DIY Flash Diffuser.

January 18, 2012 in Photo Course by PaulS

It’ll not be long before the first of the spring flowers and insects start to emerge and I know you lot like to photograph them. Here’s a great way of improving your macro shots without breaking the bank.

It’s often necessary to use a flash when shooting macro. Most of us use the pop up flash on top of our cameras. This however can result in a very harsh light and some nasty shadows. The solution to this is to use a ring flash. These are flash units that fit to the end of your lens and throw a ring of light, virtually eliminating shadows. They are however very expensive, £300+ for a decent one. There is however a very inexpensive way of emulating the ring flash. Make a flash diffuser! You’ll need sticky tape, an elastic band, scissors or craft knife (please get adult supervision when using them ;) ) and two juice cartons as below.

Other brands are available!!

Firstly take the cardboard container and place it on top of your camera.

You need to cut the carton to a length that is equal to the back of your camera to the tip of your lens. Cut the carton so as to remove the pouring end.

Next, pop up your flash and measure how wide and long it is.

At the opposite end to the end you just cut measure a square equal to your flash’s area and cut it out. as the diagram below.

Your box should now fit on top of your camera with the flash popped up, like this.

Right, you now need to cut a square of plastic out of the stippled plastic container. This needs to be about and inch bigger all round than the end of the cardboard box. Carefully stick the plastic onto the end of the cardboard container. Your efforts may well be more aesthetically pleasing than mine.

All you need to do now is place your diffuser on top of your camera and secure it with an elastic band.

Don’t worry about the lens hood at the end of the lens. What you’ve done with the diffuser is to channel the light down the length of the box so the flash is now coming from the end of the lens (like a ring flash). The stippled plastic is now going to scatter the light particles and reduce the amount of direct light that is thrown. So what about the results??? Here’s three shots taken with the camera flash, the ring flash and finally the diffuser. All are taken using exactly the same settings, for the purpose of this all auto.

The first is with the pop up flash.

The pop up flash has created a very dark directional shadow behind the subject. There’s also a dark shadow down the side of the saxaphone.

The next shot is using a ring flash.

As you can see the ring flash has virtually eliminated shadows, producing a clean image.

So what about the diffuser?

As you can see it’s eliminated the harsh shadow, throwing it further back and has also lessened the shadow on the saxaphone slightly. Not quite as good as the ring flash but at £300 less not bad I think you’d agree!

I’ve very quickly made this one up but there’s nothing stopping you taking a little more time and creating something a bit better. You could even spray or paint it black and it would look very professional indeed.

One thing you may need to experiment with is the plastic on the end of the box. Depending on how bright your flash unit is you may need to build up several layers of plastic. Just have a play and see what works for you.

Hope that’s been of some use and I hope to see some great results posted once the spring gets going.