By Jonathan Lawton
This month I had the opportunity to review two different styles of flash modifiers. The first was designed to diffuse and soften the light output from your flash, while the second is intended to concentrate and focus the light.
If you’ve ever taken a photo with the hot-shoe flash pointed directly at your subject you know just how unflattering and harsh that type of lighting can be. One simple way to improve your on-camera lighting is to use a flash diffuser. The Lightsphere, by Gary Fong, is a flash diffuser constructed of a flexible vinyl with an opaque snap-on lid. The Lightsphere comes in two versions: cloud or clear. The cloud version is more opaque than the clear and provides even more light diffusion. For this review, I evaluated the Lightsphere’s cloud version and could see that the Lightsphere would be very useful for portrait and event photography. It’s almost like putting a small softbox on your flash. It measures 4 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall, making the Lightsphere easy to pack into your camera bag. The Gary Fong Lightsphere is available in three sizes that will fit nearly all major manufacturers’ hot-shoe flash units.
At the opposite end of the flash modifier spectrum is the Visual Echoes Better Beamer. The purpose of the Better Beamer is to extend the reach of your hot-shoe flash. This is a very popular flash accessory with nature and bird photographers. The Better Beamer allows photographers to use fill-flash outdoors, even while shooting with very long focal length lenses. It is a simple device consisting of two side braces, a Velcro strap and a Fresnel lens. I found it easy to mount the Better Beamer to the front of my Canon 580EX flash. When it’s not on the flash, the Better Beamer folds almost completely flat, making it easy to store. The Better Beamer’s Fresnel lens helps focus the flash beam pattern and will add approximately two stops of light output to your flash. The Better Beamer is made in seven sizes to fit nearly all major flash units.
If you have any questions on these two flash modifiers or need help selecting the correct unit for your flash, feel free to contact me.
Jonathan Lawton has been a photographer for more than 10 years and operates his own photography business (www.jonathanlawton.com). He’s also a salesman at Hunt’s Photo and Video in Melrose, Mass. If you have questions on any photo-related topics, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.