What is the best flash diffuser for nightclub photography?

I started photography back in 2009 shooting landscapes as apparently most photographers do.
At that time I had assumed that landscapes would be all that I would ever shoot, but now I’ve done sports, events, gigs, festivals, portraits, club photography and a wedding.

I do love the peace a quiet of landscape shooting. Getting up before dawn to catch the first light, the wonderful scenery, the solitude. It’s all very rewarding. However, shooting people, simply has more energy to it. It’s more dynamic, more changeable, faster paced, basically just more of a buzz.

Ok, so something about me, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, a little obsessive, or ‘focused’ and my friend Ben would say. Anything that i’m going to put my mind to, I need to do well. I guess i’m just crap at being crap.

Once I had decided that club photography was something was going to do, it was something I was going to have to become good at. I already had in mind the look of the images that I wanted to capture. Where there was enough light I wanted to shoot completely without flash. Where I had to use flash I wanted to use it to provide a subtle illumination to people’s faces. I wanted colourful interesting backgrounds and colourful interesting faces.

DSC_6420
I realise that all nightclubs are different, but the ones I end up in all tend to be very similar. Black walls, high black ceilings, with some spot lights and some UV. So, basically, bouncing the flash is out for me. All the time I see people trying to bounce the flash of the high black ceilings, generally I keep my mouth shut. I think that people prefer learn from their own mistakes in their own time rather than having them pointed out to them. I know I do.

And so I read and read. I do that. I’m an avid reader of photography forums and blogs. I never post anything, I just hang around in the background absorbing information.

I knew that I needed to let enough ambient light in to properly expose the background, either by upping the ISO or reducing the shutter speed (or a combination thereof), but I also knew that I wanted a soft flash.
I read up that diffusers scatter light, but don’t soften it. If I wanted soft light then I needed to increase the surface area of my light source. With bounce unavailable to me I considered all of the available options.

Best flash diffusers?

All of the reviews and comparison I read put the gary fong light sphere
and the rogue flash bender with diffusion panel to be the best.

lambency-and-ishoot-flash-diffuser
Of course if you don’t want pay so much money you can opt for the cheap Chinese knock off versions the lambency diffuser or the ishoot flash diffuser

The problem is that all of the diffusers tested, were tested purely on the softness and quality of the light they produced.

The tests did not consider issues such as:

  • Do they draw to much attention to you?
  • Are they too heavy?
  • Are the too big and bulky?
  • Do they fit to the flash head securely enough?

Admittedly I only bought the Lambency and ishoot diffusers, but in my experience they were both too big, too heavy, not secure enough and drew too much attention.

The Berresford Bounce Box

I needed a solution. I decided that I wanted a large surface area bounce card, that first diffused the light and then bounced it towards the subject. It needed to be light weight, relatively inconspicuous and have the ability to be attached securely to the flash.

Berresford_bounce_box

This is the design I came up with. So ok, its a bit rough around the edges, but you know what? It really works.  It weights almost nothing, doesn’t get in the way, doesn’t seam to draw much attention and it  gives a nice image.  I use a kaavie Universal Cloth Diffuser to first diffuse the light, and then the beauty dish shaped design to bounce the diffused light onto the subject.

I made what I now call the ‘Berresford Bounce Box’ by first making a paper template. I then by glued together a black and a white A4 sheet of 2mm craft foam from eBay using Evo contact adhesive. After drying for 24 hrs I used the paper template to cut the foam in sections with a craft knife, before assembling.

So far the only problems I have experienced with this design is is that it doesn’t collapse down in a camera bag and thus takes up a little too much space.  The other small niggle is that sometimes the bounce box slips down on the flash head and one of the tabs partially obscures the flash LCD display.

Despite these small issues I still much prefer it to using large bendy bounce cards or fong style Tupperware. Even if the original Lightsphere and the Rogue Flash Bender are as good as the reviews say they are, the size and weight are still going to be prohibitive for me.

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