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Softening the light from a 580EXII


Posted a while ago about my flash inexplicably jumping from ETTL to TTL in the middle of a shoot.  After many fine comments and suggestions, we seemed to narrow it down to the weight of a Gary Fong Lightsphere messing with the contact between camera shoe & flash foot.  Looks like, as much as I like what it does, I will be retiring the Lightsphere.  Here's the question...  Looking for recommendations, store-bought or home-brew for what people are using as diffusion for their flashes.  I am an advanced amateur who likes event photography; parties, the occasional wedding, business meetings etc.  Sometimes I even make a buck when I do it!  I’ve used Luma-Quest bouncers & soft boxes, both hard & inflatable over the years.  Looking forward to your responses.  Thanks in advance…



Check this blog out: check the bounce flash section. He's really good with that.

For most indoor event, you can use bounce flash. If use effectively, it's really good. I never like the Lightsphere. It's just not soft enough. I'm alternating between bounce flash and softbox for wedding. I have assistance so using softbox is not a big problem but most of the time I stick with bounce flash.

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I could lose a weekend reading this guy!  Thanks for the link.

Depends on what I'm trying to do and with how long a lens.  If possible, I always try to bounce off a wall.  If I'm doing closeups I like to just a big ole piece of white carboard that I attach to my flash with a hair tie - I always have a couple of my wifes tossed in my pack.  I have a reflector that I cut out nicely that I keep in my pack, but in a pinch I've grabbed paper fliers or misc to make it work. 


Neil's website is good, I used to visit it a lot when I was learning flash.  But I'm a die hard Strobist fan.  It focuses on off-camera lighting, but there's still plenty in there to learn.  If you could lose a weekend reading Neil you could lose a year reading David Hobby.  I suggest looking through lighting 101 and some of the on assignment stuff.


Authority's a bit off topic but I'm not convinced that your trouble ties to the weight of the Gary Fong...One it's not that heavy compared to any other diffuser unless you'd just use the white card (that works very well too by itself).  Two...small data point but I have used the Lightsphere for years on my 580EXII, never a single problem.

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The issue with the 580EX II isn't the weight... it's that the screws which secure the foot can get a bit loose. At that point the weight can affect it -- but so could anything else. If your flash is doing this, you need to tighten the screws which secure the foot. These are on the inside of the flash. Canon will do it for you. You can do it yourself if you're comfortable opening up the flash to do the service and I think there's a YouTube video that walked through exactly what you would need to do.

Soft diffuse light isn't so much about putting some material in front of the flash... it's all about making the flash appear to originate from a broad source. You can get a softbox where the flash is on the "outside" of the softbox -- for example, the Lastolite EzyBox HotShoe (and there are many others) -- you can get it in a 24" x 24" inch version which is somehwat portable and yet effective at softening light as long as it's not too far away from your subject (as you get farther away, the flash "seems" smaller due to the distance. And if that happens, you may as well just have a pinpoint source.)

The flash would need to be off-camera (which is better anyway) and triggered either by an E-TTL cord OR by a standard sync cord (although you can't use E-TTL with a standard sync cord -- it would only work in manual mode.)

The Gary Fong design is really relying on "bouncing" the flash and it has no top on it -- so the flash shoot straight through to the (preferably white) ceiling. But some light will stray sideways and that light makes the sides of the lightsphere glow. The effect really is that you're getting most of your light bounced, but some light feathered in from the glow on the lightsphere... that fills in things like eye-sockets that might be in shadow from a bounced light.

Your 580EX II also has a slide out "bounce card" which does the same thing. Pull out the wide-angle diffuser and the white bounce card will come with it. Then you can slide the wide-diffuser back in but the bounce card will stay out. The idea with this is that most of the light bounces off the ceiling but *some* light will hit that card and bounce forward to fill. You can also til the flash head just slightly forward... instead of angling it at 90 degrees... tilt it forward a click to 75 degrees to help "feather" the light.
Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

Thanks Tim Campbell, but I have already tried tightening the screws.  Next Time I used the flash, same thing.  Just finished documenting a two-day family reunion.  Took about two hundred images with the flash mounted; turned on & off as needed.  No Fong, all bounce, no problems.  Like how the Fong softens faces up close, but don't like the unreliability.


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