Softening the light

This is the first of the exercises on photographic lighting and it wasn’t entirely successful, I think for a number of reasons.

Without diffuser

I chose two different subjects, a lit candle and a glass of wine, neither particularly easy because in both cases there were additional reflections to contend with.  Rather than just two photographs, I took a series of each.  The  exercise states  that the exposure settings would be different with and without the diffuser.

With diffuser and underexposed

I didn’t actually find that, but as I used the flash set to TTL, I’m guessing that the required difference was made automatically to the strength of the flash.

I said that these exercises weren’t entirely successful and the reason for this was that initially at least,  I saw little difference in the pictures taken with and without flash.  it wasn’t until I moved the position of the flash and/or changed the exposure compensation on the flash that I saw a noticeable difference.  I used a Nikon SB-600 flash unit, off camera and rather than making a diffuser as suggested, fitted a small soft box to the front of the flash unit.  Since the batteries in the flash unit have now ran out I’m wondering if the flash was firing on full power.  I also feel that maybe the soft box was not up to the job in hand so I really need to do the exercise again and see if these issues made a difference.  One thing I have found about this course is that it is all about experimenting.

Candle light

One interesting by-product was that I took one or two shots before the flash unit had fully recharged and got really dark shots of the candle.  I think with a little practice I could create some quite atmospheric images with this technique so something else to be explored further at a later date.

Without diffuser

Without exception I preferred the diffused images but only once I had adjusted the exposure setting so that the strength of the flash was under exposed and/or had changed the position of the flash so that it was at more of a 45 degree angle rather than overhead.

Diffused and position of flash changed

In both cases I felt that these images had more depth and texture as well as the shadows being less hard.  The white background has been rendered grey though so I suspect that I need to take manual control of the flash and exposure to put this right.  I’m looking forward to the next activities so that I can explore this even further.

Another attempt at this exercise with new batteries in my flash and using first, a home-made diffuser and then the plain white opaque centre of a shop-bought reflector produced much more distinctive results.  In both cases the light and shadows were softer than when using the naked flash and you can see the detail more clearly.  The home-made diffuser didn’t cover such a big area and was more difficult to handle, being crudely made of card and tissue paper but I will really need to practice with the set up because trying to balance the diffuser, the flash and the remote shutter release was a bit of a juggling act.  I can see that it would be easier to have the flash mounted on a tripod too and maybe use the camera’s delayed shutter release function to free another hand to hold the diffuser.  I also felt that in both cases that the exposure was better this time.

With home-made diffuser

With commercial diffuser


About Anne Bryson

I live in Gloucestershire with my husband Iain and West Highland Terrier, Isla. I enjoy golf, photography and my grandchildren, not necessarily in that order! Having completed a 10 week digital photography course with the Open University in 2010, I decided I wanted to take my photography further and enrolled for the Open College of the Arts BA (Hons) starting with 'The Art of Photography' which I enjoyed so much that I went gone on to do Digital Photographic Practice and People and Place. In April 2016 I enrolled on my fourth OCA photography course, Documentary. This blog is my Learning Log for this course.
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