Show: Your DIY macro flash diffuser

junkyardsparkle

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Show your mobile macro lighting rig(s), with example images showing what they produce, and maybe some explanation of what led you to adopt the set-up shown (and drawbacks, if any).

I'm starting this thread as a one-stop-shop for this topic. Original intention was to start by posting my own rig, but I think I'll do it better after some sleep (and with some obligation), so meanwhile I'll just link this existing thread, which is a nice illustrated write-up:
@scottz - My DIY macro light rig for handheld shooting

If there are similar threads here, feel free to add links to those as well. Don't take the "DIY" part too seriously; if you're using some commercially available stuff in any non-obvious way, share that too!
 
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pake

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I'm working on something at the moment. The idea is to combine two continuous LED lights to provide enough light for extreme macro. My current "flash + diffuser"-combo can't direct light close enough to the lens. I'll post images when it's done (may take a week or two).
 

banj911

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I have played around with a few home concocted rigs but these are the two I commonly use now.

The first series are of a diffuser that fits onto my FL-50R that I use either on the hotshoe or remotely held and triggered with a radio module. It is made of plastic sheet with aluminium tape on the inside for max reflection. The white cloth (which I sewed myself!) is just a piece of white sheet with elastic around the edge. The white ribbon is attached to the middle of the piece of sheet to prevent sag.

The second set are of a more portable rig with an old macro ring flash triggered by the wireless controller and with an LED set of arms for lighting the subject pre-shot. Exposure can be varied by regular camera controls and with changing the flash to subject distance. I always shoot in manual, including focus which is usually set at a fixed point and sway the camera to the desired focal length.

I find that adequately lighting the subject for focussing, especially at night can be quite challenging. it has involved all kinds of solutions, usually with rubber bands and led key lights, or head torches wrapped around lens barrels!!

Feel free to ask any questions.

Cheers

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junkyardsparkle

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I have played around with a few home concocted rigs but these are the two I commonly use now.
Nice! Do you have an example shot for each rig that you feel is representative of what they produce? I added a bit to the initial post about including those, as they're helpful for people who are evaluating different approaches they may want to try themselves.
 

junkyardsparkle

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This is my current no-frills, workhorse flash diffuser:
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It's the result of trying to make something sturdy, compact and streamlined enough to be able to stick into shrubs or tight corners, and which doesn't project much beyond the front of the lens (earlier ones that did turned out to be problematic more often than I would have thought). At the same time, I wanted the resulting lighting to be reasonably soft and even, but still slightly directional.

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The round rubber inserts on the sides of my MK(NW)320 flash have been replaced with the low-profile version of Dual Lock, it's flush enough with the surrounding surface that it doesn't get mangled, and makes for a handy way to attach modifiers.

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I usually start a new diffuser build by wrapping a piece of EVA ("craft") foam sheet around the flash head, adding the "bootstraps" (with Dual Lock ends), then adding some white 0.020" styrene that projects from the bottom and bends up in front as a basis for the internal baffling. It can be trimmed, bent, and added to as needed for the desired result. It's about equal parts reflective and transmissive, depending on thickness, and holds its shape well if you heat it with a flame as you bend it. In this case it serves to divert the flash upward and to the sides, and I added a smaller aluminum deflector to additionally block direct light from the flash, since without it there was still a hot spot in the middle of the frame. The upper piece is Roscolux diffuser, which helps to spread the light a little more evenly along the top.

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The front of the softbox is LDPE, same stuff many milk jugs, etc are made from (but you can also get it cheap in posterboard-sized sheets from some craft stores). The body is a cone of EVA foam fitted to the front, which has tabs folded up around the edges for holding it all together with gaffer's tape after I run out of patience for fiddling with the internals. The subject sees most of the light coming from the top, very little from the middle areas, slightly more from the edges of the bottom lobes (not as much as originally designed, though, because the !@#$ aluminum foil I put there is bent up - I'll be using mylar on the next build!).

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And here's what it looks like on a shiny bug at 1:1 distance... the theory is that it combines a key and two off-axis fill lights behind an additional layer of diffusion, so that you get something nicer than a bunch of small specular reflections, all in a no-muss, no-fuss package that you can throw in a backpack. It could certainly be improved upon, but I think the overall concept is valid. It's not the most flexible or artistic lighting - my concerns up until recently have been more with getting decently lit identification pictures under sometimes awkward conditions. This is the diffuser used in most of the shots I've uploaded here so far; In most cases (this one, for instance), it's easy to tell by the shape of the catchlights.

Lately, after seeing some of the great work on this site, I've been thinking about putting together a more elaborate (but still backpack-friendly) rig for use in cases that allow it... towards that end, I picked up a 12" gooseneck which was holding this diffuser for this shot... now I'm working on a larger fold-up softbox to use it with... something for a future post. Meanwhile, I'm going to hold off on rebuilding this one in the hopes of getting some good ideas to steal from this thread. :D
 
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pake

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I'm working on something at the moment. The idea is to combine two continuous LED lights to provide enough light for extreme macro. My current "flash + diffuser"-combo can't direct light close enough to the lens. I'll post images when it's done (may take a week or two).
Here's a status update on my project. I still need another Aputure Amaran AL-M9 and a few screws. Even though the Aputure LEDs include a diffuser I also need to make a new DIY one to soften the light more. I'll post an update when the diffuser itself is done.

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The skeleton. I used the biggest angle plate I could find. This one is 10cm long. Longer would have been better but no such luck...

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The screw will be either cut shorter or replaced by another kind of screw. I ordered a few different screws from eBay (Hong Kong). Takes a few weeks to get them...

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The angles can be easily adjusted (depending on the lens, subject distance etc.).

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As you can see my rig is still missing one important piece: another light source. :crying:
My birthday is coming in late May and I'm hoping my wife buys me one. If not, I'll order one myself. :biggrin:

And now off to planning/creating the actual diffuser...
 

junkyardsparkle

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I managed to finally get around to putting a sheet of polarizing film over the diffuser described above, and tried using it with a polarizer on the lens adjusted for maximum extinction... my nephew was nice enough to loan me an official ISO standard macro lighting test target:
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Fun soft look to the plastic without the specular content that normally signifies "shiny" to our brains... the lack of direct reflections can leave some subjects surprisingly featureless and dark, though, so it will probably take a while to get a feel for how to use it effectively.
 

junkyardsparkle

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I probably shouldn't, but... here's my early hilarious monstrosity of a flash rig cobbled out of the tiny FL-LM1 that came with the E-PL6, since I was out of funds after buying the lens and body (the MK320 wasn't on the scene yet, and my cheap Yongnuos were just too big for on-camera use).
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Usual disclaimers apply: don't try this at home, kids, shock hazard, etc etc...

Weighs almost nothing, and extremely flexible in use, but it drained the camera battery and the recycle times weren't so great, not to mention the reassembly time after being thrown in a backpack... the little LED focus light in the center of the diffuser was powered by a pair of CR2016 coin cells. Example shot:
View attachment 537575
 
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kiwirobfinland

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Hi this is mine its a piece of taco box lined with tinfoil taped to a cheap plastic diffuser covered with a paper towel
It works surprising well . Any tips on makeing it better are welcome.
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Hayath

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Have about half a dozen different types of diffusers, don't know when I went crazy in this urge for the "right light"
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Ice cream container diffuser by Hayath, on Flickr

A little more harder on the wrist :(
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Shooting the bark mantis Thanks to Pradyu for the image :) by Hayath, on Flickr

This is the kind of setup I use now..a simple two stage diffuser, first one to control highlights and the front "shield" to catch that light to surround the subject. Keep varying the shield material from time to time.

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Two stage diffuser by Hayath, on Flickr
 

wjiang

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Have about half a dozen different types of diffusers, don't know when I went crazy in this urge for the "right light"
View attachment 689808Ice cream container diffuser by Hayath, on Flickr

A little more harder on the wrist :(
View attachment 689809Shooting the bark mantis Thanks to Pradyu for the image :) by Hayath, on Flickr

This is the kind of setup I use now..a simple two stage diffuser, first one to control highlights and the front "shield" to catch that light to surround the subject. Keep varying the shield material from time to time.

View attachment 689810Two stage diffuser by Hayath, on Flickr
Awesome stuff, no wonder the light looks so good. How do you keep that bit at the front attached and oriented correctly?
 

Mike Wingate

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Here's a status update on my project. I still need another Aputure Amaran AL-M9 and a few screws. Even though the Aputure LEDs include a diffuser I also need to make a new DIY one to soften the light more. I'll post an update when the diffuser itself is done.

View attachment 533520 The skeleton. I used the biggest angle plate I could find. This one is 10cm long. Longer would have been better but no such luck...

View attachment 533519
The screw will be either cut shorter or replaced by another kind of screw. I ordered a few different screws from eBay (Hong Kong). Takes a few weeks to get them...

View attachment 533518
The angles can be easily adjusted (depending on the lens, subject distance etc.).

View attachment 533517 As you can see my rig is still missing one important piece: another light source. :crying:
My birthday is coming in late May and I'm hoping my wife buys me one. If not, I'll order one myself. :biggrin:

And now off to planning/creating the actual diffuser...
Did you get your second Amaran LED light. How are the macro shots?
 

pake

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Did you get your second Amaran LED light. How are the macro shots?
I did! Even with the two Amarans it's not bright enough for my kind of shooting. It would require longer exposures and therefor a tripod - which I'm not interested in. The other option would be focus stacking but with my E-M5mk1 it's too much work compared to just using a flash. :(
 

Mike Wingate

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I did! Even with the two Amarans it's not bright enough for my kind of shooting. It would require longer exposures and therefor a tripod - which I'm not interested in. The other option would be focus stacking but with my E-M5mk1 it's too much work compared to just using a flash. :(
Thanks for the reply. Shame the 2X Apertures did not do the job. I have recently watched a short vieo on 4/3 Rumours about a twin Olympus flah that looks perfect. Apart from the price.
 

barry13

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Thanks for the reply. Shame the 2X Apertures did not do the job. I have recently watched a short vieo on 4/3 Rumours about a twin Olympus flah that looks perfect. Apart from the price.
The old 4/3 E-System version can be found cheaper; it could also be coupled with the Ring Flash.
biofos.com; using OM ring & macro flash on Olympus E-System. (article is about the older OM system, I guess you could use that as well, but it starts with pics of the E-system macro flashes).

There's an official bayonet adapter available for the ring flash to mount to the Oly 60mm, or you can use it with the ZD 35 or 50mm.
 
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zzffnn

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Here is my cheap and modular field macro rig for Raynox 250 and 0.5x-3x on-senor (on micro 4/3 sensor).

First, here is my test results using a shiny lady beetle, at 1x on-senor, using flash power at around 1/32 + 0.7:
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Using the same exact rig the same exact way (without any change except for the telephoto lens zooming longer behind Raynox 250), here is what I got from 3x on-senor, hand-held at standing position, using flash power at around 1/32 + 0.7:
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This rig is based on Raynox DCR-250 screwed onto a Panasonic 100-300mm zoom lens, or onto an Olympus 40-150mm kit zoom lens. On-senor magnification is 0.5x to 1.6x (from 40-150mm lens) or 1x to 3x (from 100-300mm lens).

Working distance (from Raynox 250 to subject, not including diffuser/reflector/flash protrusions) is constant at around 100mm, which I like for this magnification range (I tried to shot macro when subjects are not moving much).

I use a single Godox TT350 flash ($65 used, TTL via remote cable), along with a removable reflector and a diffuser with 3 layers concave half ping-pong balls and 2+2 layers of Vellum paper.

If Raynox DCR-150 is used, around 200mm of working distance will be obtained, which is more suitable for larger and more skittish subjects. I used a 45 degree diffuser rig (which I will not talk about in this thread to avoid diversion and confusion) similar to Hayath's rig above. And here is my result from 2017, using that Raynox 150 rig (note this image has a very large crop):
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.

Going back for my Raynox 250 rig. Here it is assembled and ready to go:
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The concave half on the right of the above photo is a reflector. Going from its outside to inside, we have:
1) a matte white dish soap container that is stiff and flexible;
2) a layer of aluminum foil taped to dish soap container; and
3) a layer of Vellum paper taped to dish soap container.

The reflector is simply mounted via friction and can be removed within 3 seconds, to make a more compact rig to get inside plant leaves.

The concave half on the left of the above photo is a diffuser, which is also mounted via friction. Both the diffuser and reflector can freely rotate 360 degrees quickly.

Here is the rig disassembled:
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From left to right of the above photo, we have:
1) Raynox 250 mounted via lens front thread adapter to telephoto lens;
2) m42 extension tubes of about 55 mm long, with taped-on foams to provide friction mount;
3) Godox TT350 flash taped to diffuser; and
4) reflector

Here is a close-up of the concave diffuser design:
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Going from outside to inside of the diffuser, we have:
1) a Godox TT350 TTL flash taped to some foam block riser for correct light angle;
2) 3 half mini beer pong balls that are much smaller than ping pong balls, taped to flash head;
3) 2 layers of Vellum paper taped to beer pong balls;
4) a regular sized ping pong ball half (abut 1/3 to be precise), taped to the outside of dish soap container;
5) 2 layers of Vellum paper taped between ping pong ball half and dish soap container;
6) a matte white dish soap container that is stiff and flexible.

Inspiration of my diffuser design came from John Kimbler / Dalantech: DeviantArt

I made significant changes to his design, because I am using m4/3 cameras, for which there is no macro flash option at < USD $100. And I require, additionally:
1) high modularity and ability to remove reflector quickly on-the-spot to get lens+flash into plant leaves; and
2) to use Raynox 250 for constant working distance at 0.5x-3x.

My flash power is usually used at 1/32 + 0.7 to 1/16.
iso 200 to 320

Shutter speed /160 to 1/200, but I always try to go lower than 1/160.

The reflector can be removed quickly, leaving just the diffuser. It is still long but works better with shy critters. The spider photos you saw were taken with only the diffuser.

The diffuser and reflector combined did scare away some active and shy critters. They go around and beyond the critter in focus, so are best used in early morning/late evening or when they are sleeping/feeding/mating.

I have another short adapter sleeve that does not have the protruding diffuser. That would leave the diffused flash head as the only protrusion. I take that short sleeve along with tape and scissors and can switch to it within a few minutes. This live and active hoverfly was photographed that way:
Hoverfly

I called this rig cheap, because I already have those two zoom lenses for bird photography. Raynox 250 costs about $65 shipped. Godox TT350 costs $65 for an open-box display and can be removed for regular photography. TTL cable for Olympus costs about $15-$20 shipped. Matte white dish soap container costs about $2 each from Target (USA) and you need two.

So there you go; this macro rig is cheap, cheerful, modular, versatile, light weight and works quite well.
 
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