The popup flash sucks. There’s no two ways about it. It’s small, too close to the lens, produces a bunch of red eye, it’s just horrible. These reasons, and more, are why many of the higher end cameras don’t even have one. But not everybody starts out with a bunch of lighting gear. They may not know that it even exists, or what to do with it even if they had it.
So what can beginners or those with minimal kit do to get better portraits with the popup flash? Well, according to the Koldunov Brothers, one method is to use a simple balloon. Given the current festive season, it’s an option that many will have easy access to.
There’s not much to the technique, just blow up the balloon, hold it up in front of your popup flash. Don’t block the lens. Then shoot. If you want the light a little softer, blow up the balloon more so it’s larger.
Even outside of Christmas, balloons are easy to get hold of. When they’re not packed full of air, they’re easy to store in your pocket or a pouch on your camera bag. So, if you don’t have any other options, it may be worth keeping a few handy, just in case.
A couple of YouTube comments suggest that different coloured balloons might work to balance incandescent or other types of artificial light. I gotta be honest, I’m not convinced that’ll work. It’s not like balloons are made to really shift colour temperatures. But, hey, it might make for some neat colour effects.
Have you used this method to diffuse your popup flash? What other cheap or DIY solutions have you used? Did they work? Or were they more hassle than they were worth? Let us know in the comments.