Build a DIY Diffuser - Step by Step

Started Mar 1, 2005 | Discussions
Chuck Gardner
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Build a DIY Diffuser - Step by Step
Mar 1, 2005

I built myself another DIY camera flash diffuser, so I thought I'd show the process of creating one. Its quite simple, requiring only a piece of white/black mat board, a roll of black masking tape, a sissors, and stapler:

First you need to sketch out the reflector. I won't post a template because all flashes are different and I'm too lazy to draw one. Just make the base legs the same dimensions as your flash head and the flap on top about 1-1/2 times wider than the head. The first time you do it I'd suggest using photo paper ratther than cardboard and then use your paper prototype as a template. The band shown at the bottom is used as a collar to attach the diffuser to the flash. This one fits a Vivitar 285HV. Modify to fit your unit and hold it in place. Add velcro if needed:

Bend the band around the flash head, tape and staple. Use a pliers to flatten the staples.

Score all the fold lines of the reflector with the point of a knife then fold and attach the base of the reflector to the band with staples:

Shape the cut-outs by hand to fit around the back corners:

Then tape the back side to hold them in place. Use black tape for the professional look :-).

After you have the diffuser together and mounted you'll be able to judge how far to bend the top flap over. Mount it on the flash an look down at the flash head, then bend the flag forward until it covers it. The goal is to capture all the light and not have any spill upward. Mark and cut the edges at a angle (red lines at top), then tape in place. Score the back along the lower red line with the tip of a knife so intermediate back section will bend.

Add liberal amounts of black tape to finish the edges and cover the staples. Put a wrap or two of tape around the attachment collar to reinforce it and you're done:

Here's a shot taken with a 10mm lens on my D20 which demonstrates the coverage and the light quality. The field of view is similar to a 17mm lens on a full-frame 35mm.

CG

LVPG
Senior MemberPosts: 2,869
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Re: Build a DIY Diffuser - Step by Step
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

What a great post!

How do we go about starting a new forum on DIY. I posted a thread about using Tyveck as a white background, which seemed to create some interest. I'm certain your post will as well.

Chuck Gardner wrote:

I built myself another DIY camera flash diffuser, so I thought I'd
show the process of creating one. Its quite simple, requiring only
a piece of white/black mat board, a roll of black masking tape, a
sissors, and stapler:

First you need to sketch out the reflector. I won't post a
template because all flashes are different and I'm too lazy to draw
one. Just make the base legs the same dimensions as your flash
head and the flap on top about 1-1/2 times wider than the head.
The first time you do it I'd suggest using photo paper ratther than
cardboard and then use your paper prototype as a template. The
band shown at the bottom is used as a collar to attach the diffuser
to the flash. This one fits a Vivitar 285HV. Modify to fit your
unit and hold it in place. Add velcro if needed:

Bend the band around the flash head, tape and staple. Use a pliers
to flatten the staples.

Score all the fold lines of the reflector with the point of a knife
then fold and attach the base of the reflector to the band with
staples:

Shape the cut-outs by hand to fit around the back corners:

Then tape the back side to hold them in place. Use black tape for
the professional look :-).

After you have the diffuser together and mounted you'll be able to
judge how far to bend the top flap over. Mount it on the flash an
look down at the flash head, then bend the flag forward until it
covers it. The goal is to capture all the light and not have any
spill upward. Mark and cut the edges at a angle (red lines at
top), then tape in place. Score the back along the lower red line
with the tip of a knife so intermediate back section will bend.

Add liberal amounts of black tape to finish the edges and cover the
staples. Put a wrap or two of tape around the attachment collar to
reinforce it and you're done:

Here's a shot taken with a 10mm lens on my D20 which demonstrates
the coverage and the light quality. The field of view is similar
to a 17mm lens on a full-frame 35mm.

CG

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Peter Henry
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Re: Build a DIY Diffuser - Step by Step
In reply to LVPG, Mar 1, 2005

LVPG wrote:

What a great post!

How do we go about starting a new forum on DIY. I posted a thread
about using Tyveck as a white background, which seemed to create
some interest. I'm certain your post will as well.

Stop it you two.. I've already built and used a lot of DIY devices like it is now..

This diffuser does make a nice effect for indoor shoots..

thanks for the post Chuck.

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TomCee
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For the template...
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005
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gopalsl
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Re: For the template...
In reply to TomCee, Mar 1, 2005

Chuck any chance of a photo without the homemade diffuser so we can compare.... just thought it would help me and all others to see the dramatic difference. Thanks

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Chuck Gardner
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A portrait test shot
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

Two Vivitar 285HVs, both with modifiers. The camera flash was mounted above the lens on a Stroboframe bracket at about 8 ft full power, and the off camera light was mounted on a stand at about 4 ft. 1/2 power. f/8 @ ISO 100 Canon D20 w. 85mm f1.8 lens.

Unretouched. Not too much different than what I get with my Alien Bees and Photoflex SBs. Minimal hot spots and nice smooth shadow gradation. Yeah I know the camera was too low but that's as high as my tripod goes.

The off-camera light is on a five-wheel, four dollar stand I found at Goodwill. It was part of something called a Pitch-it Sr. No idea what that is, but the thing is ideal as a portable light stand, and ya' can't beat the price.

CG

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csidd
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Chuck can you post small diagram of shot please?
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

Chuck could you post a down and dirty diagram of how you set up the shot? It would help me better understand how you accomplished the shot. Also I read in another of your posts about Wein peanut. What exactly does it do? Do you still need a cord going from the flash to the camera? Thanks.

csidd

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Chuck Gardner
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Re: Chuck can you post small diagram of shot please?
In reply to csidd, Mar 1, 2005

csidd wrote:

Chuck could you post a down and dirty diagram of how you set up the
shot?

Here's a view from behind the camera. The hairlight on the boom wasn't on. This shot was taken with the flash on the camera and the flash on the stand, same as the portrait, but the key light has been moved in a bit so it will be visible against the backdrop:

I was sitting on the stool to get lower than the camera. Nose was pointing about 30 degrees off camera axis. Off camera light was about 45 degrees off the centerline of the nose; classic short lighting. Its the angle of the off camera to the nose, both sideways and vetically, not the angle of the light to the camera axis, which the important factor for setting the key light.

The Wein Peanut is an optical trigger about the size of your thumbnail. It can plug directly into the base of the Vivitars, or into the end of a PC cord. I use it on the cord so it catches the light from the on-camera flash more easily. The on-camera flash is attached to the camera with a cord via the PC socket on the side of the camera.

CG

It would help me better understand how you accomplished the

shot. Also I read in another of your posts about Wein peanut. What
exactly does it do? Do you still need a cord going from the flash
to the camera? Thanks.

csidd

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Chuck Gardner
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Opps, what I meant to say was...
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

Chuck Gardner wrote:

Its the angle of the off camera LIGHT to the nose, both
sideways and vetically, not the angle of the light to the camera
axis, which the important factor for setting the key light.

CG

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TomCee
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Mr. Gardner
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

Chuck Gardner wrote:

now that your playing on-request songs here, can you give a detail shot of that hairlight and some details, like what flash you're using in it??

Thanks!

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dogwood
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but this doesn't cost enough money!
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

Just joking, of course. Thanks for the inspiration, as usual. I've gotten some great tips from you on this forum and really appreciate it!

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Chuck Gardner
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OT Hairlight info (not related to the diffuser)
In reply to TomCee, Mar 1, 2005

Just close your eyes and imagine this:

It's a PhotoFlex 22 x 22 (small) MultiDome Q3 with a round mask (to limit the size) and a 40 degree PhotoFlex fabric grid (to limit the spread). The grid costs almost as much as the SB :-(.

TomCee wrote:

Chuck Gardner wrote:

now that your playing on-request songs here, can you give a detail
shot of that hairlight and some details, like what flash you're
using in it??

Thanks!

-- hide signature --
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Chuck Gardner
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at 10mm
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 1, 2005

As requested, here is a comparison of shooting with and without the diffuser @10mm

With:

Without:

Here are some unposed candid shots taken with the dual strobe set-up. While not on par with controlled studio lighting and softboxes the added dimensionality of short lighting and a softening of the light versus the results with a direct flash in the hot shoe is nothing short of remarkable IMHO.

A wide shot @ 10mm (17mm FOV for FF 35mm) just to show the light position and coverage. I looks like a big light bulb

A medium shot to show the overall lighting pattern:

A H&S shot. I switch lenses to the 85mm and moved the light closer an slightly more behind her for this one.

These are just quick grab shots, but imagine all the candid shots at a wedding or other events you photograph with this quality of lighting. It is something which will set your work apart from other shooters who only use one light. This dual flash technique is what made Monte famous 40 years ago when he introduced it. He took the portrait lighting techniques he learned from Zeltsman and figured out how to use them with portable gear in a candid wedding situation. This might seem trival now, but 40 years ago most weddings were shot with direct flash on camera and were flat and washed out. He started winnng every PPA print competition he entered and soon was making as much teaching other pros the technique. You get it for free. I got paid (not much) by Monte while learning it. LOL

CG

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BriGuy
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Re: For the template...
In reply to gopalsl, Mar 2, 2005

The results you're getting with this home made diffuser looks great, but I'm curious about something.

What if you lined the inside with foil, and covered the front portion with some form of rip-stop nylon to soften the light farther.

Do you think the possibilities of doing that would reap even better results? I would think it would look better than say a milk jug attached to your flash gun.

gopalsl wrote:

Chuck any chance of a photo without the homemade diffuser so we
can compare.... just thought it would help me and all others to see
the dramatic difference. Thanks

-- hide signature --

Photography: A sliver of the present captured for the future indulgence of the past.

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csidd
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Thanks Chuck.
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 2, 2005

I really appreciate you taking the time to explain your set up. Your willingness to help those that are trying to learn is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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csidd

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Jarrell Conley
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Chuck, if you don't mind...
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 2, 2005

back when you were with Zucker... I know you guys used a two light setup when most were using one... how did you calculate exposure for the two? And, how are you calculating it with the shot you show here with your Vivitars (some of the finest little flashes made for the money!)?

Also, how did you manage to get yourself in an explosive situation on a boat at age 10?
Thanks,
Jarrell

Chuck Gardner wrote:

I built myself another DIY camera flash diffuser, so I thought I'd
show the process of creating one. Its quite simple, requiring only
a piece of white/black mat board, a roll of black masking tape, a
sissors, and stapler:

First you need to sketch out the reflector. I won't post a
template because all flashes are different and I'm too lazy to draw
one. Just make the base legs the same dimensions as your flash
head and the flap on top about 1-1/2 times wider than the head.
The first time you do it I'd suggest using photo paper ratther than
cardboard and then use your paper prototype as a template. The
band shown at the bottom is used as a collar to attach the diffuser
to the flash. This one fits a Vivitar 285HV. Modify to fit your
unit and hold it in place. Add velcro if needed:

Bend the band around the flash head, tape and staple. Use a pliers
to flatten the staples.

Score all the fold lines of the reflector with the point of a knife
then fold and attach the base of the reflector to the band with
staples:

Shape the cut-outs by hand to fit around the back corners:

Then tape the back side to hold them in place. Use black tape for
the professional look :-).

After you have the diffuser together and mounted you'll be able to
judge how far to bend the top flap over. Mount it on the flash an
look down at the flash head, then bend the flag forward until it
covers it. The goal is to capture all the light and not have any
spill upward. Mark and cut the edges at a angle (red lines at
top), then tape in place. Score the back along the lower red line
with the tip of a knife so intermediate back section will bend.

Add liberal amounts of black tape to finish the edges and cover the
staples. Put a wrap or two of tape around the attachment collar to
reinforce it and you're done:

Here's a shot taken with a 10mm lens on my D20 which demonstrates
the coverage and the light quality. The field of view is similar
to a 17mm lens on a full-frame 35mm.

CG

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D100, 5700 and 990
http://members.cox.net/jarrellconley/
'At my age, if it's over 100 feet from the truck, it ain't photogenic.'

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csidd
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A few more questions if you have a moment..
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 2, 2005

I just picked up a pair of 285's and I'm going to start experimenting with your dual flash technique. It seems like an inexpensive way to learn about lighting for someone on a budget. I do have a few more questions after reading your article here http://super.nova.org/photos/ . What kind of flash bracket are you using? I would rather not spend a lot on a flash bracket if it is not necessary. Pardon me if these questions are basic but I only have experience with a 420ex mounted on the camera.

I don't know much about pc cords and slaves. I'm guessing the PC cord you mention is connected to the camera and the flash mounted above the camera. As far as the wein peanuts go do they allow for the off camera flash to fire with out a cord running to it? Or are they used in conjunction with a cord? I'm guessing I could do without the ac power adapters for the time being and use batteries though I'm sure dedicated power for the flash heads is convienient. Thanks again for your help.

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Chuck Gardner
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OT reply to Jarrell...
In reply to Jarrell Conley, Mar 2, 2005

Jarrell Conley wrote:

back when you were with Zucker... I know you guys used a two light
setup when most were using one... how did you calculate exposure
for the two? And, how are you calculating it with the shot you
show here with your Vivitars (some of the finest little flashes
made for the money!)?

Covered previously in these threads:

Just use stobes of equal strength on manual and modulate aperture based on the following camera / off-camera light distance combos (in ft):

16/11, 11/8, 8/5.5, 5.5/4

Each combo is 1 f/stop hotter than the previous and all produce a 3:1 ratio. Once you establish a baseline exposure for the 11/8 distance its simply a matter of move in to the next zone, stop down lens. Move out to the next zone, open up lens.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1025&message=11645965

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1025&message=12002603

Also, how did you manage to get yourself in an explosive situation
on a boat at age 10?

(FYI - something mentioned on my web page)

In early Fall of 1962 the boat, a derilect WWI coast guard cutter unexpectedly started to sink on its own and was run aground in 3ft of water along the bank of the Little Calumet river south of Chicago and abandoned. For about a week kids waded out and explored it, tore it apart, etc. It was already a wreck so that wasn't any major act of vandalism. The day I waded out to it something in the bow section (not the gas tank since it had been removed) exploded, knocking me out and sending me through a wooden bulkhead on the wheelhouse / bridge of the boat into a lower half-flooded section.

I didn't hear it, I was out cold. When I came to I was able to pull myself back up the wheelhouse and out the door into the water. Fortunately my older brother was there -- he had gone out to the boat before me -- met me in the water, and got me to shore. All the other kids, who had been tossing rocks at the boat from shore, ran like hell.

I was dressed in a t-shirt and waist high waders. Every exposed surface was covered w. spliters an a nail was sticking out of my back. I must have been looking away or blinked because my eyes were OK. But some projectile went all the way through my right ankle creating a gapping 2" hole between the bones and Achilles tendon, both of which miraculously remained intact. I spent 42 days in the hospital fighting infection from the polluted water, and needed a skin graft the next year to patch the entrance wound. Amazingly there were no long term effects from the injury except a slight loss in upward flex in my right foot (no big deal except when skiing), and the cockiness escaping death at age 10 give you :-).

From accounts I heard later it was a huge explosion. I lived five miles away from the accident site and my neighbor who was on a ladder painting gutters said it was so loud and startliing a that distance that he nearly fell off the ladder. The owner was located but was apparently "connected" in the South Side of Chicago, finger to the side of the nose sense of the word, and the boat was wired with explosives as part of an insurance scam that went bad. He could have just waited for it to sink on its own, LOL! One didn't ask too many questions about connected guys on the South Side in 1962 so there were no charges or million-dollar insurance pay of as there would be today.

CG

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Chuck Gardner
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Re: A few more questions if you have a moment..
In reply to csidd, Mar 2, 2005

csidd wrote:

I just picked up a pair of 285's and I'm going to start
experimenting with your dual flash technique. It seems like an
inexpensive way to learn about lighting for someone on a budget. I
do have a few more questions after reading your article here
http://super.nova.org/photos/ . What kind of flash bracket are you
using?

I use a Stroboframe flip which rotates the camera, shown below with a Canon 20D and 10-22mm zoom:

I bought it back when I had a small Kodak DC290. I still use it for my Canon 20D but find it cumbersome, especially with a heavy 24-70 zoom. It also keeps the flash head horizontal when camera is in portrait (vertical) orientation. With bare flash portrait mode shots from less than about four feet away don't get good light at the bottom, which is another good reason to use the diffuser. With it on the flash close-ups are no problem. I shot this last night with the dual strobe set-up:

.

Doing it over now I'd go for one of the models that just flips the flash, keeping it above the lens in both modes, but not having used one I'm not sure how it would work with the diffuser.

I don't know much about pc cords and slaves. I'm guessing the PC
cord you mention is connected to the camera and the flash mounted
above the camera.

Yes. If you use a bracket you'll want to get an 18" Vivitar-PC cord. B&H has them or check Paramount cords web site (Google it)

As far as the wein peanuts go do they allow for

the off camera flash to fire with out a cord running to it? Or are
they used in conjunction with a cord?

Both ways with the 285HVs. You can plug it into the flash where the PC cord normally goes, or into the PC end of the cord. I do the latter and let it hang down so the flash never shades the sensor. Also I tend not to loose the tiny peanuts when there is a 10" tail attached to it
I'm guessing I could do

without the ac power adapters for the time being and use batteries
though I'm sure dedicated power for the flash heads is convienient.
Thanks again for your help.

Convenient for long shoots (over 50 shots) but NiHM batteries actually recharge the units slightly faster. I formerly used the adapters a lot, but now I have so many NiMH AA's from older cameras I just keep several sets on hand. You can buy spare battery holders at B&H, which are a convenient way to store spares for quick swaps.

CG

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Chuck Gardner
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Read this one - corrected link...
In reply to Chuck Gardner, Mar 2, 2005

Chuck Gardner wrote:

csidd wrote:

I just picked up a pair of 285's and I'm going to start
experimenting with your dual flash technique. It seems like an
inexpensive way to learn about lighting for someone on a budget. I
do have a few more questions after reading your article here
http://super.nova.org/photos/ . What kind of flash bracket are you
using?

I use a Stroboframe flip which rotates the camera, shown below with
a Canon 20D and 10-22mm zoom:

I bought it back when I had a small Kodak DC290. I still use it
for my Canon 20D but find it cumbersome, especially with a heavy
24-70 zoom. It also keeps the flash head horizontal when camera is
in portrait (vertical) orientation. With bare flash portrait mode
shots from less than about four feet away don't get good light at
the bottom, which is another good reason to use the diffuser. With
it on the flash close-ups are no problem. I shot this last night
with the dual strobe set-up:

.

Doing it over now I'd go for one of the models that just flips the
flash, keeping it above the lens in both modes, but not having used
one I'm not sure how it would work with the diffuser.

I don't know much about pc cords and slaves. I'm guessing the PC
cord you mention is connected to the camera and the flash mounted
above the camera.

Yes. If you use a bracket you'll want to get an 18" Vivitar-PC
cord. B&H has them or check Paramount cords web site (Google it)

As far as the wein peanuts go do they allow for

the off camera flash to fire with out a cord running to it? Or are
they used in conjunction with a cord?

Both ways with the 285HVs. You can plug it into the flash where the
PC cord normally goes, or into the PC end of the cord. I do the
latter and let it hang down so the flash never shades the sensor.
Also I tend not to loose the tiny peanuts when there is a 10" tail
attached to it
I'm guessing I could do

without the ac power adapters for the time being and use batteries
though I'm sure dedicated power for the flash heads is convienient.
Thanks again for your help.

Convenient for long shoots (over 50 shots) but NiHM batteries
actually recharge the units slightly faster. I formerly used the
adapters a lot, but now I have so many NiMH AA's from older cameras
I just keep several sets on hand. You can buy spare battery
holders at B&H, which are a convenient way to store spares for
quick swaps.

CG

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