Sunday, December 21, 2008

Light modifiers for flash heads.

With the current state of affairs of the economy, we would all be wise to make all of the devices that we can, and only purchase what we can not. I have made several of my own light modifying devices, and they work just as well as the ones that can be purchased. Like I have said before; I would think twice about pulling home made devices out on a paying gig, like a wedding. I do not have an ego or too much pride; I just think that cardboard light modifiers might put doubt of my abilities in the hearts of the wedding party. The few light modifying devices that I own and use work great. I have tried to spend as little money as possible while I try to get better at using these devices. Maybe as I get better I will opt for more expensive modifiers, as future pay checks allow. The point is that I did not want to spend cash on something that I may not use more than once or twice.
I would like to start this off with a toast to the person that invented Velcro. I have wrapped each of my flash heads in Velcro, and I suggest that you do the same. I opted for a couple of rolls of this awesome stuff, and I cut it as I need it. Sometimes manufactures get a little skimpy when it comes time to supply the consumer with a Velcro stash, and I understand why, because I would too!

All of these devices that I own are held onto the flash heads with Velcro, with the exception of my home made snoots. I made them snug enough to slip over the front of the flash and hold tight. The types of devices that I use most often are diffusers (soft boxes, umbrellas, and tissue paper), snoots (with and without grids), gels, bounces, and those bare bulb omni thingies that come with Nikon flash heads. The image shows my little collection, and I will quickly detail them, and then detail the ones that are on my wish list.
I started out purchasing light modifiers. I now realize that this is not rocket science. In no time I found myself building the parts and pieces that I wanted next, and others that I could not find for sale.

My first light modifying purchase was a Lumiquest mini soft box diffuser, the LumiQuest SoftBox III LQ-119. I use it on a flash head, mounted on my camera, and aimed directly at the subject. It folds flat, adheres with Velcro, and it has a portion of its surface double thick where the flash is the most intense. Simple, elegant and easy.

Next, I found that I had a need for a bounce.LumiQuest 80-20 bounce Weddings were at the bottom of this need. With the flash on the camera and aimed directly ahead, I noticed a problem. The client was being washed in flash while the area around the clients was rather dark. The shadows were also way too intense I thought. To solve this trouble, I found a great Lumiquest bounce, the “80-20”, or LumiQuest 80-20 bounce. They Velcro onto the flash heads, and fold flat when not in use. These particular styles of bouncers come in different types, or numbers as a name. Let me explain what this name means.

The flash head needs to be aimed straight upwards when you use a bounce like this, the LumiQuest 80-20 bounce. These units are designed to bounce only a portion of the flash forward at the subject and the rest goes straight through the device. The title “80-20” means that 80 percent of the flash goes straight up through this device to be bounced off of the ceiling. The “20” represents the remaining 20 percent of the flash that gets re-directed (bounced) towards the subject. This allows for both a nice bounced lighting for the removal of any harsh shadows, and a nice boost of light on the subject.
Now, for my first “all for play” toy that I purchased, just to make some cooler images. The LumiQuest Snoot (pictured) also attaches with Velcro, and folds flat when not in use. It also has a seam running down its entire length that is held with Velcro. It has a white interior, for bouncing the light, and a black vinyl outside that matches my photography gear. I like the LumiQuest Snoot a lot.

Once I ripped the LumiQuest Snoot open and laid it flat, it occurred to me that it would be easy to make my own snoots out of good ole cardboard. I placed one of my flash heads onto a piece of cardboard one night, and before I knew it I had made a couple of square snoots. I have also recently heard about adding scrims inside of these snoots, made entirely out of straws, on a blog somewhere. These will keep the flash light from scattering, and will keep it tight instead. I have made a set out of regular straws that I cut into about one and a half inch lengths. Well, it aint pretty, but it works quite well!

I also use a lot of colored gels with my flash gear. I like having the option of adding a splash of color to my images. The only two ideas that I have to share here are cutting your own gels out, or just get them for free. Basic lighting gels (of the primary and secondary colors) are sold cheap, but they come in sheets of 8x10 inches. The colors are few in number, but one sheet makes a ton of gels for our small flash heads.
Rosco makes particular gels just for flash photography. They make gels that help out with white balance issues when shooting in all types of lighting conditions. To see where to get a Rosco gel sample kit for free, go to and check out what they have to say first, and then get yourself your own free Rosco gel sample kit. They are just the perfect size for these smaller flash head units.

Now here comes my wish list... I have heard that the good folks at Strobist (see a link for Strobist on your right hand side of this page) have recently come out with barn doors for the smaller Nikon and/or Canon flash head units. These sure would make it easy to gobo out the light that I do not want to show up on surfaces like walls and backgrounds. I am using a section of cardboard now so anything even resembling barn doors would be very welcome.

Next on my wish list are the Westcott brand "Mini Apollo soft box kits" for flash head units (see link) . These come with an attachment for mounting your flash and wireless triggering system, as well as the soft box itself. They are also now making grids and other neat toys for these tiny soft boxes.

As I look into the future I can see that I will have a need for upgrading to the pocket wizard brand of wireless triggers. These have a much longer range and they are a lot more reliable too. I like the ones that I have now, but quality and reliability are the issue.
Well, till next time.... Happy Holidays to you all!!!

Thanks, as always, for reading All Things About Photography, and I hope you have enjoyed it!

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