Diffuser or Flash

Started 4 months ago | Questions thread
LordKOTL Senior Member • Posts: 1,662
Re: Diffuser or Flash

Jcbailey wrote:



Should I just get a faster lens or invest in flash? You probably read my other post but I need something for low light/ Night Photography of my kids indoors. there is light but not enough I'm guessing.

my current lens 3.5-5.6 and 4-5.6 which isn't enough. looking at flash or a 50mm 1.8

What do you recommend?

Like many here I'd recommend the Strobist Lighting 101 blog. It's the best resource I've found for off-camera flash tips.

While there are a lot of advantages to a faster lens, in low light scenarios you'll need to open up the aperture, and that means less depth of field (DoF). If you're taking shots of kids in motion that means there's a lot less leeway for getting acceptable focus on the portion of your subject you want to hit focus on--especially indoors where you don't have much distance to the subject. Flash on the other hand adds light, which means you can stop down and get some more DoF. The problem as you noticed is that the flash head itself is tiny, and thus you get harsh light.

Others have suggested bouncing the flash, which works because it spreads the light over a much larger area. It's not a perfect solution* but it will work for giving a lot less harsh light. The little diffusers might eliminate hot spots within the flash itself, but soft light is generated by a large (with respect to the subject) light source. A pop-up flash is tiny. A speedlight flash head is still tiny--same thing with a tiny diffuser. Bouncing the flash off of the ceiling or a wall turns the ceiling or wall into a large light source, and thus soft light. Another great photo blog explains a lot of use of on-camera bounced flash: The Tangents Blog .

Since a small speedlight may not be that powerful, you still might need to up your ISO to get a good lightness to the photo. ISO 400-800 and a bounce flash should be preferable to ISO 6400+ without any flash.

As an fortuitous example, I ended up doing a photoshoot last night with my wife playing with our cats...one of them an 8 7 month old kitten (which is a good analogue for a child in motion). I used both a 50mm and an 85mm lens (both set to f/5.6), and used one pocketstrobe bounced to bring up the shadows and another pocketstrobe in a large softbox** as the key light. Even though those pocket strobes are more expensive than a speedlight and more powerful, a speedlight should be able to do the same if you up the ISO a bit to compensate:

Kaylee Jumping - 85mm

Kaylee Misses - 50mm

I don't think I could have got either of those with natural light by opening the aperture (I'd lose the DoF I'd want), and I'd need something similar to a 1/1000 shutter (the key pocketstrobe speed), both of those would have needed a high ISO to compensate for the lack of light. In fact, the lower shot was taken about a half hour prior to sunset, and you can see the difference in light between indoors and outdoors.

I don't think there's a cheap solution for what you want to do. I'd recommend at least a single speedlight which you can bounce and take off of the camera, and that might run ~$110. With a radio trigger it's about ~$160 (Same Godox kit I started with--X1T trigger and a TT685 speedlight). That should at least get your foot in the door.

Good luck and happy shooting!

*-If you bounce the flash off of a wall or a ceiling it can pick up the color of said wall or ceiling, so if they are not white the results may be less than satisfactory.

**-With a good sized cardboard box, some aluminum foil, and an old white T-shirt you can kludge together a usable softbox which you can stick a speedlight inside and give yourself a more controllable large soft light source.

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There's no shame in using auto or semiauto modes--no matter what the salesdroids at Best Buy tell you.

 LordKOTL's gear list:LordKOTL's gear list
Nikon D750 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR Nikon 85mm F1.8G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED +3 more
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