In my search for flash diffuser ideas I saw this comment:
I don’t get it. People spend thousands of dollars on their camera gear and then skip a few bucks on buying a decent flash diffuser and make one out of domestic waste instead? Brilliant.
I agree! Although back in the day I used up all my money buying the camera gear and didn’t have much left for accessories… in that case I think DIY is pretty justified. That particular forum conversation ended in jest and my inclination towards DIY wasn’t especially marred.
I found the Lumiquest Soft Screen, which looks really nifty for a nice low price, but only two shops that are not particularly near by sell it, and I want to use it this week.
I did have several translucent shopping bags and a newsagent down the road selling cardboard and plastic folders. So I attempted my own flash diffuser designs. I used black plastic from a folio folder (the kind with the flap that velcros down) and white plastic from an Apple Store shopping bag.
The first two I made were modelled on the Lumiquest soft screen with different attachment mechanisms. One had a paperclip wrapped in tape as a hook to loop through the back of the popped-up flash. The other had a tab that looped through the front of the popped-up flash and inserted into the back flap. In both designs the front of the structure wasn’t sturdy enough to hold up in front of the flash quite like the Lumiquest one seems to. It might need flexible wire reinforcement, or something.
As a last ditch effort I took one of my left over squares from the shopping bag and cut a rectangle out of the folder (about 5.5x15cm). I made a cone out of the plastic and stapled it together, I cut the back of the cone off for the flash to slip in and trimmed the front of the cone so that it was in a oval shape (with pointy sides, from the corners of the rectangle). I covered the front with the plastic and stapled it on at the back.
It’s not especially attractive, although it’s not ridiculously ugly either. It just slips on the flash and it manages to stay on, not particularly tightly, but I’d be comfortable walking around a room with it (at least comfortable with it not falling off!). And it works to make using the built-in flash a little less horrid (essentially by making the light source bigger)!
These photos are with and without the flash diffuser, the white balance could do with some adjusting (it was on auto), but the shadows are definitely softer and the light is less harsh.
Time vs. Money
The design could certainly use refining. I could tidy up the edges of the white plastic. I could put foil on the inside to direct the flash and avoid light absorbance. I could try to come up with a different structure that can fold up into a pocket or camera bag more easily…
Even though this whole exercise only cost $3.95, I realised, after my experimenting, that it had cost a lot more in time, and if I’d just driven to one of the shops that sells the Lumiquest Soft Screen and spent the rest of my time working I probably would have come out ahead. Then again, there is a certain sense of achievement and a gaining of knowledge that comes from doing these things, so who knows, perhaps that value will come into play sometime… I think I’ll still check out the Soft Screen!