Summary: Diffuser for cell phone cameras
You just spent $500 on a fancy digital camera, so why do your pictures of your kids make it seem like they’re playing in the Carlsbad Caverns at night, rather than frolicking in your living room?
The answer is: that cheap flash setup that came with your fancy camera. These flashes are notorious for giving you the "in a cave" look, the harsh shadows, pale blue-white skin, shiny faces and other artifacts. Few things scream "amateur" as loudly as flash-wash.
We always recommend avoiding the flash when possible (see our tutorial on [http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Shoot_Better_Low-Light_Pictures shooting better low-light pictures] for more details), but sometimes there is no other option.
Don’t worry, though. Photo pros create amazing images using a flash all the time. They aren’t necessarily wizards; they just know a few tricks.
”This article is part of ”’a wiki anyone can edit.”’ If you have advice to add, log in and contribute.”
==Never point a loaded flash at anyone==
What’s true of guns is also true of camera flashes — never point them at your subject. The flash of light is simply too much for most scenes, particularly people. Instead, rotate your flash to bounce off a wall or ceiling so the light is more evenly spread through your scene.
One note of caution: this works best with white walls, if the walls surrounding you are not white be aware that you’ll need to adjust your white balance, either in the camera before-hand, or, if you’re shooting RAW images, you can fix it afterwards using photo software like Lightroom, Aperture, iPhoto or Picasa.
==Make a diffuser==
If your flash is the pop-up variety that doesn’t pivot, that makes it hard to twist it so it can bounce off the walls. One easy solution is a homemade diffuser.
A diffuser is just something that slows down, partially blocks and otherwise spreads the light from your flash around the scene. You can buy a diffuser if you happen to like spending money, but you can just as easily make one yourself.
Here are a few time-tested tweaks:
===Ping pong ball===
This works great on point-and-shoot cameras with a pop-up flash. Cut a ping pong ball in half and slip it over the popup flash and tape it down.
If your flash is small enough, cut a rectangular slit in the ball so you can encase the flash inside the dome for 360 degree coverage (this method helps shield your eyes a little).
===White Electrical Tape===
This works well for mobile phone cameras where you don’t want to affect the portability or have to carry around extra items.
A small piece of white electrical tape over the flash LED diffuses the harsh light sufficiently for the sort of photos you might be taking with your phone. It’s cheap, adheres well but peels of easily and cleanly when required.
[[Image:MilkJug.jpg|thumb|200px|right|Photo by jomike/[http://www.flickr.com/photos/95274920@N00/1431005339/ Flickr]/CC.]]
This works best on cameras with a bit of a longer lens. Cut up an [http://www.adidap.com/2007/12/20/diy-poors-man-ring-flash/ empty milk jug] (or some other beverage jug made from translucent plastic) to form a long strip five or six inches wide.
Cut a hole as big as your camera’s lens, then slip it over the end of the lens. Trim the top down, but keep it long enough so it fully blocks the camera’s flash when shooting a portrait.
[[Image:Filmcanister.jpg|thumb|200px|right|Photo by Daan van Dalfsen/[http://www.flickr.com/photos/natuurplaat/10362363/ Flickr]/CC.]]
Remember these things? They were used to store rolls of film for those old-timey film cameras. Your grandpa probably has a few you can use.
Cut a rectangle into the cylinder big enough to allow you to slip it over your pop-up flash.
[[Image:Vellum.jpg|thumb|200px|right|Photo by Valerie Reneé/[http://www.flickr.com/photos/valerierenee/332167482/ Flickr]/CC.]]
Cut up some vellum paper from one of your unused wedding invitations. Staple it together in a way that forms a little condom for your camera’s flash.
===Styrofoam cereal bowl===
This hack is best for macro-photography and other close-up uses. Take a standard-issue polystyrene or translucent plastic cup, bowl or plate and cut a hole in the bottom to fit around your lens. Flickr user Photophool has some [http://www.flickr.com/photos/photophool/collections/72157604371333727/ interesting variations] on the idea.
==My photos still don’t look that great==
Diffusing and reflecting your flash will solve most of your problems, but not all of them. Now it’s time for the hard part.
It’s important to understand that when you use a flash there are suddenly two light source for your camera to deal with — the natural, ambient light in the scene and the flash you’re adding. This means everything about photography — shutter speed, aperture, ISO, depth of field, etc — is at least twice as complex with a flash.
There are numerous books devoted to the subject, but here’s a good rule of thumb to get you started: your goal when using a flash is simply to bring the overall light in the scene up a level your camera can successfully record.
In order to do that you need to understand how your Flash works. There is some variation between camera makers, so one of the best places to start is your camera’s instruction manual. See which settings and modes are optimized for flash and start experimenting to see what works.
As with all things in photography, experimenting and practicing are the best way to ensure that when you need to use a flash, you know how to do so successfully.
This article appeared on Wired.com and the author and/or the publisher are to be accredited explicitly for the content. Alphaverse.com is not affiliated with the publisher of this article and uses its content purely for educational purposes.