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I am going to travel abroad in a couple of months and I am considering, since I will take my photo-backpack with me (Tamrac evolution 8), to buy a diffuser for a Yongnuo 560 Mk III flash.
Most of the pictures that I will be taking with the flash are probably going to be of me and my parents, but I really dislike pictures directly flashed (lights too bright and shadows too dark) to the point that I would delete files from camera/computer.
Should I consider using a small softbox (and in case which one would be best for full-body and portrait pictures), or should I go for one of these plastic "caps" (which personally I don't like)?
Can you also suggest something that I can "re-use" for people photography?

EDIT: Even though I selected the most complete answer as the correct one (users who are yet to read will thank me... I guess), I still decided for a solution provided by another answer and got myself a portable softbox. This softbox kit has multiple uses, looks quite good in quality, can most probably be reused and is extremely portable.

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We have a couple of existing questions that might help, here. First, take a look at When and how to use a push-on flash diffuser? regarding the plastic. The key is that these aren't really meant to be diffusers themselves, since they are so small. Instead, they provide a bare-bulb effect, and if you are in a room with a low white ceiling and walls, the diffusion comes from light bouncing everywhere. They're no good outdoors or in big rooms (even though you'll sometimes see pro photographers using them this way; ah well). This is probably not very useful for travel, unless you know you'll mostly be traveling to small white rooms.

So next, see Are small on-flash softboxes useful, or a gimmick?. The consensus is that they're not great, but better than nothing. So, you might try something there. I ended up getting the Honl Traveller8, but I generally only use it for accent lighting as part of a multi-light setup; I've actually never tried it alone. I think if I were looking for something to use alone, I'd choose one with more area.

A little pop-up box like that is the best you're going to get on-camera, I'm afraid. For off-camera, which of course really opens up your possibilities for nice lighting, you're looking at carrying not just the modifier but a light stand or something as well. If you're gonna go for that, umbrellas are probably more portable than even the most portable softboxes.

Alternately, you could try something I just saw but can't recommend from personal experience: Westcott's Luna Grip, which is meant for hand-holding a remote flash in front of a collapsible diffusion disk of any size between 22" and 40". This would pack up fairly small, and you could use one of those 5-in-1 disks which includes a reflector, so you'd have other lighting possibilities, and you could press one of your parents or a friend or innocent bystander into lighting assistant duty, if need be.

  • Thanks first of all for the complete answer. The Luna Grip may not be suited for what I will do (I will have no assistant, most likely). I am interested in the Honl Traveller8 as well as the circular foldable one from fstoppers. Trying to seek out some tests of both to understand which one fits to me better – Noldor130884 Jul 18 '15 at 16:31
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The options I'm thinking of must have some characteristics.

  • Portable.

  • Easy assembly.

  • Must be attached to the speedlight (does not matter if the speedlight is on the camera or not)

  • Can be held by the photographer with one hand. (off-camera light)

  • Decent size, so it provides a decent diffusion.

  • Wall/Ceiling independent. :o)


I have not tested this but it looks promising:

https://fstoppers.com/product/fstoppers-flash-disc-portable-light-modifier

The design is simple but great.


Another interesting option is this concept.

http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/images/P/dicfladifi_1.jpg

I do not know the store, but here is the source site:

http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/card-bouncer-flash-diffuser-for-dslr-slr-camera-flash.html

(Probably this opens the door to a Do It Yourself diffuser)


Also try to always carry a simple foldable white reflector.

  • The problem with paper is that the material is not optimized and that it may well then lead less light onto the subjects – Noldor130884 Jul 19 '15 at 10:27
  • For an emergency a sheet of paper can help you, you can make some tests... its cheap. But also you can make one of a more robust paper, some cardboard perhaphs. – Rafael Jul 20 '15 at 20:13
  • Well, it's not an emergency since I have time to plan, besides I wanted to buy something more or less useful, very portable, but not cheap :) – Noldor130884 Jul 22 '15 at 7:46
  • Of course the fstopers flash disk looks more pro. But there is a "mythbuster" element on the paper option. The point is, you can experiment. I'm leaving that option for future users. Some probably will look for something cheap :0) – Rafael Jul 22 '15 at 11:14
  • @Noldor130884 What makes you think the paper is not optimized? It is , after all, being sold as a photographic product designed for use in bouncing flash. If the color/texture of papers meant for printing photos can be carefully controlled, why can't the color/texture of paper meant for bouncing flash be just as carefully controlled? – Michael C Sep 25 '15 at 1:33
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If you're actually going to go to the trouble of bringing off-camera lighting gear/triggers with you, then maybe a small softbox could be useful in some situations, but you do need to understand its limitations and limited usefulness, and I'd say don't go any smaller than 8". I use a cheap knockoff of the Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite (22cm).

But what might be more effective at softening/diffusing the light is simply learning how to bounce your flash from on-camera, and flagging off direct line from the flash with the black foamie thing.

  • Problem with the foamie thing is that it is only effective indoors since you have to bounce your flash... What if I had to do night portraits? – Noldor130884 Jul 18 '15 at 16:25
  • See: neilvn.com/tangents/using-on-camera-bounce-flash-outside And is it really any less practical than hauling along a lightstand, triggers, and softbox? Yes, you're limited, but you have portability and speed as your tradeoff. – inkista Jul 18 '15 at 16:42
  • Well that's why I asked for portability in the first place... I didn't say, though, I was going to bring a lightstand and the only trigger I have is more or less 4x2x0.5 cm – Noldor130884 Jul 19 '15 at 9:41
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That fstoppers Flash disc Rafael posted looks pretty neat. Another alternative might be a flash bender.

If you don't mind carrying a bit more kit for a bigger light, you could go with a monopod + umbrella holder + umbrella softbox. Quite a bit smaller and lighter when packed up than a proper light stand and softbox. Though still a lot larger and heavier (and more time to set up) than the Flash disc or a Flash bender.

  • Monopod and umbrellas are not currently the solution I had in mind (they wouldn't fit in a backpack). I'll look into the flash bender though. Might be a good solution – Noldor130884 Jul 22 '15 at 7:47
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Large diffusers are not exactly practical for travel and small ones are not very effective. I would suggest exploring other options like bouncing from walls or the roof and combining flash with high ISO for a subtle effect.

My preference would be traveling light and leaving the flash at home.

  • Let's say that my parents want a photo of them during the night, with the illuminated city of hong-kong in a point where there's no light to illuminate them . Maybe a small diffuser is not very effective, but still enough ? – Noldor130884 Jul 18 '15 at 16:23

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