While lots of the pro photographers teaching workshops may tell you to take the flash out of the hot shoe, it’s a necessity for many photographers who shoot weddings, photojournalism, and events. For these photographers, it’s pretty much the only option that is also the most convenient that allows them to focus on shooting. Bare flashes as they are aren’t the most effective, and the best thing to do is to modify the light output a bit to give you better images to deliver to your clients.
If you’re stuck leaving your flash in the hot shoe, then consider these flash modifiers.
Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible
For years the Gary Fong Lightsphere has been the go-to flash modifier for many photographers who are typically photographing people. It sure has its antagonists, but no one can deny that it’s very capable in the right hands.
The Fong Lightsphere Collapsible is the best of the bunch because it folds down into a compact and portable carrying configuration and mounts onto the head of your flash quite quickly. But one of the biggest problems is that many folks don’t know how they were designed to be used.
What the Lightsphere Collapsible is designed to do is mimic the look of a lightbulb–which is part of its shape. So with that in mind, you’re supposed to think of it moving around like one. If you’re shooting vertical images, you’ll want to tilt the flash head to the side.
If you can think in terms of how a light bulb works and illuminates a subject, then you’re in business. We recommend them most for red carpet events and parties. As an added plus, they’re dirt cheap.
ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Bender
Perhaps the most versatile flash modifier on this list, the Rogue Flash Bender comes in various sizes but we generally recommend the large version as it can handle most situations. The Flash Bender is a giant (or large) bendable panel that mounts to the head of your flash. It bends to form many different shapes and can therefore fill the roles of various flash modifiers. In terms of the configurations the Rogue Flash Bender can:
– Fold to act like a snoot
– Reflect all flash output directly at the subject facing forward
– Be flat and act as a reflective panel
– Bounce light in only one direction off to the side
When combined with TTL lighting, the Rogue Flash Bender will also give you very effective lighting results and all that you’ll really need to worry about is the shutter speed and how much ambient light is affecting the scene.
RoundFlash Ring Version II
If you’re looking to get into fashion and want that edgy look in your images, then the RoundFlash Ring may be the best thing that you pick up. It’s designed to look like a ring flash, and therefore outputs light in a way that mimics the look of a ring flash.
To set it up, you’ll need to mount the flash into the hot shoe of your camera and make it face forward. Then mount the Ring around the lens and with the mouth of it attached to the flash’s head. When the flash goes off, it will bounce light around the interior and evenly illuminate the entire ring to give off a look similar to that of high end ring flashes. The ring cuts off around one full stop of light, so be sure to compensate accordingly.
Your Wide Angle Diffuser
One of the most effective flash modifiers already comes attached to most flashes. It’s the wide angel diffuser–and it is designed to spread light out in a wider area. When the light is spread wider, it covers a larger area and becomes much softer in its appearance. When used correctly with the appropriate power levels, it can add just a dash of extra pop to an image while making the light look totally natural.
A Wall or Ceiling
Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without the most common flash modifier: a wall or ceiling. Hot shoe flashes have heads that point in pretty much any direction for a good reason. This is because they’re designed to turn ordinary surfaces into light modifiers. By bouncing a flash’s light output off of a wall, you’re turning that section of the wall into a light modifier. While this is very simple, it also requires you to pay close attention to where your subject is and how the bounced light will affect them in the image.