Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poppy-Uppy Flash Mini Soft Box

Lately, I have been asked by some friends, why the flash of their compact camera creates such "crappy" images. Assuming that the problem was flat images with lots of hard shadows and a cold color cast, my answer was always the same: the tiny built-in flash-tube create really hard light.
Hard light, i.e. light that comes from a light source being (much) smaller than the subject, creates a flat appearance and pretty harsh shadows in the background.
Using the built-in, is therefore only good for "fill flash" when shooting in bright (sun) back light.

There are a very simple solutions to make most of the flashes useable, even with the tiny flash being the only light source.
  1. diffuse the flash
  2. redirect the flash
  3. tone the flash
  4. redirect the flash with a tone
Options 1 and 2 are obviously referring to making the light softer, which cannot be corrected in post processing, while options 3 and 4 are just an added bonus, and can be added in post.

Options 1, 2 and 4 can easily be achieved by a very simple device... a translucent film canister.

the translucent canister

One simply has to create a template of the cross-section of the poppy-uppy flash's footprint and create a corresponding cut-out in the canister. The cut-out should actually be a bit wider, so that the canister can lean a bit to the front of the camera.
Somewhat like this:

template and modified canister

Going from here, the optional reflector can be created. I experimented a bit with the dimensions of said reflector. And here is my solution:
  • length: 43mm (fitting the canister lengthwise)
  • width: 23mm (creating a 45-ish degree angle)
the internal reflector

The reflector inserted into the "soft box" looks somewhat like this (red side up):

the internal reflector inserted into the soft box

And there are some of the resulting images, showing one of my messy book shelves. The LX7 was on aperture priority f/2.8 @ ISO1600:

reference shot, bare built-in flash
diffuser (no internal reflector)
white side of the internal reflector
red side of the internal reflector
The difference might be hard to see on the given examples, in particular since blogger will "improve" the photos again, I fear.

An assortment of different reflectors, such as different colors, aluminum foil, etc. can make the mini soft box really useful.

Enjoy photography!

The original design gave a lot of spill towards the back of the camera. To keep this a bit under control, I attached aluminum tape to the inner backside of the canister,  such that is directed more towards the upper front.

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