Homemade diffusers

Last week we talked about putting a diffuse piece of paper in front of the flash element to reduce the harsh flash lighting when capturing an image. Here is a quick tutorial for those that have point and shoots.


The general idea is to securely place the diffuse paper in front of the flash, but props to you if you can come up with a clever way of doing it for your own camera. Some camera form factors make it really easy while others need extra tape to work well.

Class – How To – Follow-up

Some basic points:

We talked about The Exposure Triangle. Here’s a good article.

Shutter Speed

Here’s a good article on shutter speed.

Most people can’t hand-hold at less than 1/60th of a second — the picture is blurred by your own movement. Some ways to make up for this in low light situations:

  • Tripods — from big to small — gorillapods come in all sizes.
  • On a tripod, a time-delay shutter will help to avoid the jiggle from you pushing the shutter release
  • Brace yourself to stand still, and hold the camera close to your body
  • Brace the camera against anything — table, doorframe
  • Rapid fire multiple shots, if your camera can do this — the middle shot is likely to be the clearest

You DO want to pay extra for image stabilization (IS) — in the camera (point and shoot) or the lens (dSLR).  It makes a difference!

Exposure Compensation

We began talking about exposure compensation — many cameras allow you to bump the exposure up  (brighter) or down a little (darker) while basically staying in automatic mode.  The images with this article demonstrate the results.   The easiest cameras to use are those with a dial for this, like the one shows here, but many small cameras have this somewhere in the menus.


On-camera flash is to be avoided if at all possible because

  • It usually only works for about 10 feet or less;
  • You often end up with a too-bright subject against a too-dark background;
  • That kind of flat, straight on light is ugly (and makes people look ugly!)

You can use a simple piece of paper to diffuse the camera’s flash so you don’t get such a deer-in-the-headlights effect. (Thanks, Bryan!)

    The one time it IS useful is for filling in dark places in the image — notable, shadowed faces.

    (In the 2nd example, below, the flash isn’t actually on the camera but coming in from the side — but this demonstrates the idea.)

    No flash

    with flash fill