How to turn your on-camera flash into an off-camera softbox for $30 or less

Jan 10, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to turn your on-camera flash into an off-camera softbox for $30 or less

Jan 10, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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There can be many reasons why you don’t have a softbox, but there can also be many situations when you could really use one. I know I’ve had them. If you can relate, this awesome tutorial from SLR Lounge’s Pye Jirsa is just what you need. In this video, he shows you how to turn your on-camera flash into an off-camera softbox and get the flattering, soft light. You will need around $30 worth of gear for this, but you know what’s great? You probably already have it at home.

YouTube video

Here’s what you will need:

  • A speedlight (duh)
  • A honeycomb grid (you can find it for $10 or better yet, make it yourself for even less.)
  • The white side of a 5-in-1 reflector (you can find it for around $20, but I’m sure most of us already have it. Once again, you can also use the DIY method)

To create the “softbox” from your on-camera flash, start by mounting the reflector onto a C-stand. If you don’t have one (I know I don’t), you can improvise or ask a friend to assist you. The reflector should be placed in the angle from which you want to light your subject.

Now, rotate your speedlight towards the reflector. When you fire the flash, you’ll already see the improvement, but there will still be some shadows that look like you used a direct flash. That’s because the light still partially hits the subject directly. Enter honeycomb grid.

When you mount the honeycomb grid onto your flash, it directs the light towards the reflector. If you have the modeling light on your flash, turn it on. This way you see where exactly the light beam hits, because you don’t want it to spill behind the reflector.

And this is pretty much it. Adjust the angle of your flash and the reflector as you want, but the principle is the same: you need to create a relatively narrow beam of light hitting the reflector and bouncing off towards your subject.

Keep in mind that this technique works best with shorter focal length lenses. Pye suggests using lenses somewhere between 24mm and 70mm. When you use longer lenses, you need to step away from the subject, so there will be very little light hitting the reflector. Nevertheless, this technique is really useful and you can use it in many situations, both in the studio and on location.

Personally, I find this tutorial really useful. In my old flat, I had huge widows and I used natural light for photos. But the new place is different. So, I plan to use this technique for future portraits and self-portraits I shoot at home. I just need to get a C-stand. Or bribe a friend with food to assist me.

have you tried out this technique? Does it work for you?

Make Your On-Camera Flash Into an Off-Camera Softbox via SLR Lounge

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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One response to “How to turn your on-camera flash into an off-camera softbox for $30 or less”

  1. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
    Arthur_P_Dent

    Or you could build the stand out of PVC for a fraction of the cost.