Builtin flash, can it be diffused/tamed?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Butthead, Oct 5, 2007.

  1. Butthead macrumors 6502

    Butthead

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    #1
    Did a search on this forum's title threads for 'flash' came up empty on built-in flash techniques, suggestions.

    I saw this thread, and after reading Chuck Gardners post#11 nice, thorough site about lighting (though for my preferences I do not like 'bringing attention to the eye with contrast', I prefer *flatter*, more "natural" scene lighting-Pam Anderson has lots of artificial, unnatural, eye-catching contrast, too severe looking for my preferences; more symetrical less severe contrast/balance is what I look for ;) )...I found one missing area, built in flash. yeah, it's the absolute worst, but if thats all you find yourself working with, if high ISO and fast lens still isn't enough...how would you use your built-in flash and try to avoid severe contrast at any distance?

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=359554

    Even the new full frame Nikon D3 $5k pro dSLR has a built in flash. If pros would never use such a flash, why is it included?

    I hate the contrast from any builtin flash, especially bad at close range <2m or 7ft. Horrible with macro shots.

    1. Are there simple techniques or tools that pros use to tame the flash, like some type of diffusion gel card from a small softbox, you could hold up over the flash with one hand while shooting with the camera one handed (would work best with a tripod I know), even somehow attach such a diffuser to the flash once it is extended, or in the case of a PnS digicam just tape over the front of the tiny BI flash?

    2. What about PnS digicams, they have a flat little bar flash built into the front of the camera body, how would anyone try to tame the light from one of those?

    3. *note* assume if you have a dSLR or PnS, that you don't have a hot-shoe flash with you, that you don't have a remote flash either...just lightest weight, fewest 'tools', run N gun/travel picture taking opportunities, as is the case with most PnS cameras.


    a). You are stuck with just the camera and it's builtin flash, what do you, or can you do, about the harsh high contrast light of a flash?


    b.) Is there anyway to diffuse that light down to something that looks semi-soft indoors/outdoors?

    c.)If indoors, of course, if you have any other light source available, you could try to balance light sources...what with WB issues. What would you do indoors where you do not have enough light from another source to balance out the harshness of the built in flash? If you did have ability to balance ambient indoor light w/built in flash, how would you do it?

    TIA

    I expect there are multiple solutions, and all are not very satisfactory, but list any you can think of...pluses and minuses.
     
  2. bartelby macrumors Core

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  3. gr8tfly macrumors 603

    gr8tfly

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    #3
    Bathroom tissue paper (either kind). You can even go "hands-free" by using a rubber-band (carefully, you don't want to damage the flash's retract mechanism).
     
  4. PimpDaddy macrumors 6502

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    May 9, 2007
    #4
    I've gotten some pretty decent results by using a white piece of cardboard or a postcard to bounce the light.

    Or stick a white post-it note in front of the flash(I put mine in the place where it says Canon) That diffuses it somewhat :)
     
  5. weazle1098 macrumors regular

    weazle1098

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    #5
    I've used heavy frost (R116) pulled from the Roscolux color swatch book. Its a book of theatrical lighting gels, it works if you're going for diffusion, I suppose too if you want to do funny color, which I haven't tried, that could work too just by holding or tapeing the gel to it. I think you can get the books from theatre supply stores for free, but Not real sure, but if you know someone in theatre then ask them.
     
  6. M@lew macrumors 68000

    M@lew

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  7. scamateur macrumors member

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    Feb 26, 2007
    #7
    I only use my built-in as a "master" to trigger one or more Nikon "slave" flashes off-camera. It does look pretty horrible for any other use, so I'd never PLAN to use it otherwise. I'm not saying I wouldn't use it for emergencies.

    There are, however, lots of diffuser contraptions available for DSLR built-in flashes. The pages of Shutterbug are full of them.
     
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #8
    While the quality of built-in flashes is nowhere near that of external flashes, they can be used for triggering or in emergencies (empty batteries, forgot your flash at home), you literally always carry them around.

    If you are a little more serious about photography, definitely get an external flash. I am very happy with my SB-400: small and almost always the exposure is just right. I'm able to take pictures in ways I could never before (I take pictures for almost 20 years now, but never had a `real' flash), I can do four, five shots in a row now and my camera's battery isn't sucked dry.
     
  9. timnosenzo macrumors 6502a

    timnosenzo

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    #9
  10. M@lew macrumors 68000

    M@lew

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  11. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #11
    Of course the D3 doesn't come with a built-in flash!


    I was thinking about getting the SB-400, but I don't have an SB-600 either, so should I get the SB-600, or SB-400?? I don't want to get both (yet). The SB-600 is obviously going to be better because of its height and for bounce flash, along with all the accessories there are for it. However, the SB-400 is, in my opinion, probably under-rated. It's powerful like the SB-600, but less imposing when you take photos of people. If you use the SB-400, you can walk around with your DSLR and a smaller lens without appearing to be holding intimidating "pro" equipment.
     
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #12
    You can buy a device called an "optical slave" for not much money. This connects to a strobe, the kind you might use with an SLR. The slave will fire the strobe whenever it "sees" the flash from another strobe such as the one built into a P&S camera. The slave is sensitive enough that it is triggered by the reflection of the on-camera flash off a nearby wall or ceiling.

    So, take a piece is white cardboard and rig it with tape so that it deflects the built in flash to the ceiling, away from the subject. (I made a reflector using aluminum salvaged from a soft drink can.) Aim the larger off camera strobe at the subject either directly or through an umbrella reflector or a big diffuser screen or even a soft box. The P&S' strobe will trigger the optical slave which will fire the larger off camera strobe. The whole setup is not expensive. Under $100 for everything. You can also use two or three slaves for a muliple light setup. Using something like this you can get truly professional results. The ability to control the direction of the light makes all the difference. A second light allows you to control the ratio of the highlights to the shadows

    I use this kind of setup with a Canon A85 point and shoot that I use in a housing for underwater photography.
     
  13. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #13
    You can bounce with the SB-400 as well (60, 75 and 90 degrees from the top of my head). One less reason not to get one ;)
    I could have paid for the SB-600 as well, but I chose the SB-400 for its size.
     
  14. libertyterran macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2007
    #14
    U can bounce the SB-400 on landscape mode only, not on the portrait mode. The SB-600 give you horizontal and vertical bounce + it has the built-in module for remote trigger in flash commander mode. So says in the future you wanna use it as a side flash, simply mount it on a tripod, activate the flash commander mode on your camera and shoot away.

    I bought the SB-600 from ebay over the SB-400 after toying with both of them in the real shop.
    edit: I just put an image of my SB-600 here for illustration purpose :D.
    [​IMG]
     
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #15
    A bit of info. The "softness" of a light is exactly proportional to the angular size of the light as seen from the subjects location.

    Some examples:

    1) the sun is about 1/2 degree wide. It is very "harsh" and contrasty.
    2) If the sun is behind a cloud and not visable then the cloud is the light source. the cloud is much bigger (angle as seen by subject, not in physical size) then the sun. Light on an overcast day is very flat.
    3) If you bounce the stobe off the wall the light source is the size of
    the spot on the wall iluminated by the strobe.
    4) If you are far away from a subject even if you place a defuser on the strobe it is still "small" in terms of angle.

    The thing to remember here is that defusers do not some how magically change the light their sole purpose is to make the light source appear to be wider. If you know this then it is pretty easy to evaluate all the various light modifiers, defusers, umbrellas and and soft boxes.

    OK one more refinement -- some defusers are designed so they let some light go directly to the subject while sendng some to the walls and ceiling to be reflected back. You see people using a business card taped to a flash aimed at the ceiling. The card sends some light direct to the subject while lieeting most of it hit the ceiling. It's like having two strobes
     
  16. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #16
    You're right. That's why I wasn't sure, but I don't bounce the flash that often.
     
  17. seany916 macrumors 6502

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    #17
  18. Marlin Munoz macrumors newbie

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