How to make a soft bounce flash diffuser

DIY soft bounce diffuser for Nikon SB-600This project was conceived for the Nikon SB-600 Speedlight, but I am sure it can easily be adapted to many other flashguns.

The problem with standard flashguns is that the size of the flash window (lens) is small and in effect the lighting they produce is almost the same as a point light source. Particularly when the flash is used on camera for portraiture, the result is very harsh, unflattering light and hard, well-defined shadow edges. 

Portraits can be vastly improved, and shadows softened, if the light source is made physically larger and we can do that using light modifiers. 

DIY soft bounce diffuser for Nikon SB-600In the studio, flash light is modified using softboxes, but although these are available for speedlights, they are large and unwieldy and can only be used in an off-camera flash setup. In order to retain the mobility of hand-held photography, we need to leave the flash on the hot shoe but modify it to create a larger light source and a soft bounce diffuser does that.

Although many variations of soft bounce diffusers for speedlights are available in camera shops, you can very easily make your own for nothing, using items from your kitchen.

A search of the internet will yield many sources of DIY bounce diffusers and this is an adaptation of many of those ideas fused into one simple and cheap solution.

DIY soft bounce diffuser for Nikon SB-600To start with we need the material. I wanted something white, stiff, hard-wearing, cheap and easy to reproduce and I found the perfect solution in the kitchen cupboard - the lid from a used 2 litre tub of ice cream. If you don't have one, you will have to put this project on hold while you pop down to the shops and return with your choice of icy decadence. Sit down in front of the TV with a close friend and one spoon and share the moment!

Clean up the lid and remove any stickers or branding so that you are left with the plain white lid. Using kitchen shears or a large pair of scissors, cut off the lip around the edge so that you have a flat piece left. 

DIY soft bounce diffuser for Nikon SB-600 Copy the template from the image or modify it to suit your flashgun. None of the dimensions are critical except for the lower section which must fit inside the flash head into the slot where the built-in plastic diffuser is stored. Use the template to cut out a piece of white plastic of the same dimensions. There is nothing stopping you from making the reflector bigger, but you will have to maintain the dimensions of the bottom 'tab' - 25x42mm - in order for it to fit inside the flashgun. To fit the diffuser, pull out the built-in clear plastic diffuser and lie it across the flash lens, then push your new diffuser down into the same slot and you are ready to shoot!

You will get the best results if you angle the flash head slightly towards your subject. Comparative shots will show a softer lighting on models' skin and softer edges to shadows.

If you have a white ceiling above, you probably won't need this diffuser, but if you are shooting under a thatched roof, or are outdoors, it improves the lighting from the flash. 

 

 

 

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