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  • Flash and getting those shadows softened

    Julia very kindly modelled for me a while back so I could evaluate a flash diffuser. The article was published a few days ago and these are the evaluation shots. You can see which was taken with what there:




























    Ian
    Founder/editor
    Digital Photography Now (DPNow.com)
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
    Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
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  • #2
    Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

    A subject covered which many like me I think found of real interest. Thanks.

    We were visiting our son recently who is an avid shooter (Pentax K-5) and on top of his flash he had a Gary Fong defuser which seemed to work quite well on his young family. Although fairly large in size it didn't seem so large as the one you have reviewed. Have you had any dealings with the Gary Fong item Ian and if so what are your thoughts please?

    Regards. Barr1e

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    • #3
      Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

      Unless you're a regular studio person, I think flash is very easy to misunderstand and also it's easy to be unaware of the potential for getting the lighting right.

      There hasn't been a great deal of response to this thread and this also supports my feeling that people tend to take flash with a pinch of salt and don't realise how complex flash can be and of course how much better their pictures would turn out thanks to some better knowledge.

      As for the Gary Fong (LightSphere) diffuser. I haven't yet used one but I think it has, in theory, pros and cons. It's a kind of bigger form of standard dome diffuser. But what concerns me is that its overall size is still much smaller than the 22cm square Lastolite mini soft box. So I doubt it would be as good for direct use. But it seems to be designed primarily for bounce use, so you need a ceiling and walls to use it - so it would be pretty useless outdoors. As some of the light would still come directly from the flash (out of the side of the unit) onto the subject, some sharp shadows could still be cast. It looks like a dramatic product but I remain a little sceptical to be frank. I would like to obtain one in order to test it.

      Ian
      Founder/editor
      Digital Photography Now (DPNow.com)
      Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
      Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
      Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ianburley/

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      • #4
        Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

        It seems to me that the Gary Fong device is really intended as a supplement to the ambient light, in much the same way as a Stofen diffuser is. It is not a device intended for the studio, where largely flash is used as the only light source. The Lastolite device fits more into this category, and looking at the exif data it seems you have used ISO200 at 1/250s & f.5 I would guess that at this setting and indoors an exposure without flash would be pretty dark, therefore the flash is doing all the work. In this respect it seems to do a pretty good job, though I also suspect it really comes into its own with close up portraiture type work due to the limited output from the on camera flash.

        I wouldn't normally want to use a Gary Fong diffuser with such exposures and would reserve it for fill in flash use, as I would with a Stofen diffuser, or indeed any on camera flash where it is providing all the illumination. The Lastolite is a different sort of beast altogether IMHO
        Stephen

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        • #5
          Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

          Originally posted by Stephen View Post
          It seems to me that the Gary Fong device is really intended as a supplement to the ambient light, in much the same way as a Stofen diffuser is. It is not a device intended for the studio, where largely flash is used as the only light source. The Lastolite device fits more into this category, and looking at the exif data it seems you have used ISO200 at 1/250s & f.5 I would guess that at this setting and indoors an exposure without flash would be pretty dark, therefore the flash is doing all the work. In this respect it seems to do a pretty good job, though I also suspect it really comes into its own with close up portraiture type work due to the limited output from the on camera flash.

          I wouldn't normally want to use a Gary Fong diffuser with such exposures and would reserve it for fill in flash use, as I would with a Stofen diffuser, or indeed any on camera flash where it is providing all the illumination. The Lastolite is a different sort of beast altogether IMHO
          Interesting. If there was already some good ambient light, then I am tempted to ask why you would need a diffuser at all? Why not simply use direct flash on low power?

          Direct flash does have advantages that could be useful in terms of bringing out detail and improving contrast that soft light wouldn't.

          A Sto-fen or Gary Fong solution still needs walls and ceilings to work in the way such a device is designed to. That means they need to be used indoors and often the ambient light indoors is not great.

          Ian
          Founder/editor
          Digital Photography Now (DPNow.com)
          Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
          Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
          Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ianburley/

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          • #6
            Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

            I forgot to add - I used the fastest sync speed (1/250th) in order to reduce the effect of ambient light for the purposes of the test shots. I wanted the shadows thrown by the flash to be clear.

            Ian
            Founder/editor
            Digital Photography Now (DPNow.com)
            Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
            Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
            Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ianburley/

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            • #7
              Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

              Originally posted by Ian View Post
              I forgot to add - I used the fastest sync speed (1/250th) in order to reduce the effect of ambient light for the purposes of the test shots. I wanted the shadows thrown by the flash to be clear.

              Ian
              I thought as much and I definitely think this was the correct thing to do when taking these shots.

              Out of the studio though in real world situations I will usually just use ambient light and depending on circumstances throw some extra fill in flash at the scene too which lifts shadows and dark areas. It isn't always the best way to go as you can get problems with mixed lighting.

              I actually lost my Stofen recently, it fell off without me noticing, so I've been using the built in white reflector that pulls out from the head, and its given me quite acceptable results..............I hate bare direct flash as a general rule unless there is loads of ambient light and then it turns itself down and you don't notice it so much.

              Here are a couple of shots where the built in reflector worked well enough. ISO2000 + 1/2EV The flash was pointed up with the reflector pulled up which just brightened up the shots, essentially though I was relying on ambient light
              Attached Files
              Stephen

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              • #8
                Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

                Thanks Ian and Stephen.

                I found your comments and results most helpful.

                Regards. Barr1e

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

                  Originally posted by Stephen View Post
                  It seems to me that the Gary Fong device is really intended as a supplement to the ambient light, in much the same way as a Stofen diffuser is. It is not a device intended for the studio, where largely flash is used as the only light source. The Lastolite device fits more into this category, and looking at the exif data it seems you have used ISO200 at 1/250s & f.5 I would guess that at this setting and indoors an exposure without flash would be pretty dark, therefore the flash is doing all the work. In this respect it seems to do a pretty good job, though I also suspect it really comes into its own with close up portraiture type work due to the limited output from the on camera flash.

                  I wouldn't normally want to use a Gary Fong diffuser with such exposures and would reserve it for fill in flash use, as I would with a Stofen diffuser, or indeed any on camera flash where it is providing all the illumination. The Lastolite is a different sort of beast altogether IMHO
                  i totally agree with you here Stephen. when using diffusers, i use the Stoffen to throw light further and the Lightsphere in close quarters. the Lighsphere cuts the output much more but is great when "your back is against the wall".

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                  • #10
                    Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

                    One of the main messages I would like to get across is that Stofens and Gary Fong Lightspheres, on their own, don't soften shadows - you need walls and ceilings or other convenient surfaces. I see so many people using these things in large spaces or even outside when there is no chance that any softening can happen, instead they simply waste the power of their flash units.

                    Ian
                    Founder/editor
                    Digital Photography Now (DPNow.com)
                    Twitter: www.twitter.com/ian_burley
                    Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dpnow/
                    Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ianburley/

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Flash and getting those shadows softened

                      Originally posted by Ian View Post
                      One of the main messages I would like to get across is that Stofens and Gary Fong Lightspheres, on their own, don't soften shadows - you need walls and ceilings or other convenient surfaces. I see so many people using these things in large spaces or even outside when there is no chance that any softening can happen, instead they simply waste the power of their flash units.

                      Ian
                      agreed. i reserve the use of tupperware to indoors. and as i said earlier like the fong jug for tight quarters.

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