diffuser: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/899531-REG/Graslon_4133_Prodigy_Accessory_Amber_Dome.html
    I can't tell you guys how much I hate taping (and un-taping) correction gel to the front of my Speedlights (I have SB-800s and SB-600s which don't have the benefit of the hard correction filters that come with the new Nikon Speedlights).
  9. Graslon makes a smaller version, the Insight (6" x 4" x 3"), for a slightly smaller profile. Available in both flat and domed versions. Note that a B+H customer review claimed a 1.7 EV light loss with the curved diffuser, versus only a 0.7 EV loss with the flat diffuser.
  10. For the most part I just bounce off the ceiling and/or walls to get some nice directional light but... when I do use a modifier I usually grab my Demb flip it. I use it mostly when the ceiling/wall is too far away to get nice coverage. Looks nicer on the flash than an index card and is very compact.
  11. I just always think it's funny when I see photographers using Stofens and Fongs outdoors.​
    Pulling the cap allows you to use the flash very much as it was designed to be used (ie badly...or bounced) indoors/outdoors/wherever... outdoors, leaving the cap on can diffuse the flash enough to give decent fill (close up - say less than 15'), while not giving the blown uber-fake looking lighting, sometimes it requires a bit of FEC manip. to get ideal results.
    That said, rubber banding white cardstock to the back of the flash (and curling it) is a pretty effective complement when you are limited in your bouncing options...
    Of course that's not say I haven't used anything around me that was even approaching white to bounce before... White shirts included.
    Everyone I've ever seen using them has them pointed up! Even outdoors, or in interiors with million-foot high ceilings!​
    *sigh* it just goes to show you that enough idjuts can ruin the perception of even a well designed (not perfect, but not bad) tool... I guess if enough ijuts hammered nails with the backside of the hammer, we'd start blaming the hammer at some point!
  12. The *issue* I have with the GFLS is that when it is most effective, it is the least needed. IE, you are in a small room with white walls. At this point, simply bouncing the flash off any surface is going to provide soft light with even better direction of light. As room size increases, the GFLS is less and less effective. Yes, you can still bounce the light but then you could do that with any bounce modifier (Demb, Rogue, Index Card, etc) and most these other modifiers will require less power from the flash giving you faster recycle times and longer battery life. Outside, I simply don't see the point at all, I want all of my light going forward, diffused or not.
  13. Thanks for everyone's replies! I didn't mean to turn this into a which-one-is-better thread (although, I guess that's inevitable). Each modifier has its pluses and minuses. But, I'm happy that the thread spurred me on to search B+H one more time for the "ultimate" Speedlight modifier, where I discovered the Graslon product.
    What I like about the Graslon is that it's a hard modifier--meaning, it won't be flopping around like a Rogue FlashBender or small flexible softbox (e.g., Wetscott Pocketbox or similar generic). It's also got a fairly streamlined profile. Although the Rogue product produces results superior to that of any of my other modifiers, the FlashBender is a bit awkward due to its extended profile, with the flash head pointing straight up. The Graslon offers a tighter package while still enlarging the effective flash-head size by a fair amount.
  14. Well that always depends on the use, occasion and model (event). But If I have to choose I will definitely go for the amazon.com kits
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  15. Just some white and/or foil covered bounce cards and a few older Lumiquest bouncers. I actually like the 80/20 and small
    90/10 quite a bit for working certain music events or outdoor portraits.
  16. 5. 20X15 cm made of stiff white carton.
  17. Fruit Snoot - works, cheap, light weight, takes up almost no space and the best part is the expression on peoples faces when you use it.
    Google Fruit Snoot.
  18. A white wall is first , followed by a corner consisting of two white walls and a white ceiling. If you look closely you will see a white umbrella. These actually increase the 6 square inches of the flash head to six or eight square feet. It not only adds intensity of light but also direction and diffusion. It may even add a warm color if the wall or paneling is a warm color. Therefore, a bounced flash can improve all four characteristics of light: direction, diffusion, intensity and color. My concern is that adding fill to crummy lighting yields filled crummy lighting. A ceiling bounce has a risk of not filling the eye sockets. You don't have to carry these modifiers, you just have to recognize them.
  19. NO favorite really.
    I'm a sucker when it comes to trying new modifiers and never seemed to learn my lesson until recently ... so I have a box full of them gathering dust. Here's my take on each:
    Fong. Have every one he offered, because it took to long to learn they are expensive lessons in buying numb-scull products. Without the inserts, they throw light all over the place. With inserts they are to top heavy. Nothing like a wedding guest bumping the flash appendage and it goes bouncing across the dance floor. Hard Fongs take up to much room even when reversed over a lens in the bag. The collapsable Fongs fit in the bag better, but are hard to mount in hectic conditions, fall off to often, and they yellow with age. Thumbs down.
    Have Graslon's in both sizes with flat clip-ons and domed front versions in white and amber; decent light out-put/distribution due to the focused mirror finished interior. Looks more "professional" than the Fong Tupper-ware. Difficult to transport because they do not collapse, so they take up too much valuable room in the bag. Front heavy design makes it difficult to 45 degree bounce with some speed-lights that can't hold the weight. Flat clip-on diffuser warps if exposed to any heat like on a typical warm summer day. Works best in landscape orientation, but not portrait unless speed-light is on a bracket ... where the whole thing then becomes to heavy/unbalanced. Despite the one size fits all mounting system, it is fiddly to mount and not always secure ... but at least it doesn't wildly bounce across the floor when it gets knocked off. Okay, if you have the time and room to deal with it.
    Harbor Master system: also decent light distribution due to the interior diffuser design, and various choices to customize the light. Lots of pieces and parts to work with. IMO, "much to do about nothing" when it comes to weddings. To complicated. Okay for leisurely close portrait fill work. Also a hard plastic solution that takes up to much room in the bag, and the hard mount fits only one flash size so as you change flashes the mount becomes obsolete. Also is best in landscape mode, not so much in portrait. I use the Harbor Master internal Bounce Diffuser alone sometimes because it works better than the standard Stofen with wider lenses. Okay, but not great.
    Flash Right: I should have been arrested for chronic addiction after buying this terrible product ... if friends had only staged an intervention. Two thumbs down.
    Interfit Strobies: This whole system sounds good on paper. Also unwieldily to take with, and overly complicated for weddings. The mini-beauty dish is perfect if you want terrible uneven light on the subject, or a big ring light edge on more distant shots. Strobies Globe diffuser is even better than the Fong tupperware when it comes falling off and bouncing across the dance floor ... where it takes on the kinetic properties of a super-ball. Requires proper Flex Mount for each sized flash= obsolescence. The 12" X 8" soft-box isn't all bad if working in landscape mode. Unfortunately, Mini anything is just that, minimal. Same for Impact brand versions.
    Lumiquest bounce products. Had a variety of these over the years ... they don't last, and can get glue-gummy when old and exposed to summer heat. Pocket Bounce and Big Bounce produce decent soft light, and they collapse flat to fit in the front pocket of a bag. I now use a version made for Metz which has much better build quality, and those have lasted for years now. My favorite of these is the bigger surfaced Metz MZ 7623 (50-23) made for larger potato masher type flashes ... which still velcro mounts to smaller speed-light.
    DEMB: Flash Diffuser Pro, not bad but flimsy and despite the name unprofessionally goofy looking. Lots of choices to suck up your money but being such a small surface it is questionable whether you get much more than just the diffuser that came with your flash, or a white card bounce.
    I could go on ad nauseam ... but the fact remains that any on-camera speed-light modifier is still a very small light source ... so the light will be specular and reflections in the eyes will be pin pricks. They suck up light and make the flash work harder. You can spend a small fortune in the quest for some subtile difference in softness that most clients will never see ... which cost money you will never see again.
    I think these "little modifiers that could" are over hyped, and they under-perform. With today's higher performance cameras and infinite software options, elaborate modifiers with marginal effects are fast becoming antiques left over from the Paleozoic era, and will eventually end the same way ... with mass extinction.
    Unless you get the flash off the camera, or use on-camera flash as minimal supplemental fill to a larger directional light source (be it a light on a stand or the sun)... you are just getting flat light on the subject whether diffused or not. Large light sources like studio strobes with BIG modifiers (or speed-lights with big diffusers/umbrellas on a stand), or using large bounce surfaces like walls, ceilings and corners with a simple card or flat upright bounce surface to throw light into the eye-sockets/eyes. ... produce much better directional results.
    Take it from a reformed addict ... don't waste your time or money. Keep it simple, and get the flash off the camera as much as possible.
  20. I have used the Demb Flip-It for many years. It has given me great bang for the buck and impressive versatility. I am on my 3rd one ;-)
  21. Another excellent, information-packed post--thank you, Marc!
    Marc said:
    I'm a sucker when it comes to trying new modifiers and never seemed to learn my lesson until recently . . . so I have a box full of them gathering dust . . .​
    So do I! I'll buy a new one, then throw it in a box and never use it again. I have a box of 'em too. Note that I'm looking for an on-camera modifier for those times where it's your only option.
    Take it from a reformed addict . . . don't waste your time or money.​
    I swear, this is the last Speedlight modifier I'll ever buy! Thanks for those detailed reviews!
  22. Marc said:
    Unless you get the flash off the camera, or use on-camera flash as minimal supplemental fill [emphasis added] to a larger directional light source (be it a light on a stand or the sun) . . . you are just getting flat light on the subject whether diffused or not . . .​
    Yes, that's what I think on-board flash is really handy for--a touch of fill for subjects' eye sockets (and, also for those times where there simply is no other option). Again, while this wasn't meant as a, "Which modifier is best?" thread (I was just curious what others' favorites were), your reviews were very informative.

    Save for those "only-option" instances, I really only need to use my on-camera flash as a supplemental fill for the subjects' eyes (I'll have an assistant holding a pole-mounted Qflash/Turbo which will serve as the real key light). Probably the best and most practical Speedlight modifier I own is a small PortaBrace white balance card, which I can hold in my left hand as a bounce card--it's just that I much prefer holding the camera with two hands.
  23. I guess I'll follow on Marc's mini-review format with my own mini-series:

    1. Westcott MicroApollo: I bought this one nearly 20 years ago for my Nikon film bodies. The product kept flopping back and forth, and half-collapsing on its swiveling metal brackets, obstructing the flash beam. Cons: small diffusion surface, lame swiveling bracket, forces you to attach supplied adhesive-backed Velcro strips to flash head (which I hate) = D
    2. LumiQuest Big Bounce: Bought this years ago as well. Works reasonably well due its large reflecting surface. Of course, it's stupid-bulky. Cheap plastic seams tend to break (split), making the product completely useless = C-
    3. LumiQuest Softbox III: Even though it's fairly compact, it's still awkward to use on a flash bracket. Stupid plastic seam to which the Velcro is attached split after one shoot = D
    4. Strobies' Portabox: Fairly large diffuser surface at 11"x 7.25" (measurement of actual product). These stay on the flash head securely with a well-designed, rubber-backed, Velcro strap (no need to attach Velcro to the flash itself). I was planning to use these fairly close, with the flash held in my hand on a TTL cable. They're light and stay attached. It's just too bad these don't stay "opened." They tend to collapse on themselves, blocking the beam path of the flash. If there were some way of "structuring" it, I'd give it a 'B' for its large diffusion surface, light weight, secure attachment, and moderate price = C+
    5. ExpoImaging's Rogue FlashBender: Best overall results. Heavy. Bulky. A bit pricey, but well-constructed. These work as advertised. But, with the large FlashBender on top of your flash, and your flash head pointed straight up, it just looks ridiculously huge. Also, you can basically produce the exact same results by pointing your flash up, and holding an 8" x 10" piece of white card behind your flash (like a giant Demb) = B
  24. Marc said:
    have Graslons in both sizes with flat clip-ons and domed front versions in white and amber; decent light out-put/distribution due to the focused mirror finished interior. Looks more "professional" than the Fong Tupper-ware.

    Well, these still intrigue me. Their interior mirror design is wild. I'll be ordering both the "Prodigy" (8" x 5" x 3"), and the "Insight" (6" x 4" x 3"), with flat diffusers. If it "works," I'll use the large one, when there simply is no other option. But, I'd also like to have the small one, so that I can still use my infra-red AF-assist on my SB-800 (the large one will probably block it), when necessary.
    Front heavy design makes it difficult to 45 degree bounce with some speed-lights that can't hold the weight.​
    Yeah, I was worried about its weight, especially since my camera-mounted Speedlights are always on brackets. But I won't be bouncing with it--this is for all-out, there-is-no-other-way kind of situations.
    Despite the one size fits all mounting system, it is fiddly to mount and not always secure​
    Sigh . . . again, not great to hear. If I know I'm using it for a certain period of time, I guess I can always gaffer-tape it to the flash temporarily.
  25. Ralph, think about getting a hand strap if you do not already have one. It facilitates those times when you want to hold the speed-light on one hand and shoot with the other. I do this a lot when roving on the dance floor, or shooting in more crowded areas like an indoor cocktail party.
    In fact, consider the Camdapter Arca Quick Release plate with dual lugs that allows you to use a hand strap AND a shoulder strap. Your wrist and forearm will thank you.
    Admittedly, one handed shooting is a little more unwieldy when you are using a flash bracket ... so it may not work for you. However, if you have one camera that you use TTL cord linked or radio controlled flash that isn't on a flash bracket, it's great ... it lets you creatively place the light anywhere you want rather than the same old on-axis, drop the shadows behind the subject approach of a flash bracket. See example below ... part of a story where the Groomsmen conspired to pull a practical joke on the B&G during the reception.
    Personally, I abandoned flash brackets some years ago since today's cameras are so good at higher ISOs ... and I use the drag the shutter techniques so almost all on-camera flash is for fill, even in dark conditions. The hand strap and in-hand flash suffices for the rest.
    Just some options to consider.
  26. Hey, Marc!
    I absolutely love handstraps, but with modern pro DSLRs, I just can't reach the AF-sensor selector when using one! But, I'll check out the camdapter--thanks! Yes, I'm pretty addicted to my Newton bracket (best, and smallest rotating bracket on the planet!) since it eliminates a lot of shadow problems when using on-camera flash (kind of required for red carpet verticals).
    For regular straps, I use the standard-issue Nikon straps (which I love) threaded through a split-ring, which hangs off of the left camera-strap lug only (I do this with all my bodies). When carrying two bodies, one body slings off of each shoulder, and hangs "sideways." Works like a Black Rapid, but without the fuss.
    Yes, I also love shooting flash "freehand." I have a ton of TTL cables of various lengths. Great image! Really love your work, Marc!
  27. I agree with Marc on all points...Now what do i use today? I just buy a sheet of diffusion paper or plastic and cut it to size. I also buy sheets of gels for my color conversions and cut those to size as well. Cheap and effective and most of all no name Branding. lol
  28. Yeah, I'll buy the Graslons, and I know I'll just end up deciding they're too heavy or bulky, and wind up throwing those in "The Box" as well. Actually, I've been thinking about cutting a piece of 8" x 10" hard diffusion gel, and just holding it up a few inches away, directly in front of my Speedlight, to broaden its surface area.
  29. Ha! Here's my new favorite Speedlight modifier!
    My camera-mounted Speedlight, bounced into a 4' x 4' piece of Foamcore!
  30. Even at f/5.6 at 1/200th, I was able to expose for the ambient at ISO 1,000 in the image above, on a Nikon D3s (the reflection in the upper-left frame is of a bounced LED strip-light about 10 feet away).
  31. Hi Ralph,
    My vote is for #1 None. I bounce almost exclusively. They key for me is zooming the flash head to 200mm coverage so I am getting the narrowest cone of light off the head. The other trick is using Eneloop AAs so I get a pretty fast recycle with those in my SB-900 units. I carry two cameras at all times when working so adding more junk to my rig is not desirable. However, I do have two of the small Demb flip things for those really dark high ceiling caves that some clients torture me with. The only advantage to the Demb is being able to shoot vertically and get the same quality of light that I would horizontally. Using the SB-900 built-in bounce card isn't as versatile that way.
    I will shoot at ISO 3200 @ f2 if I have to in order to avoid direct flash which I just hate.
  32. I tend to find using a card 6~7 x 4~5 on the back of the flash and head angled varied from 90 (straight up) to 45 works well worked in conjunction with the active face of the face pointing at subject or angled off left or right up to 90 degrees. Of late for large venues I use the large Rouge modifier and will add the fabric face to use this like a softbox for certain situation. This replaces the A4 plus size card for wide angle work, or in dark cave rooms. I like cheap solutions that are light as some time stuff gets lost. Shot with giant white coasters gaffered on when the card got torn off, styrofoam coffee cup when the strobofen hit a beam and got swipped off - not too bad a tad warm but worked out okay lots of blue light wandering light at that gig.
    I used the soften before it is a nice effect but bare bulb lighting has good and bad points. I bought and tested the Gary Fong unit too broad a brush plus it will damaged the gears on the flash head in prolong usage. I can be many thing in a shoot but choose to avoid being court jester who drops what is like a small head on occasion.
    Gels I used to use velco but after a workshop session with McNally and speaking with his friendly assistant move on to using gaffer tape which is silent on stick on and tear off unlike velco.
    I still have that lumiquest softbox which by now is abt 20 years old which I used in cave dark situations where I need to have softer light in direct flash application (seldom) or just use direct with cut back to suite. A stiff fabric snoot is lovely when you are shooting far and only want the subject lit - special application work. A grid is the back up for the snoot. I had 2 big bouncer but lost both.... let just say they got adopted by some very desperate people at some event work - the Rouge replace the big bouncers.
    Bottom line what you use should be directed by the shoot situation. Lighting is what we bring to the shoot when we pull out a flash be prepared to be decisive about the kind and quality of light you want. With the excellent new body high iso low noise is a reality, so why stop your iso at 800 take a chance look at what shooting at 1600, 3200, 4000 or 5000 does for you ( you need to figger out where is the limit which your camera works for high iso low noise sharp enough images).

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