View Full Version : Yes - remove the diffuser and soften the shadows?

28th August 2009, 03:58 PM
A while back (http://e-group.uk.net/forum/showthread.php?p=48593#post48593) I slightly ridiculed a photographer in a picture for using a diffuser dome on his flash outside. My point was that these small diffusers are totally reliant on being able to employ convenient walls and ceilings as reflectors to diffuse the light and soften shadows. Outside, there are no surfaces for the diffuser to work with. The net result is that much of the light is diverted and so won't fall on the subject, so reducing effective power, while having practically no effect on the hardness of the shadows.

In a roundabout way, I can demonstrate this with the three images below. Today I have been working on some product shots of the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 standard zoom for a review that will soon appear on Four Thirds User.

Here is the final result of the shot in question:

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/511/P8282327-2.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/17269)

But here is a close up of the previous frame showing the hard edged shadow under the lens:

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/511/P8282326.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/17268)

Remarkably, I had the Olympus FS-FLBA1 diffuser dome or box fitted on an FL-50R off-camera, above the subject, pointed up at an ange to the ceiling. So why was there a hard shadow?

Quite simply, the underside of the diffuser was above the subject. Remember, a diffuser diverts the light from the flash to a wide spread. The diffusing effect is actually a result of the light being reflected off surrounding walls and ceilings. As the underside of the diffuser was in direct line of site of the subject, it cast a hard shadow.

All I did to remove the hard shadow was to remove the diffuser, and here is the result:

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/511/P8282327.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/17270)

The large hard-edged shadow is now nicely softened. There is a secondary shadow there, but that's thrown by an FL-32R I was using for fill-in flash and it was shining directly at the subject.

So there you have it, some real proof that you need to consider the use of a small diffuser dome or box on your flash carefully. It's not an instant diffuser, it needs walls and ceilings to work, otherwise it remains a small or point source of light, casting hard-edged shadows.


28th August 2009, 09:59 PM
Great tutorial, Ian, thank you. :)