PetaPixel

How to Make a Cheap DIY Flash Diffuser for Macro Photography

bbxrAbn

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how you can make a pretty nice flash diffuser for your macro setup for just a little time and a little money.

This is the list of materials you’ll need:

  • Cardboard or plastic board
  • Tape (preferably duct tape or electrical)
  • Tin foil
  • Some type of glue
  • Packing foam, or some material to serve as the diffuser.

You can get everything for around $15, but lots of this stuff you probably have lying around the house.

A white plastic board

A white plastic board

First, glue some tinfoil onto the board with any type of glue and let it dry. You can use the shiny side for maximum power, or the frosted side for more diffusion. Do realize the more diffused your light is the less powerful it will be, but the softer and more beautiful it will look.

p1JblCm

Next sketch out your top part to look something roughly like this, I made mine 12″ long which was too long, somewhere 8-10 works great; I ended up trimming mine shorter.

D5LmSla

Cut out the top part, I left a little tab for my flash to make it easier to mount. I then Cut out a similar piece that was smaller to server as the bottom, you want it to be about 2/5 of the length of the top piece roughly.

n751AxQ

Here you can see both the top, bottom, and the side piece I cut out. To cut the side piece line up the top and bottom so you make a triangle shaped side piece with corresponding lengths, there’s no science to this, feel free to experiment.

WkipOEs

Here you can see me starting to tape the pieces together. You can use electrical tape, but I used heavy duty duct tape myself so it would last longer:

wWQsKZM

Another shot from the side:

y1JYjre

This part is optional, but I had some tin tape you can buy from a hardware store to cover up the corners, to get maximum light reflection; although I really think this doesn’t make that big of a difference, as I did it more for structural support:

7yJ0kGb

Tabs on the back re-enforced with duct tape:

FE2hO73

Now you need to tape on a diffusing material, I use packing foam that comes in those thin sheets, you can use just about anything that will diffuse light: bubble wrap, cloth sheet, even plain paper will work:

2MPy1LJ

I added some Velcro to the top tap to keep it on my flash extra securely:

uYB60bD

Here’s a picture of the finally assembly. Nikon D7000 with a Sigma f/1.4 50mm on a reverse mount:

bbxrAbn

And now for some examples. Here is a set of macro photos shot using this diffuser (the first macro shots I’ve ever taken):

kUf2KPk

The wind was blowing really hard, bu I managed to capture this guy eating a gnat:

lUaVwaV

You can even see the silk coming out of the spinneret:

IVEGvGn

o7JmiGo

NPGUo9h

The detail on this mall moth is amazing, you can see the scales and the prisms on its compound eye:

sefEzni

A small flower (you can see the pigment scales if you look close enough):

l64LPZk


About the author: Ben Lzicar is a hobbyist photographer and storm chaser based in Oklahoma City. Visit his Facebook page here.


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • johnny

    Making or buying such diffuser should be simple. But how about the camera setting? Mind if anyone can share your experience of the settings please, such as the A/S figures, and the left and right side boards, if any. Thanks a lot.

  • Tanelir5234234234

    Manual, ISO 100, shutter below sync speed (1/200s or so). Then just start playing with aperture and flash power. Start with f/11 and full power on flash and start adjusting there. Oh and shoot RAW. Always.

  • picz

    Love the tutoria, but I stil find a problem!
    I’ve tried to lock my aperture to f/11 but it’s really hard to focus using the viewfinder because it’s very dark :/ Do you use any extra light just to be able to focus?

    Another question: do you always use a tripod?