Softer shadows with my speedlight

Wayne wrote:

Love the podcast!

Question: At the moment, I have a Nikon D50 with only one SB-600 speedlight that I’m using off-camera with an optical trigger for some portraits. I’m using a omnibounce right now but I really need some softer light and I’m not sure what to get.

I was thinking about a softbox or an umbrella (not sure which would be better or what size, etc.)…then Ed mentioned that he used to shoot his speedlight through a white sheet (or something to that effect)…could you give me some advice here?

Right now, my shadows are just too harsh and I’m looking for a way to soften my portraits while I save my pennies for some Alienbees. Also, if you could provide some setup suggestions, like flash height and distance to subject, f-stops, etc., I’d be very greatful.

Click here for the answer to this question

4 thoughts on “Softer shadows with my speedlight

  1. Ed Hidden Post author

    I worked with Speedlights for a while. There are a couple good ways to do this. I had used a LightPanel diffuser, but a speedlight just doesn’t seem to have the “oomph” to break through a big diffuser like that. The best bets that I had with the speedlight setup, is Bookends (see Chris Grey show) It’s cheap (right what you are looking for) and it’s pretty effective. I just set it up on a stand, use an off-camera cord to bounce into the bookend to reflect back at the model.

    Another setup I’ve used is a LightStand and an umbrella. I tried to figure a softbox setup, but most E-TTL speedlights need the front of the sensor exposed to the subject to calculate exposure. With an umbrella setup, I can point the front of the speedlight at the model and turn the head into the umbrella. That yields a nice light. Again, output is the other issue, but then… if you could do full studio lighting with a small portable speedlight, everyone would be buying them instead of strobes.

    Lastly, try embracing the speedlight style. Develop a high contrast
    technique. Just cause it’s “harsh” doesn’t mean that it’s bad light.
    Position is key, but you can get some really nice high contrast effects with a speedlight.

    And the wireless system on the Nikon is really good and creative as well. More lights would be required though (or convince a friend to buy one and then both of you share them!) If you really want strobes, I’d suggest saving up for strobe kits instead of investing in a lot of “temporary solutions”. I’m getting to be a firm believer of buy it right the first time! Patch solutions only work so long and sometimes cause a lot of mess.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Wayne Levangie

    I have a Nikon D70 with the SB-800 flash and I use the Stroboframe Camera flip. I use strictly Bounce Flash with the diffuser on at either 60 or 75 Degree angle, Very nice soft lighting or if I need more light I use the Lumiquest Bounce flash card that attaches to the SB-800 with Velco.

  3. Reinier

    I gotta admit this idea of mine (that I’ve used quite successfully many times) looks REALLY DORKY but it works.

    I take a 12~14 inch child’s WHITE rubber balloon and inflate it fully. I put it against the speedlight output and secure it with a bit of masking tape on each side of the speedlight.

    Then I tilt the speedlight UP and to the right or left.

    This gives me a really nice GLOBE light that really diffuses the light nicely.

    It also make for a great conversation piece while you work ! ;)

    ReinMan


Vintage Brumberger Movie / Film Metal Reel Antique Silver gray Can Set U.S.A.  picture
Vintage Brumberger Movie / Film Metal Reel Antique Silver gray Can Set U.S.A.
Vintage POLAROID, SX-70 LAND CAMERA, SONAR One Step black picture
Vintage POLAROID, SX-70 LAND CAMERA, SONAR One Step black
Dine Lester VR-300 Pro Industrial Vintage Instant Camera for Polaroid film picture
Dine Lester VR-300 Pro Industrial Vintage Instant Camera for Polaroid film
Vintage GAF 2680 Slide Projector With Good Bulb And Fan picture
Vintage GAF 2680 Slide Projector With Good Bulb And Fan
Vintage Underwater Flash for Nikonos with accessories picture
Vintage Underwater Flash for Nikonos with accessories