Use a white wall or ceiling! That's the best way to diffuse the light from your Speedlite, but good walls and ceilings aren't always available. There are many shooting situations where you're going to want to know how to diffuse the light from your Canon Speedlite with an accessory.
This post will explore the best options. First let's look at the two choices of how to get diffused light with your Speedlight. Both will give you a softer light on your subject with more pleasing shadows.
1. BOUNCE. Whether it's a wall, a ceiling, bouncing the light from your Speedlite on either of these two surfaces will scatter the light and soften the light that hits your subject. When a wall or ceiling is nowhere to be found, you can use any of a number Speedlite accessories to bounce the flash.
2. DIFFUSE. You can get a good Canon Speedlite accessory to attach, such as a Pop-up Soft-Box or other external diffuser and fire your flash through the diffusion material to soften the light.
Let's start with diffusion. If you're tired of getting harsh shadows, dark photos, red-eye reflections, and unflattering portrait lighting, consider adding a simple diffusing accessory to your Canon Speedlite.
There are hundreds of different ways you can add a light bouncing accessory to your Speedlite. Here are a few facts about Speedlite Diffusers.
There are do-it-yourself options that you can use in a pinch. Generally, the ones you buy work a little bit better. Don't forget there are other good Speedlite Accessories that will help you improve the photographs you get with your Speedlite.
Add-ons to your flash unit that diffuse the light by having it pass through a translucent material of some kind are not as effective as bouncing light. Don't get me wrong here, they do have an effect on the quality of light that strikes your subject, but the effect is minimal unless there is some light bouncing going on at the same time.
I smile on the inside when I see these snap-on type of diffusers being used by photographers when they're outside. You'll get the best quality of light by using one of the larger soft boxes that wrap around your Speedlite.
Diffusing your flash scatters and softens the harsh shadows that come from using your speedlite directly aimed at your subject. This type of light modifier works with any Canon EOS or Rebel camera that will work with any Canon Speedlite.
Accessories should be judged on how well they perform the intended task, how long they last, and how much they cost. The foldable diffusers will soften the harshness that comes along with direct flash from a speedlite and it easily fits in your pocket.
The little snap-on type of diffusers are usually not as good at softening the light significantly enough for you to notice as dramatic a difference as the softbox style.
They do scatter the light and are much better than the straight built-in flash that pops up on your camera. If there are nearby ceilings or walls you will get some additional fill light bouncing back into the scene.
They do not enlarge the size of the light source when used on a Canon speedlite, but they are real cheap to buy and easy to use and play around with.
This video does a great job of showing you the difference between using no diffusion, using a pop-on diffuser, and using bounce flash.
I'm guilty of buying a few hyped-up, fancy flash accessories in the past that I ended up not using very much. The newest ones in the market place are better designed and easier to use. The best lighting accessory for your Canon flash gun depends a lot on your subject and the conditions you're shooting in.
They're fun to play around with and don't cost much. I encourage you to dive in by reading the reviews on Amazon. That's where you find the most reviews in one place. Stay away from the ones that don't have too many reviews. You're better off reading the ones that have at least a few dozen buyers giving feedback.
Have a blast. Shoot a Canon.
Bruce Lovelace is the publisher of Canon Camera Geek. Read more about him on the About Page. He also publishes how to articles and camera gear reviews at the Photography Tips website.
View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram and Flickr. Join the tribe of followers on YouTube. Bruce also runs photo workshops and provides 1 on 1 digital photography coaching.
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