DIY Film Can Flash Diffuser

April 28th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted  |  1 Comment

I was approached recently to take some pictures at an event. I’m not going to go into the details because the whole idea was both remarkably flattering and a little terrifying, and there’s a part of me that’s embarrassed to admit that I even considered it for a second.

By way of comparison: When I was approached to write a book, I had no idea how book-writing worked and so was flattered, but not particularly terrified (until later down the road, when good sense caught up to me and it was far too late to back out anyhow).

This proposition had me feeling none of the hubris of the day I woke up and said “Yes … I am an author and I will take money from those who have finally recognized this fact.” More just a sense of preemptive flop-sweat that had me imagining the horrible things that could go awry, even as I knew reflexively it was something best avoided.

On the other hand, the matter spurred some exploration of how to fix one of the more vexing problems in point-n-shoot photography, which is how to deal with the god-awful built-in flashes and what they do to the subjects that cross their paths. There aren’t a lot of choices out there, but an issue of Popular Photography came last week that made mention of the Lumiquest Soft-Screen flash diffuser. At $12.95 it’s cheap, but it also looks kind of huge and unwieldy, plus right there on the product page there’s mention that it doesn’t always work with all bodies and might require a velcro mounting kit.

DIY Filmcan Flash DiffuserSo I went wide with Google and quickly came across a DIY popup flash diffuser made from a translucent film canister. A visit to the basement for a rustle through a shoebox netted me three. A few seconds with an x-acto knife and a black marker got me my very own. A few test shots (not to be presented, because they involve a doughy nerd staring fixedly into a camera while he waits for the self-timer to pop) showed that it works really well. Skin tones don’t bleach as badly and shadows are softened considerably.

And yes … that’s me with a blue sweatshirt over my head to help contrast the diffuser a little better. The iMac’s built-in iSight looks really good when it’s just taking pictures of people, but you come to realize some of that goodness is because it isn’t the sharpest camera in the world.

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