I’ve been using diffusion filters on my lenses for many years, but recently LEE Filters, the brand that makes the one that I use, ceased production of them. Here’s a cheap and easy DIY alternative…
Hi — My name is Dan St. Louis, and I’m the Owner and Head Photographer at HeadShots Inc, a San Francisco-based photography service focused exclusively on professional headshots.
In the regular course of my business, I often take headshots at outdoor locations across San Francisco. For a long time, I struggled to get great portraits on sunny Bay Area days.
I haven’t seen anyone else using the following technique, so I thought I’d share, to help other photographers out there avoid the same issues!
Even though speedlights are incredibly useful for macro photography, they’re light does not always look flattering. Harsh shadows in unwanted places, blown-out highlights and strong aberrations are common issues. And even though strong, directed light can look good in many cases, diffused light looks more natural and generally more pleasing to the eye too.
The two following photos illustrate that effect:
Shooting in a studio has its advantages. But although being warm, dry and convenient are greatly appreciated, shooting between the same four walls can get a little boring if you’re constantly using them as backgrounds for your shots.
Sure you could get some coloured paper setup, you could even buy a fancy canvas sheet with paint splashes on it, and for the really adventurous, you could even use some coloured lights behind your subject. But what happens when you’re finally bored of all that? Time to get a little more creative with your studio backgrounds.
Light diffusion panels cost very little when you make them yourself, and to do so is very simple. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about diffusion panels and where I am getting them from. The ones I use in my studio have all been custom-made to fit my needs, and I’ll show you just how to make your own one below.
If you want to get soft flattering light, you would need to diffuse it. This video by Todd Blankenship, covers three ways to diffuse your point light source.
Of course, the first thing that Todd does is showing you how not to diffuse your light. As you may have guessed, simply throwing some baking paper on a light source will not diffuse it. If you clip the backing paper directly to the diffuser it just does not make your light source bigger.
Most large modifiers come with two diffusers. A big one for the outer rim and a smaller one that fits between the source of light and the big diffuser, right in the middle of the modifier. Of course, this begs the question how may diffusion layers do you actually need.
Focusable parabolic reflectors may not be your first lighting modifier as they are big and require a lot (A LOT) of power, but once you start using them it is pretty hard to go back. To top that, they are also pretty expensive. The medium branded ones are around $800 while a top brand like Broncolor will set you back about $2,400.
If you still want to drive test one of those and at the stage where you have more time than money, Dennis Christian put a tutorial together on building one from scratch (or almost scratch….).
Defining the problem: While shooting a portrait outdoors, I usually add a fill flash to eliminate any “racoon eyes” and dark shadows on the face. The fill flash is set set at 1.7 stops under exposed for a light touch. My setup is a Nikon D600 with Nikon SB700 flash (mounted on the camera’s hotshoe) using TTL metering at -1.7 EV. In the example the lighting on the face is good (soft & directional) but you can see a hard shadow on the right side of the subject.
We have options…
There are a few options available, and in this test case I wanted to compare them