In the last couple of posts (here and here) I’ve mentioned that I’ve been using flash and a do-it-yourself diffuser for taking macro photos with my Ricoh GRD3. It’s a simple diffuser made entirely out of paper, which I’d like to show you now. Please don’t laugh, it works better than it looks. 🙂
It looks rather amateurishly cut out, doesn’t it? In my defense I’d like to add, that I’m not a particularly crafty person and that I’m much better at taking things apart than putting them back together or making something out of raw materials. I’m currently working on a better version, which should be more robust and less fiddly…and which should look nicer.
But let’s see how it works and what the benefits are of using a diffuser – even one as primitive as this one – when shooting macro with such a wide angle lens, like the fixed lens in the Ricoh GRD3.
As you can see below, the diffuser redirects quite a bit of light downwards in the direction of the subject, illuminating it quite effectively with soft light. The angel figurine is much larger than typical macro subjects I shoot with the GRD3, but for some reason I decided to use it instead of something smaller. And I was too lazy to reshoot the scene of the GRD3’s flash firing, after I realized that I’ve made a mistake.
However I did take three photos of a microSD card with the GRD3, in order to show you the benefits of using a diffuser. The first one was shot without flash. As you can see, when the light in the background is strong – which is often the case in macro photography – you have to make a choice between underexposing the subject and overexposing the background. As a result the contrast is rather low, due to needing to brighten up the shadows and recover the highlights (if at all possible). The second image was shot with flash but without the diffuser. The subject is dark, because the flash is blocked by the lens. With a wide angle macro lens you have to get very close to the subject – we are talking about several millimeters – which is why the lens is casting a shadow on the subject. The third photo was shot with flash and with the diffuser. In my opinion it looks the best, with both the subject and background being lit sufficiently.
There is one thing that I’m trying to figure out, though, which has to do with the position of the GRD3’s built-in flash. I’m not sure how to redirect the light more to the right side of the frame. Being that the flash is situated one the left side of the camera, the corresponding part of the image always looks brighter. It isn’t immediately apparent in most photos, but in some it is a problem. Of course, if you are using a compact camera that has a built-in flash aligned with the lens axis, this shouldn’t be a problem.
I’ve taken two more images from the front, to illustrate why a diffuser makes the light soft. Please ignore the left green beam of light in the first image. That is the AF assist light, which can’t be turned off when the self-timer is activated. It doesn’t go off when you are shooting macro in the single-shot mode – which you should be doing most of the time. Concentrate on the naked flash to the right in the first picture and compare the small area the light is emitting from to the 8 to 10 times larger overexposed area of the diffuser in the second image. Keep in mind: the larger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the light.
I would also like to show you four of my most recent shots taken with this setup. You can find more in my Macro with Ricoh GRD3 (flash and diffuser) Flickr set.
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Looks like a super camera wearing a super hero cape! What kind of paper are you using – regular copy paper or something else? I wonder how much of the light gets bounced off the paper and back at you instead of the subject. You got some wonder photo using it! Have you tried any kind of double bounce lighting rig — I am thinking put a tiny mirror in front of the flash to bounce the light back to a reflector. I don’t know how I would go about trying to design that, maybe with some small wire wrapped around the flash and the mirror so that I could angle the mirror a bit to reflector the light more to the center of the reflector. Have fun playing around with your project it is giving you some really neat images.
It kinda does. 🙂
I’ve used copy paper, since it’s thin enough to let enough light through but not too thin to fold on its own.
Not much, because most of the light that doesn’t go through gets reflected upwards.
That’s an interesting idea. The mirror would need to be really tiny, though, sine GRD3’s pop-up flash is very small and would probably retract under the weight.
Thank you Joni. I’m having lots of fun.
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