In the world of professional photography, you will seldom see an on camera or hot shoe flash that doesn’t have some kind of diffuser attached. Why? The flash is relatively small and the light coming from it is concentrated and produces shadows that are dark and not very flattering.
To solve the problem of dark, harsh shadows, you can bounce the flash off a wall or ceiling. Sometimes, however, that is not feasible because the room you are in has colored walls and ceiling, or you are outside.
So, what is the answer? Use a flash diffuser!
It will remove the dark shadows, reduce, if not eliminate, the “red-eye” effect a direct flash can produce, and make the subject much more flattering.
What is the best on-camera flash diffuser for me to use?
Depending on what type of on-camera flash you have, we are going to look at two of the best on-camera flash diffuser models available. One of which is meant for shoe-mounted flash units. The other can be used with either a shoe mount flash or a pop-up onboard flash.
The Altura Photo Softbox Flash Diffuser is the #1 bestseller for Shoe Mount Flashes.
It is compatible with most on camera shoe mount camera flashes, including Nikon, Canon, Sunpack, Sigma, Sony, Pentax, Olympus, and Panasonic.
It is available in three sizes—6” x 5”, 9” x 7”, and 11” x 8”. All three have the same design, features, and all will reduce those annoying shadows. It has two layers of diffusion to give wrap-around lighting for a much softer quality of the photograph.
NOTE: If you use a flash that has a sensor, then the larger size of the diffuser may obscure the sensor, making the flash a bit more difficult to use.
They fit easily on the flash unit using an elastic Velcro strap to secure it, with guiding loops to keep it aligned and added rubberized anti-slip strips which help to keep it in place. The interior of the diffuser has a pro-grade silver reflective lining to maximize the light output.
The construction of this diffuser has been well thought out and unlike some other Softbox diffusers where the fabric is glued together, the Altura Diffuser is made from durable, high-quality materials and has reinforced stitching on the edge and corner seams prolonging its lifespan considerably.
When the diffuser is extended, ready to be fitted onto the flash, you will notice an extra layer of diffusion material. This can be left in place for added softness, or it can be removed and stored in your camera bag ready for the next time.
The compact, collapsible design makes it the perfect addition to your photographic accessories and is ideal for most situations including portraits, pet photography, macro shots, indoor events, and more.
Features at a glance:
• Fits almost all shoe mount flashes.
• Two layers of diffusion.
• Pro-grade silver reflective interior.
• Rubber anti-slip strip to keep it in place.
• Elastic Velcro strap for a secure fit.
• Folds flat and stores in its own protective pouch.
With prices ranging from $15 for the 6”x5” to $25 for 11”x8” this diffuser is well worth a closer look.
If you use a camera that doesn’t take a shoe mount flash, like the Nikon CoolPix P900 for example, then the ENHANCE Dual Mount Portable Soft Box Flash Diffuser could be the answer to your prayers.
The ENHANCE Dual Mount Portable Soft Box Flash Diffuser is designed for both pop-up flashes and external shoe mount flashes.
The folding design of the Dual Mount diffuser transforms it from flat to softbox in seconds. It has an internal reflective divider that allows you to convert it from use on an external shoe mount flash to a pop-up onboard flash mounting.
The elasticated opening will fit over the majority of shoe mount flashes including Altura, Neewer, Canon, Nikon, and other Speedlites. When fitted over the flash, it stays in place allowing an even spread of light, thanks to the internal reflective lining, and helps to get rid of harsh shadows. The uniform lighting also helps to eliminate reflections and is ideal for professional-looking results.
If your camera has a pop-up flash, then the dual mount system allows you to secure the diffuser by way of an opening on the bottom. The reflective divider inside the diffuser can be placed to cover the opening normally used by the external shoe-mount flash.
When not in use, it folds down to less than one-inch-thick, so you can easily slip it in your pocket until needed again. Once it is fitted to the flash unit, whether a shoe-mount or pop-up flash, it measures 3.75” x 3.75” x 1.5”.
Features at a glance:
• Fits almost all shoe mount and pop-up flashes.
• Dual silver reflective interior.
• Stretch openings to keep it in place.
• Diffuser spreads light to give even illumination.
• Ultra-compact design fits in your pocket.
Priced at under $15, this dual mount diffuser is backed by a three-year warranty.
We hope you enjoyed our article, but you may have questions about which flash diffuser to use. Here are some of the questions asked by potential buyers.
Will the diffuser fit my flash?
Softbox diffusers are designed to fit almost every flash unit whether a shoe mount or with a dual mount Softbox diffuser, to fit over the camera’s onboard pop-up flash as well as a shoe mount flash.
I’m new to photography. What is a “shoe mount”?
The shoe mount sometimes referred to as a “hot shoe” is a connector on the camera used to connect devices that can communicate with the camera. A metal hot shoe means the device and the camera are able to “talk” to each other.
Does a diffuser affect TTL flash?
TTL, (Through The Lens) makes use of a pre-flash to measure the light reflected from your subject before the main flash goes off. It then adjusts the power of the main flash accordingly to give you the right amount of light to your subject, so using a diffuser may result in a bit more power from the main flash, but you will still get good results.
Are on camera flash diffusers useful, or a waste of money?
If you are serious about photography and don’t want to imitate a photojournalist, with the camera above your head, snapping away, then yes, an on camera flash diffuser/Softbox is a useful addition to your camera gear.
They are generally small, compact, and when not in use will fit in your camera bag, or even your pocket. Harsh shadows, “red eye” and stark reflections are a thing of the past. Your photos will be softer, more flattering, and generally better overall.
One word of warning.
Examine your camera and flash unit carefully. If there are sensors on either of them, then you have to position the Softbox diffuser in such a way as not to interfere with the sensors, otherwise, the flash may not work as intended.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know which size of Softbox flash diffuser is best for me?
It depends on your camera, flash, and the subject. If you are photographing close-ups of small objects, like flowers for example, then a small one will work. Large ones will produce softer, larger light, but the drawback is they are bigger and bulkier.