Thursday, June 4, 2009

Penny wise, pound foolish?

All photographers spend money. Bodies, lenses and flashes can easily set you back hundreds of dollars. But it doesn't end there; soon you want to control the light as much as possible. Sunlight might be to hard, for some shots you want a certain color added and others could use a spotlight.
Sure you can find snoots, diffusers and reflectors as long as you pay, but do they really work?
My Nikon SB900 flash came with a diffuser (not cheap to replace, I expect) and some gels to change the flash color. If you want more colors, you can order them...

It's almost painful to say, but there's a much cheaper way and it's even better than the Stofen diffuser or Nikon (or Canon) gels and bells and whistles. It's called: plastic cups and bottles!

Now if you, like me, like to keep both hands on the camera, you'll need something to hold the cups or bottles in front of the small BI (BI= build-in, so you know) flash. After several days of trying, shopping and frustration, I came up with these things:

Clothes pegs: simple and very cost effective. This was the first try, as you probably guessed ;-)
I just drilled a little whole in both, connected them with a screw so you still can turn it. The blue thing comes out of an old printer and is connected with crazy glue. You can slide it in the hotshoe of the camera. Perfect for small plastic cups and such, but not enough flexibility. So the next thing was this:

3 pieces of L shaped aluminum and a clothes peg. I made some slots, so you can adjust it according to the size of what ever you wish to fit in front of the BI flash. Don't forget to use insulation tape on the piece you stick in the hotshoe, or you might short circuit your camera!

Here are some pictures of how it looks with a few of the diffusers in front:

And here one with the snoot: very small spotlight:

Here's a small amount of examples that you can make for less than a dollar:

The black paper for a snoot is very thick and can be found in school supply stores, art supplies, etc. It's available in many colors, so it can also serve as reflectors. Plastic cups are amazing cheap and available. Test a variety of sizes and shapes. If it doesn't diffuse enough, just stick another on top! If the cup is to big: cut a piece off.
Instead of sticking expensive gels in front of your external or BI flash, you can safe more money by using a transparent plastic cup and put some colored transparency plastic paper over it: also available at school or art supply stores.

Now what effects can you expect? Here are some examples:

This one is made with a white coffee cup, where the bottom has been cut out.

A blue "gel" effect.

Red "gel" effect

Snoot spotlight effect

Make a smaller spotlight by moving the snoot further away from the flash or making a shorter, narrower version

Blue plastic stuck in front of a cup

Stopping down or a smaller aperture for this more dramatic effect

White cup with a piece of red transparency plastic gives this

The same, but here I put aluminum foil around the cup

Same but with black paper around the cup

Here are some examples of the external flash.

Pure flash without diffuser

Flash with the original Nikon diffuser. As you can see, it really doesn't do so much.

This one is made with a simple cup. The picture is a little bit darker, but it's also much softer lit. This can easily be adjusted by fitting a different cup or if you shoot raw, in PP.
The cup was round and the flash is rectangular. So the flash wants to pop off. You can prevent this, by using... a blow dryer! Just warm the cup with the blow dryer and then stick it on the flash. Be careful, don't get burned or toast your flash ;-)

I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to comment and if you have better suggestions: by all means!

Next I hope to give you some cheap ideas on how to DIY the best reflectors for less money!

If you want to help me, help you, any donation is greatly appreciated!

1 comment: