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The following post with an idea for a DIY Flash Diffuser is by Matthew G. Monroe from The Global Photographer
Call me crazy, but I happen to like airplane travel…
No, I’m not a huge fan of screaming babies, recirculated air, or stale snack crackers. Nor do I like lengthy airport security lines, accusatory customs agents, or the way that my equipment cases get beaten, mauled, and abused by the TSA whenever I travel from city to city.
Nope, what I happen to like so much about airplane travel is that — each and every time I fly — that I always manage to walk about from the flight with at least two portable/foldable flash diffusers tucked away in my pockets.
Obviously, the airlines aren’t giving away flash diffusers on purpose (these days, the airlines are giving nothing away). Fortunately for us — as photographers — the airlines don’t even know that they’re giving away some of the most usable flash diffusers ever made. No, they haven’t cut a deal with LumiQuest, Sto-Fen, or Gary Fong… Nothing of the sort. You see, the reason that airlines don’t even realize that they’re giving away a valuable photographic tool is that they have another name for these awesome lil’ items.
The more common name for the fantastic foldable flash diffusers that can be found on every commercial flight is…
Yes, that’s right… Those cute lil’ white plastic bags that the airlines keep tucked away in the back of every seat are absolutely perfect for diffusing the harsh beam of a direct flash. Just one barf bag (a/k/a: “flight discomfort bag”) stuck onto the top of a flash head will mellow out the light dramatically — especially for more “close in” sort of work — and the way that light gets sprayed in all directions can really help in raising the overall brightness of a room and background.
Myself, I usually keep about six of these portable diffusers stowed away in my kit bag (I fly a lot), and I’ve probably given away at least twice that many to other photographers who’ve asked just what sort of “fancy new equipment” it is that I’m using.
Are these barf bag diffusers an adequate substitute for more commercial (i.e.: expensive) devices? Honestly — under most circumstances — yes. They do the job, and they do the job well. They’re also cheap, portable, foldable, bendable, disposable and — should you happen to be feeling a bit sick — quite usable for another (less photographic) purpose.
Just a few things to take note of:
1) Do not take a bag that has been “used” by a previous airplane passenger.
2) Bags that are some color other than white are not really suitable for diffusing a flash.
3) Bags with lots of colored printing are also not suitable.
4) A few small tabs of tape (gaff tape, duct tape, scotch tape, whatever) will help to keep your diffuser attached to the flash
5) The bag/flash combo will attract other photographers to you like a moth to a flame. When they ask just what sort of diffuser it is that you’re using (and they will ask), please, tell the truth. They’ll either think that you’re a genius (most likely) or that you’re absolutely crazy and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a camera. If they happen to think that you’re crazy — well — too bad for them. They’re missing out on a great and handy photographic tool.
Read more of Matthew’s writing at The Global Photographer.