Are flash modifiers recommended?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by im1dermike, Feb 20, 2018.

  1. im1dermike

    im1dermike TPF Noob!

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    I'm planning on purchasing the Neewer 750II bounce flash for my Nikon D3400. My indoor shooting is typically challenged by low light and I believe this will be a helpful addition.

    I came across this video about flash modifiers and I was wondering if people would advise adding a diffuser, soft box, etc. to my bounce flash setup. Most of the modifiers covered in the video are too bulky for me to want to use but the ones in the beginning are acceptable.


     
  2. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    the ones in the beginning are pointless.
     
  3. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Agreed. Direct flash will almost always look harsh. The diffuser attachment can be useful for getting a wider spread as a backdrop light, but otherwise looks about the same as direct flash but you lose a stop of light. The other on-camera attachments aren’t much better, and are really only useful for event photography where you can’t use off-camera flash and don’t have any ceiling or walls to bounce off of.

    Contrary to what Tony Northrop says in the video you linked, bounce flash using ceiling or walls can be incredibly useful and produce great results when you can’t use larger modifiers with off-camera flash. I would recommend checking out Neil Van Neikerk’s “Tangents” blog fore some great tips on using bounce flash, particularly for event photography.
    • Flash Photography Techniques - Tangents
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
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  4. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I do bounce flash a LOT.
    Most of my flash shooting is in a "normal" home with a standard 8 foot ceiling, so bouncing off the ceiling is easy.
    I also bounce at restaurants. The only restaurants that I do not bounce, are a couple Chinese restaurants with RED ceiling, because that would reflect RED light back down. I've also bounced off the wall behind me, if it is neutral in color. Bouncing is not a magic bullet. You can't bounce off the ceiling if you are close to the subject, as the light will be coming down, like 12 noon sun. This is when I change directions and bounce off the wall behind me. So you have to be aware of what angle the bounced light will come down on the subject. My most troublesome situation was a restaurant with a slanted ceiling, which made calculating/estimating the bounce angle difficult.

    I use a StoFen diffuser, cuz it is easy to carry and use. I use it where I can't easily bounce the ceiling. Example, when I am standing and have my flash on a bracket, the flash is about 1 to 1-1/2 feet from the ceiling, making a ceiling bounce difficult. The StoFen acts like a bare light bulb, and the light goes in all directions, so I am bouncing off the walls. It is helpful in small rooms. I just have to remember to pack it.

    I also use a business card rubber banded to the flash, so I can bounce to the ceiling and get some reflected light off the business card to the subject.

    Contrary to what Tony said, I like and use a flash bracket, a lot. Yes it is bulky and does make you stand out.
    For me, the primary purpose is to shoot direct flash, without getting red-eye. I would rather deal with red-eye at the camera than afterwards in post processing.
    And to me, very importantly, I can rotate the camera from H to V and still keep the flash ABOVE the lens, not on the side where the hot shoe of the camera is (in the V orientation). Flash above the lens makes a less visible shadow than flash to side, where it will cast a visible shadow to the side of the subject.

    There is no one "magic" light modifier for a shoe flash. As Tony showed, all of them have some compromise, to achieve their purpose. YOU have to select the one(s) that best meet YOUR needs.
    They are all simply tools in the tool box, and it is your job to select the appropriate tool for the job.

    One thing I worry is the stress on the hot shoe, and damaging the camera. Put too much stuff on the flash and you increase the stress on the shoe. The taller the modifier, the longer the lever working against the shoe. Turn the camera from H to V, and the weight of the flash+modifier is now pulling down on the shoe. Maybe this is an unnecessary concern, I don't really know. But I would rather not find out by breaking the camera's hot shoe, or the foot of the flash, and have an EXPENSIVE repair.
     
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  5. Cortian

    Cortian No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That Rogue FlashBender looks handy. I'm thinking that and a small softbox in my on-camera flash arsenal? BrentC uses a small (?) softbox for macro photography.
     
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  6. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The thing about flash accessories, is that they are like fish hooks. Fish hooks are designed to attract fishermen, more than they are designed to attract fish.

    So the point of designing and selling a flash accessory is to make money.

    Of course, most of them actually do something useful for your flash photography. But many of them can also have a negative impact in some situations....and they usually fail to tell you when & where NOT to use them....and because of that, it's very common to see people using flash accessories in situations where they aren't doing anything to improve the light (over bare flash) and they just cause the flash to work harder.

    So the key with any flash accessory, is to first understand light. Understand how flash works and how you can balance it with ambient light etc. With that knowledge, it should be fairly easy to know when to use which accessories, and just as importantly, when not to use them.

    Of course, as with everything, it's always a compromise. A smart photographer chooses their gear to balance convenience and functionality, and does what they can within the limitations of those choices.
     
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  8. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    No! Absolutely not!

    Don't put a modifier on your flash if it is pointed at the ceiling or a wall or some other white reflective surface. Your modifier is now the ceiling or wall, so why put another element in there? It will simply decrease the light, and is not needed or wanted.

    You do use a modifier if you are pointing your flash directly at your subject. In that case, a small softbox attachment will be better than nothing, although the relative size of the light source has not increased by much.

    When you bounce your flash (above, left, right, or behind) you are effectively increasing the size of the light source. When you point your flash directly at your subject, the light source is about 2 inches by 3 inches, so anything you can do to increase the relative size will soften the light.

    Unless it's hard light you want, then no modifier at all.
     
  9. pixmedic

    pixmedic The Mustached Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    for bouncing, we use rogue flashbenders. didnt know there was a generic version now, so that might be a good option as well. they also roll up for use as a snoot. we used them shooting a wedding at the Tampa aquarium (in dark hallways in front of glass tanks where direct flash wouldn't work) with very good results. for other staged shots we use 42 inch umbrella boxes with flashes.
     
  10. im1dermike

    im1dermike TPF Noob!

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  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Adding a diffusing type modifier for bounce flash is, in my experience, only useful or advisable when you're in a VERY cramped, low-ceilinged place, like a small room with a low ceiling, as in many apartments or aboard large boats or cruise ships, or in a photo booth type cramped place. Why? The Inverse Square Law means that in these types of very short-distance, cramped places, if a plain flash is bounced up off of a close-by ceiling or wall, the flash returns and is super-bright at the top of the head, bright on the face, and then the neck is slightly dark, and by the waist level of the people, you have VERY dark lighting. This is precisely the type of situation where the Fong-type omni-directional diffusing cap, or the rounded, spherical "globe" type diffusers are useful. When the flash-to-subject distance is VERY short, the rate of light fall-off is also very rapid, and blasting light in all directions helps add fill light and keeps "all of the light" from being simply bounced straight back down onto people's faces, while their bodies get almost no light. In normal-sized rooms or in bigger rooms, NO flash diffuser is typically added to the flash,and it works great.

    Back in the early to mid-2000's, I used to use a small 5 x 7 inch mini-softbox and a 1-meter Nikon SC-17 TTL remote cord, and held the flash in my left hand, extended up and downward and across, for close-range flower shots, which did a good job of offering flash for motion-stopping in the wind, and for providing bright, simulated daylight, and the power of a speedlight to allow me to stop the lens down to f/13 or f/16 for most flower pictures. If you do the math, a 5x7 inch box offers a 35 square inch light source, while a typical 1 x 2.75 inch flash Fresnel panel is, well...2.75 square inches...meaning that even a small 5x7 inch softbox on small subjects and from close range, offers a "large" light source that's relatively soft, compared against bare flash.

    Agreed--Neil V's articles on flash use and technique are some great instructional articles.
     
  12. im1dermike

    im1dermike TPF Noob!

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    Thanks @Derrel for your insights.

    I've learned a lot of things from comments in this thread. It seems like many people recommend Flashbender-type products to increase the size of the light source while also softening it. On the other hand, NvN is constantly promoting his BFT (Black Foamie Thing) that he uses as a flag which allows you to direct the flash toward the subject, but blocks the flash hitting the subject directly. Assuming I haven't misunderstood something, both of those tools/techniques make sense.

    My goal with this thread was to see if there was a single piece of equipment I could always have mounted to my bounce flash that would positively improve it. Is this not realistic, that there isn't a single bounce flash modifier panacea? Are both of the tools I mentioned above great when the given situation dictates?
     
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