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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting
Thread started 17 Nov 2006 (Friday) 12:26
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diffuser vs softbox vs reflector

a title too
584 posts
Joined Oct 2006
City of Angels
Nov 17, 2006 12:26 |  #1

im sort of confused as to how all of these work...but im currently trying to use flash to mimic as natural light as possible. i've read about bouncing light off the ceiling and other similar techniques, but what about these accesories? can they effectively do similar? if not, then how do these work? i know in general they work to decrease the intensity of light (by spreading the light out in a broader range?), but not sure in what specific way that they differ. any helpful info would be appreciated.

also, should i even buy any of these? (vs bouncing light off some wall/ceiling or the bounce card)

Canon EOS 30D | 5D | EF 85mm f/1.8 USM | EF 24-105/4L IS USM | EF 70-200/2.8 IS USM | Speedlite 430EX

Wilt is an old fart who has extensive experience with many brands and many formats of cameras, and extensive lighting knowledge of both studio lighting and speedlights
Wilt's Avatar
34,603 posts
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Joined Aug 2005
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 17, 2006 22:36 |  #2

basic training: 'bounce' or 'softbox' results in 'diffusion' Period. The amount of diffusion depends upon how you achieve the diffusion. Read on...

Softboxes work simply by taking a relative small light source (flash head) and increasing the surface area that gives off light. Larger always equates to softer. think cloudy sky (soft or absent shadows) vs. sunny sky (hard edged very prominent shadows) Bigger softbox is softer than smaller softbox. Move a big softbox far enough away, and it is effectively a small softbox. Apparent size is what is important. (The sun is huge, but it is small point source in our sky!)

Bouncing does similar thing to softbox, making a relative small light source (flash head) and increasing the surface area that gives off light (big bounce card, or ceiling). Since this typically is much larger area than a softbox on the on-camera flash, ceiling (analogous to cloudy sky) is very much softer than softbox. But if the ceiling is colored, the bounced light is tainted with that color. And if the ceiling is high (or absent, outdoors) you have no surface to serve as a giant diffusion source.

Typically a big bounce card like Lumiquest is larger than a mini softbox but it is smaller than a medium sized studio softbox, so its softness falls in between the two; a ceiling, being huge, is softest ( if it is available for you to use).

The 'tupperware' (Stoffen, Lightspere) both rely upon the ceiling; no ceiling, and you have a useless light accessory that wastes flash power. So take it off outside where it is useless, so you do not waste flash intensity.
Mini softoboxes and Lumiquest are functional even without a ceiling.

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kwsanders's Avatar
Joined Sep 2005
Hayden, AL
Nov 17, 2006 23:54 |  #3

Very informative post, Wilt. I just got my 580EX, so I am going to be looking for all the input that I can find. :)

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diffuser vs softbox vs reflector
FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting

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