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Using Flash Diffusers and Reflectors

using flash diffusers and reflectors portrait

Flash photography is a wonderful thing, as it allows you to take pictures in all manner of places but there are a few common problems that come along with it that many digital camera owners fall into the trap of including:

  • harsh shadows cast on walls behind your subject
  • over exposed subjects – harshly and unnaturally lit

Flash Diffusers

There are many techniques for overcoming these problems including using bounce flash techniques and controlling the flash output from your camera (we’ll cover these in the future) but one simple tip is to soften the light from your flash using a diffuser.

Diffusers help eliminate harsh light and shadows and can help leave your photos looking more natural.

Diffusers come in all shapes and sizes depending upon the type of flash you’re using.

Some external flash units come with one built in (see a picture of my Canon Speedlight’s sliding diffuser below – it is not in use in the one on the left and IS in use on the right).

canon speedlight digital camera flash diffuser in
canon speedlight flash diffuser out
digital camera flash

Other external flashes don’t come with them and need some sort of external diffuser like the one pictured to the right.

In addition to these professionally designed diffusers there are all manner of DIY diffusers that I’ve seen digital camera owners trying.

These range from simply placing a piece of semi-opaque sticky tape over your flash (I’ve done this with some success on my point and shoot, to using pieces of plastic from takeout containers through to more involved contraptions involving tissue paper, cellophane and a variety of other types of opaque everyday items.

Flash Reflectors


In addition to this there are a variety of ‘reflectors’ available to purchase (or make) for your flashes also (for example see the one pictured to the left).

While a diffuser sits directly over your flash a reflector is usually some kind of white object (card, paper or plastic) that you bounce your flash into to in order to spread the effects of the flash wider through a room and to make the flash a little less direct.

Once again they help to eliminate direct, harsh light and shadows and soften the light a little.

If you’re going to make your own diffuser or reflector make sure that you use white, non tinted materials. Otherwise you’ll end up throwing colored light onto the scenes you’ve photographing which will leave them with tinges of that color.

Umbrella Reflectors

using flash diffusers and reflectors umbrella

Lastly, the pros use umbrella reflectors to fire flashes into to reflect light evenly onto their subjects from a wide area.

But then now maybe we’re entering into a space a little more advanced than most of us are at.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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