Show: Your DIY macro flash diffuser

Mike Wingate

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Are there known sources for something with reasonably good diffusion qualities?
I didn't save the links but my memory is the couple photographic uses I recall coming across sourced from North America eBay. Not that other moldable thermplastics would probably be much different. IIRC both users seemed happy with the results but my impression was of entry level DIY where people are just exited to make something that works at all. I think success in balancing diffusion and efficiency would probably depend mostly on one's design accuracy in choosing forming with respect to light source and subject locations plus the quality of thickness control in the build.

But yeah, acrylic is great for any purpose where you aren't trying to keep things as lightweight as possible (and particularly if you have light power to spare).
My two most used 2447 diffusers weigh 40 g and 7 g. For as much as I fuss over weights even I haven't been motivated to try for lighter. P95 and 2447 are also pretty efficient on light power (which is something continuous lighting is more sensitive to than flash). The only materials I've located which are obviously better are some of the more complex reflective LED diffusion baffles. Last I looked there wasn't any DIY quantity availability for those; minimum orders were fine if you were lighting a building and had a building sized budget.

I've considered polyethylene foams but haven't found a local enough source selling sheets in small enough quantities for it to be attractive to try a build. I might try one of the 25 mm ID tubes at some point but it seems unlikely these will do much that the formed 2447 diffusers I've already made with similar IDs won't. Foam sheet in or on a frame would be an interesting build, though.

The shadows are a little harder and more directional than what I like for many purposes, but the speculars look ok to me, so I'll add the foam sheet to the "keepers" stack and try a few more things...
I would describe it as a bit underdiffused, yes. The speculars are a little hot for me for single frame and too much for focus stacking.
 
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I've found the past week that moving my forward dog-collar diffuser to the end of the lens has greatly softened the spread of light and shortened the lens shadow. It has also made manual focusing much easier, too.

Below is a photo of a Southern Green shieldbug (5th instar) - and I would appreciate anyone's thoughts on the light quality. I'm not changing the little FL-70 flash any time soon, so the set-up is what it is, but any suggestions for improving the light diffusion would be gratefully received. I'm happy that the set-up still lets me get as close as I can when needed...... it's remarkably compact, easy to stow and cheap, so quite happy with it so far.

The two photos of the rig show the forward diffuser in its old position, mid-lens.

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junkyardsparkle

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Not that other moldable thermplastics would probably be much different. IIRC both users seemed happy with the results but my impression was of entry level DIY where people are just exited to make something that works at all.
That agrees with my impression. The thing is, not everything that looks milky translucent white works well for this purpose... a good example being a white PP yogurt container I took a look at recently... it had a form factor that would have been convenient for a specific use I had in mind, but when actually examined by viewing a small point source through it, the source was surprisingly well defined, not really diffused at all, mostly just diminished in intensity... so all that glitters isn't gold in this arena, it seems.
For as much as I fuss over weights even I haven't been motivated to try for lighter.
I should probably elaborate a little on why I'm fussing here... it's mostly because as things get bigger and pushed further out from their point of attachment, there's a tendency for inertia to cause them to want to wrench free from attachment given a certain careless degree of camera movement, in my experience... so it's mostly related to not having to deal with heavy-duty mounting techniques, etc... but also partly because I want the forward diffusion material to be flimsy and adaptable to random surfaces that may come into play.
I would describe it as a bit underdiffused, yes. The speculars are a little hot for me for single frame and too much for focus stacking.
Yes, these are at the "mood lighting" end of the spectrum... the next flimsy material I plan to try out is some fabric from an old shoot-through umbrella... combined with some additional bounce reflection to direct more of the light towards the lower part of the sheet, it should give a more even lighting... probably more your cup of tea. :D
 

RichardC

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My latest rig for hand held macro.

May I present to you the successor to the classic Pringle tube diffuser?

Herewith, the "half a Dettol Laundry Cleaner bottle" light modifier.

Pictured, EM1 Mk2, batt grip, Olympus flash bracket, Godox TT 685 flash, 50mm f2 macro. The Godox flash has the Stofen type diffuser fitted, then the half bottle slips over the top and is secured at the base with a cable tie running through the handle. The new white plastic diffuser lets more light through than a Pringles tube stuffed with lens tissues, and is usable down to f16 at a distance of about a foot with the 680 (maybe more, I haven't tried it yet).

It could go on the hot shoe, but I steady the bracket on my left wrist while holding on to whatever plant the bug is perched on.

It's useful to leave some of the bottle handle on. Trimming it will allow you to set the 'droop' of the diffuser. It's also a handy place tp attach your cable tie or elastic band.

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Some results below from today's trial run.

F11 is not an aperture I'd usually use, but it's nice to have the option.

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Camera settings were manual focus, A-mode, 125 sec minimum sync speed, TTL auto with +0.7 exp. compensation.

No photoshopping other than colour/exposure adjustments/noise reduction and smart sharpen.

The bottle introduced a slight (as in, not obvious unless you looked at the histograms) blue cast which was removed in post.

Overall I'm pleased with the results. I'd still like to eradicate the highlights in the bees' eyes though.

[Edit]

A shot with the same diffuser, 60mm macro this time, f6.3.

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@RichardC

I'm thinking a layer of gauze/felt/foam inside the head of the mighty DettolDiff might remove the hotspot a wee bit, Richard - I was amazed at the difference when I put some inside the little pre-diffuser on my rig. Just a thought.

Other than that it looks like a useful bit of kit. Seems to fit the handgrip and all for you!
 

RichardC

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I think I am going to steal @RichardC 's idea with one change. Use the FL-LM3 flash as optical trigger for FL-600R on the wiggly arm thing. Thanks for the idea! Now onto some research on eBay for those arms!
Any flash bracket will do.

If your budget will stand it, look for a Stitz Modular Grip, probably advertised as a Stitz bracket. The bracket handle can be tilted forwards/backwards relative to the camera plate. They go on ebay for about £20.00-£25.00. The later ones had an ergonomic grip which was quite comfy on a Bronica. There are other grips that rotate.

Mine is the dedicated Olympus bracket with TTL cable - but you won't need the connection.

EDIT: This is the versatile grip: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Stitz-le...ic&brand=Stitz&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851

Vivitar did something very similar but it didn't tilt.
 
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RichardC

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@RichardC

I'm thinking a layer of gauze/felt/foam inside the head of the mighty DettolDiff might remove the hotspot a wee bit, Richard - I was amazed at the difference when I put some inside the little pre-diffuser on my rig. Just a thought.

Other than that it looks like a useful bit of kit. Seems to fit the handgrip and all for you!
I'll experiment. I'm thinking I may be better pivoting the bottle by 90 degrees to give a larger profile light source. I'm going to try big-bubble bubble wrap as an additional stuffing. Need to order something from Amazon and hope they don't pack it in brown paper :)
 
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Buy a new TV. There will be a layer of foam on the screen, surely? :D

edit: I just noticed you mentioned bubblewrap. I've never found that has much effect on diffusion - but then perhaps I don't use the right sort? Don't forget that any clear plastic may do the job after 5 minutes with some 600 Wet&Dry.
 

RichardC

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Buy a new TV. There will be a layer of foam on the screen, surely? :D

edit: I just noticed you mentioned bubblewrap. I've never found that has much effect on diffusion - but then perhaps I don't use the right sort? Don't forget that any clear plastic may do the job after 5 minutes with some 600 Wet&Dry.
The TV isn't a bad idea.

I'm hoping that two layers of large-bubble bubblewrap will bend the light without much loss. The bottle is the second stage diffuser, the Stofen is the first. Don't know really. I've got some 2mm perspex on order (but I've a feeling it's going to really be acrylic - which will be too opaque) - an insert of that may make a difference, or may even replace the bottle in the Mk2.
 

RichardC

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I've been working on another couple of diffusers.

This is the successor to the pringles tube, with a bigger end panel.

Construction is simple enough. I put my FL50R on top of my EM1MK2, lay them on their side and sketched out what shape I would need in order to mount a 10cm x 10cm piece of 2mm acrylic at roughly 45 degrees (see above, I knew it wasn't perspex!) on a sheet of graph paper.

Some iphone images below.

Diffuser is made from 5mm foam board which is cheap, light and quite strong, held together with gorilla tape, a bit of superglue and finished off with camo tape.

Cutting the shapes out was easy. Draw a template on graph paper, place it on the foam board, punch through the paper with a knife at the corners, then remove the graph paper and join the dots with a knife.

The good thing about foam board is that you can use dressmakers pins to pin your shape together before applying the tape or glue.

The diffuser slips over the stofen on my FL50R. It is held in place with an elastic shoe lace which has a sliding clamp (stroke of pure genius - I was going to use a piece of elastic).

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The shoe lace enters either side of the flash head and is threaded back out through two holes on the base. This means you can use a single lace and keeps the entrance free of knots or staples/rivets.

First results look promising.

It was getting dark by the time I got to try this out tonight. This little froghopper is lit entirely by flash. I've got the option to diffuse the interior if necessary - at present it's just the Stofen and the acrylic.

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junkyardsparkle

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Diffuser is made from 5mm foam board which is cheap, light and quite strong, held together with gorilla tape, a bit of superglue and finished off with camo tape.
Nice! I like the way the form factor works with the flash head pivot so that tilting it up for longer working distances will move it further off-axis... if I ever end up building another non-collapsible unit, it will probably be along similar lines. One note about foamcore: while it has impressive strength/weight performance for stuff like this (I made some rather large specialty softboxes from it a few years ago, still have one of 'em!)... it isn't very weatherproof. In particular, the stuff I've used has a different type of backing on each side, and each responds differently to moisture, resulting in warping... so watch out for that. Another interesting material with better characteristics in this regard is EVA "craft" foam; it becomes less floppy as thickness increases (and you can easily ply it). Oh, and for purposes where you need to apply tape to the face of the diffuser itself and don't want something opaque, surgical tape works great. :D
 

RichardC

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Nice! I like the way the form factor works with the flash head pivot so that tilting it up for longer working distances will move it further off-axis... if I ever end up building another non-collapsible unit, it will probably be along similar lines. One note about foamcore: while it has impressive strength/weight performance for stuff like this (I made some rather large specialty softboxes from it a few years ago, still have one of 'em!)... it isn't very weatherproof. In particular, the stuff I've used has a different type of backing on each side, and each responds differently to moisture, resulting in warping... so watch out for that. Another interesting material with better characteristics in this regard is EVA "craft" foam; it becomes less floppy as thickness increases (and you can easily ply it). Oh, and for purposes where you need to apply tape to the face of the diffuser itself and don't want something opaque, surgical tape works great. :D
Thanks. I'll look at EVA, and thanks for the surgical tape tip. I probably should have tried something like that in the first place, the gorilla tape is too thick. I'm not losing much diffuser though, the box is oversized and there are a couple of strips of foamboard top and bottom, behind the acrylic and tape.
 
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I made a lovely custom Pringles diffuser for fun the other day (my son, Jack, brought the tube home, I hasten to add - I cannot stand Pringles). It was about 7" long into which the little FL70 actually slid, plus it had a hinged back to stop spill and let me at the on and off switch. It worked great, and was very effective, even if more bulky than the dog-collar rig. I took some photos with it and was going to share it with some photos on here the next day.

Alas, when I went down to do the chickens the following morning I found my lovely diffuser in several chewed pieces across the lawn. The bloody 10 month-old puppy had managed to climb onto the kitchen table at some stage during the evening before and quietly appropriated it for dental purposes in the garden. Sigh.

The good news is all Jack's. I said I'd buy him another tube of Pringles. 'Chilli' flavour is the choice, I believe.
 

RichardC

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I made a lovely custom Pringles diffuser for fun the other day (my son, Jack, brought the tube home, I hasten to add - I cannot stand Pringles). It was about 7" long into which the little FL70 actually slid, plus it had a hinged back to stop spill and let me at the on and off switch. It worked great, and was very effective, even if more bulky than the dog-collar rig. I took some photos with it and was going to share it with some photos on here the next day.

Alas, when I went down to do the chickens the following morning I found my lovely diffuser in several chewed pieces across the lawn. The bloody 10 month-old puppy had managed to climb onto the kitchen table at some stage during the evening before and quietly appropriated it for dental purposes in the garden. Sigh.

The good news is all Jack's. I said I'd buy him another tube of Pringles. 'Chilli' flavour is the choice, I believe.
I have a Pringles tube alternative that requires two cans of Nescafe Azera - one at a push :) Hope Jack likes coffee.
 
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Panolyman

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I have a Pringles tube alternative that requires two cans of Nescafe Azera - one at a push :) Hope Jack likes coffee.
I've got 6 empty Azera cans in my garage and 3 full ones in the kitchen Richard.
Could I make telephoto version do you think?
 

RichardC

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The Azera version herewith. For use with smaller flash units. Mine is a Godox TT350O.

Any suitably sized can will do as long as it comes with a plastic lid. Ideally, have two cans because you could do with both lids.

The main benefit of the can is that the inside can be shiny (beware yellow coloured cans - this one is silver coloured).

Take your can:

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Remove the base with a can opener.

The top inner lip can stay if you are cutting a plastic diffuser disc (I cut this out before realising it would be useful later d'oh).

Cut an offset hole in the plastic lid big enough for your flashgun head. Mine has a Stofen, meaning this will conveniently 'hang' on the head. If you don't have a Stofen type diffuser, create a suitable 'stop' with, say, some rubber bands. I would say at this stage though, if the flash head has no slip on diffuser, this could result in quite a harsh light.

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Check the fit

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Now you need to cut out the diffusion material. this is 2mm acrylic. I used a hot knife 1cm at a time working around the diameter, then snapped the surplus off. Other options are tissues, white cloth etc.

I would suggest marking the acrylic up a few mm diameter smaller than the can rim so the acrylic sits inside rim at the top of the can rather than 'on' it (which is why it was a bad idea to trim the top lip).

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At this point, if you were smart enough to leave the top inner can lip where it was, you could just pop the white disc in place then take another coffee can lid with the centre removed, push it on and go shoot some macro with your new toy.

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However, with me being at bit thick, I had to glue and tape mine together.

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I'll post a picture of the finished article when I've fully taped it up.

The picture below was taken with this yesterday. The shadows are a little harder than with the one I made in my previous post, however, this is a lot smaller and lighter.

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Enjoy your coffee Jack.
 
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