Photography Tips – DIY Pop Up Flash Diffuser Pt 1

I’ve always wanted to do a film where i can sit in a comfy chair and in a nice warm room on a cold winter’s evening, and it looks like I’ve got it. Anyway see all these puppies up here, birthday cards janey’s birthday yesterday, she’s nodding and going mm because she doesn’t like to be in front of the camera. Now the time you’re most likely to use your camera’s built-in flash like this one is probably going to be at a birthday party, maybe it’s the kids birthday party or maybe you’ve gone out to dinner with a friend and you just wanna take a few happy snaps you know. Now this little flash is a get you out of trouble flash, now we’re not talking about beautiful amazingly that portraiture here, we’re just going to look at ways to improve the quality of light you get from your little built in flash. A diffuser is the best way, but what is a diffuser? a diffuser is like a garden rose for the end of a hose pipe to use light and to modify light you need to understand how light works and i find the best way is to visualize it i use the anallagy of water quite a lot if you pop up the little flash on your camera and look at the flash tube that’s this little piece at the top here it’s very small isn’t it, and there’s a reflector in the back, so when you fire the flash there’s gonna be sort of a blast, a jet of light the light is going to come streaming from this little tiny source straight-out over there like that. Bit like a hose pipe, if you squirt a blast of water from a small hole like that straight out, you’ve got sort of a rod haven’t you? of directional light. so what you have to do is shatter it. If you squirt a hose pipe like that straight against the wall the water shatters, it turns into a mist of tiny little droplets which sort of wrap around things. The water becomes soft instead of hard. That’s why i use the analagy of water for soft or hard light. So to diffuse light we need to shatter it, we need to make it soft we need to make it
wrap around things. On the other side of the room here, we’ve got Jane’s oldest son james who is currently taking on the world here at football, with his xbox aren’t you James? yeah, you’re doing really well too mate. If i just take a picture of James from the other side of the room, using the little flash on the top of the camera here and i’m only using the default camera settings your camera will probably will default to a sixtieth of a second when you pop the flash up, we’ll be talking about changing the shutter speeds with flash in a different film, but for now it’s going with the default settings. If i just frame up a shot with james looking ever so manly on the other side of the room with a naked flash like that there’s a very hard source of the light there’s lot’s of bright highlights down the side of his body, if we zoom into it and have a close look under his jaw around his chin there’s a black shadow going on here on the fabric of the chair behind him that’s caused by this directional blast of light so let’s have a look at a diffuser, well what i saw on the internet which i thought would be worth trying out is a polystyrene cup, it”s as simple as that and they’re not hard to attach, job done. lazy man’s photography i like that. let’s take a shot of James with the diffuser in place just going to take the same shot, as i say, master piece. That is a much softer light. when you flick between the two, the highlight down James’s side has disappeared he’s kinda of much more evenly lit. The shadow under his chin, it’s softer. By softer i mean instead of having a hard diffuser i mean the fine edge the edge sort of fades into the fabric of the sofa. But it is still there. I have one major mis-giving with the polystyrene cup method and that is the polystyrene itself, that is pretty thick that means your little flash here has got to punch through a huge amount of polystyrene before it can get out on the other side and make it’s way across the room. One of the good sides of this though is that when the flash fires inside here, light is going to rattle around and around inside and it’s going to escape at all sorts of angles. That’s going to create a softer more wrap around light. so there’s the polystyrene cup and we’re looking a bit more in depth of what’s going on in here in a moment. Something else you could use one of these white plastic film canisters if you can get your hand on one. They’re a bit of a rarity these days. I’ve cut a slot in the back of this one so that i can slide that he said with both hands, here we go with the flash pop the lid on and there you go, I’ve got a little flash diffuser sitting over my flash gun. That’s pretty cool really isn’t it. Now when i fire the flash the flash goes off inside the the the little plastic film canister just like it did with the cup the light rattles around inside there and it will leave at all sorts of angles because that’s circular, some will be going down, up, sideways all over the place. Take a short of james, there we go and again it’s worked very well that’s not quite as such a soft light as the polystyrene cup, but it is slightly brighter brighter but it is a much nicer light, but it is a much nicer light than the than the original one which had no
diffuser on it at all. The other handy thing with the little film canister course is that it just sits on there, it’s not going to fall off in a hurry is it?. You could also make a diffuser with something as simple as a little piece if i can get one out of here which i can’t, of note paper like that. It’s a simple simple things that works so brilliantly well and that don’t cost you anything. With a little sellotape true blue peter fashion put a bit across the bottom another little bit across the top just overlapping like that then we have to is get your camera and just sit that bit of paper underneath bottom where that little flash head houses bend it over, and put the other bit on the top like that. I’ve put too much tape on it, you get your idea. Now we’ve got this little arch of paper so when the flash fires inside here the lights going to come forward it’s going to hit this little arch and the lights going to bounce backwards as well as shoot out either side, imagine what a jet of water would do if i hit that surface But light unlike water will be able to penetrate that, so a lot of it comes straight out through it let’s have a go. take a picture of James you think the white paper. That’s quite a nice look, i’m not sure whether i prefer that or the film canister, there’s not much in it, i think the chin shadow is a little bit softer we’re getting into sort of nicky picky fine details here, but whichever way you look at it, it’s a much nicer light than you would get from the flash on it’s own, it’s a very very simple way of doing things. One of the simplest ways to modify light in this kind of environment would be to use a plain white business card now normally, if i was doing this i would plug a blue tack into the well here where my flash sits into and then stick the card into the blue tack, you need to make sure sticky into the blue tacked up forty
five degrees to hold it there, now i keep a bit of blue tack on my tripod for these sorts of events and as luck would have it as soon i went to get it just now i discovered that it has fallen off, so you’re going to have to trust me. i’m going to have to hold it like that at forty five degrees focus on James and shoot a picture. Straight away you can see a big difference between that shot and any of the others the light is really really nice and soft there’s a bit of a shadow going on behind James on the fabric of the chair but not much and it’s all beautifully evenly lit. So why is that? Let’s analyze what’s going on for a minute shall we polystyrene cup first flash fires it’s inside this cup light expands inside the cup and it starts to escape some of it’s going behind me and it’s hitting that white wall there and bouncing forward some will be coming out through the top it will be coming out at the sides and all this sort of rattles around this white room and remember we’re in this small white room bounces of the walls and then it comes over here and it wraps itself around mister bean here He doesn’t like being called that, not now he’s big boy. Anyway so it comes through here and creates a bit of a shadow on the back. The film canister is a very similar thing but it’s not quite as thick as the polystyrene cup, so there’s more light coming out. You’re going to have a better range using this method but a similar things happening the flash fires inside that little tube the light or water tries to burst through it in what ever direction it can, so some of it’s going up down, sideways out the back, bouncing off the walls in here and again it’s wrapping itself around Mr James over here. But the majority of the light is gonna be coming straight through like that. It’s still directional but it’s a bit more of a shower, so it’s not quite as painfully harsh as it would be without a diffuser. That’s bashing against James and it’s still causing a bit of a shadow over here behind him. It’s going to be very similar with the white piece of paper Only more light will escape out of either side to bounce of the walls. We really are rattling light around the place and a lot of a will come through like that. The most interesting one is own business card. What’s going on
there because that’s not very translucent is it? that’s pretty much a light stopper, well our jet of water or flash comes out the flash and it hits that forty five degree card if you hit the wall at forty-five degrees
with a plaster water the water leaves at the same angle it entered, so the light comes out here it hits that card it bounces straight up into the air it also is going to belt out either side it’s going to hit the ceiling pretty hard. That’s going to turn this whole seating area here into a big
sort of a light box which is going to reflect light back down here again. The light that hits this or water that hits this and sprays out either side is gonna hit this wall and that wall all that light is rattling round and round inside that room and it’s wrapping around James. The thing is there is no directional light coming from this at all because light can’t penetrate through it very well. there might be the tiniest bit but not much. so the key to understanding modifying
light is also about understanding the environment you’re in when you modify it.


  1. Raghav Baijal September 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Nice! The new NEX Mirrorless cameras from Sony actually have a swiveling popup flash. Just need to push it back with a finger & it naturally points upwards. Ultimately it achieves the same effect as the business card. Just need to ensure your finger doesn't create a shadow… Really loving my new A6000

  2. Stan Stallings September 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you, I find all your video's very educational and fun to watch, I tell all my fiend interested in photograghy to check out your channel and your website.  Again thank you very much!

  3. Rory Campbell November 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Eat your heart out, ' Blue Peter ' ! 
    Simple and concise. Thanks.

  4. MG BOY November 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    thanx man you help me alot 🙂

  5. Roz de-Layen Vian December 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Mike, I love your hints and tips. Here's one for you:   I use Rizla Cigarette papers to diffuse in camera flash.  You can double it up for stronger diffusion.  This is particularly usefus for when photographing badly lit gigs as I had to recently in a jazz club.

  6. Alien Sweetheart January 11, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    At what flash power did you take the pictures?
    Thank you for again another tip, sir!

  7. gamwpanagia February 15, 2015 at 6:49 am

    This is genius,thanks!!

  8. Casey February 18, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Mike, you need a comb for your next birthday! 🙂

  9. chad business2011 February 18, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    thank you ,  always i like your videos 

  10. James Cousins July 4, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Tried the note paper one the results were incredible 🙂 the shadows were bearly noticible

  11. Hennadii Samoliuk July 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Wow! So simple and so good!

  12. Savio Darmento August 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Will it bounce outdoors?

  13. Adam Coe August 31, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Would it have been better if you had cut the top out of the cup?

  14. Mario x Jolien September 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Love it! thanks!

  15. Paulie52UK September 29, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Mike, as a diffuser I've always use a cut section of white stockings or tights held on by a rubber band over the flash.
    If I need softer light I simply double it up. It works a treat and is very inexpensive.
    Let's not talk about denier though :0)

  16. P//MBECH October 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Great easy and basic stuff, thanks!!

  17. Bryan Hannaford November 8, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks, I liked the card at 45 degrees, will have to try the poly cup with the bottom cut off. We had a couple of photos taken aound the table recently by a professional with the flash bouncing off the ceiling. They were the best ever.

  18. Salvador De La Cruz November 19, 2015 at 4:52 am

    Gracias amigo.. You, re the no. 1

  19. Jason Wang December 5, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    great info! i feel like a pro now

  20. kim mak January 28, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Creative, Simple…Mike, Thanks

  21. Patrick jefferies March 14, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Great stuff Mike.

  22. franjo pongrac March 16, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Awesome easy explaining

  23. Jaisal Thattarathil March 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    great tips

  24. lytken March 29, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    and you could even use a mirror from a women if she will let you borrow her powder box from her ore a Kleenex works great too

  25. bereantrb April 5, 2016 at 2:23 am

    If it were me, I'd experiment with putting a slip of paper into the film canister.

  26. carlxcape June 29, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    I have been going through your videos and enjoying the techniques and advice you give. It was my daughter prom the other day and i used my Nikon D3200, only had the 18-55mm lens, but used the empty film canister to defuse the light. I am very happy with the result, thank you for taking the time to share to knowledge.

  27. Chris-Anthony October 3, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Another Great Video Mike!
    Hooked to your channel 🙂

    Also, fun team you have on your hands for making that visual explanation of Light As Water lol
    Thanks for sharing!

  28. RawShooter December 15, 2016 at 12:21 am

    AWESOME VIDEO BUDDY, great to see another witty U.K. Ha

  29. RawShooter December 15, 2016 at 12:33 am

    That lad could be a model with those chiseled feature, well he's probably a young man now ha, either way he did a great job considering many teenagers would be a great as hell at there parents taking pictures lol

  30. RawShooter December 15, 2016 at 12:35 am

    I actually bought an led light for £8 with 120 led's from tesco lol, well they were going online for £120 lol, same thing, light is light and it works all the same lol

  31. captain skeptical February 3, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    you should be a philosopher…

  32. Kram Sniggah February 7, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Fantastic explanation!! I've been into 'available light' photography for years and just purchased my first speedlight.. I'm shooting a tattoo competition at the weekend and this has explained so much!

    Thanks Mike X

  33. Virag Desai February 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Fantastic Mike! Brilliantly explained!

  34. David Raynor February 23, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    credit to james has well not many would do it

  35. Ahmad Faris June 14, 2017 at 8:55 am

    hello sir, nice video I subscribed, I have a few questions, I'm using Canon 760d
    1.when I popped up a flash, my shutter speed is limited to 1/200 shutter speed, how can I bypass this?
    2.during daylight, when I use flash, the backgroud becomes pitch black is it normal?
    3.would you recommend any cheap off camera flash that is fast and have a good recycle time, my 100mm macro lens is too long and cast a lens shadow, that's why I need off camera flash. I have to buy the transmitter and receiver for the wireless flash?

  36. Shovel Rocker August 27, 2017 at 5:49 pm


  37. A W October 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

    1:35 what happens when you don't pose the way Mike says to

  38. A W October 10, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I had the idea of using opaque contact paper onto the light itself

  39. Nirbhay Dalmia November 19, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Your Explanation is Awesome! No other YouTuber can explain like You.??

  40. Vic Stokes Photographer November 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Oh i do like the old SLR film diffuser absolutely a great idea. thank you Mike

  41. Pranav Bhagwat February 27, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    Excellent !

  42. J Bello May 14, 2018 at 11:59 am

    never seen a video which talks positive about using pop-up flashes, very interesting

  43. Sebastián Mármol May 15, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Perfect. Now do the same video but with the girl in a white t-shirt.

  44. Brent Nora June 30, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Wait, you soaked your daughter down as an illustration?
    Supportive family!

  45. loverboykimi August 9, 2018 at 6:42 am

    Perfect. Very useful tricks … thanks.

  46. Val3ntinavu August 26, 2018 at 1:36 am

    I can't focus…James is HOT!

  47. Özlem Güler September 23, 2018 at 7:20 am

    I know this is an old video now but I just came across it and can't help to comment what a great teacher you are! Many thanks!

  48. Stowin October 9, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    Dude. Have you done tv before? You seem so natural with it. I was so entertained while learning. Subbed. Thanks

  49. amalmansy October 11, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    You're the best ?

  50. Alejandro Acosta Amador November 27, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    very useful! thank you mister! by the way, you look like Luke Skywalker in SW8

  51. عبدالعالي جاسم محمد May 31, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you ..nice idea

  52. David Matthews June 21, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Camera makers should therefore have an option for the pop up flash to shoot upwards or at 45 degrees?

  53. Sanjay T June 23, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    You, sir.. You are the mastahh!

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