# How To Diffuse Your Pop-Up Flash with a Fong Puffer

Don't you just hate that little pop-up flash on your camera? Harsh shadows, blown highlights, ugly photos; no fun at all! If only there were a way to turn this little flash into something that you could actually use without being embarrassed of the results.

Today we're going to take a look at a product that promises to do just that: The Gary Fong Pop-Up Flash Diffuser. We'll discuss pricing and setup and take some test shots to see if it actually makes good on its promise.

## The Plight of the Pop-up Flash

If you're a new photographer, you might be confused about a trend in professional cameras. Generally, the more expensive the camera, the less likely it is to have a pop-up flash. This is of course counter-intuitive. Why would Canon and other manufacturers start stripping features as the price increases? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Why does the $600 Canon T1i come equipped with a flash while the$2,000 Canon 5D Mark II doesn't?

While I can't pretend to fully understand Canon's reasoning, an important part of the equation no doubt lies in an analysis of the customer purchasing the camera. Most people that purchase 5Ds aren't merely looking for something to shoot photos of their kid's next birthday party, they're likely engaged in a level of professionalism.

These professional customers are also likely to know a thing or two about photography while Rebel customers are often at a near-beginner level. The thing that the professional knows that the newbie doesn't is that pop-up flashes are generally regarded as horrible devices.

### Testing the Puffer

First, I found a fairly poorly lit section of my house. It was in the middle of the day so the house felt quite bright to my eyes, but my camera didn't quite agree. I was attempting to simulate a lot of the inside shots I've had trouble with during family gatherings, parties, etc. The resulting image was quite dark, even at a fairly slow shutter speed. Note that all of the images in this section are straight out of camera and have not been edited in any way aside from resizing and labeling.

Next I repeated the same shot, once with the diffuser and once with just the bare flash. The difference between the two results wasn't nearly as dramatic as I had hoped, but they are noticeably unique.

Neither technique created harsh face shadows (I was straight in front of the camera), nor did either produce an overly harsh, flat look. Even more surprisingly, one isn't significantly brighter than the other as I had expected.

The area that seems to display the most difference is the temperature of the image. The diffuser made the photo noticeably warmer (which is a good thing). This is more evident if we sample the skin tones from the two images using the same reference point.

Since my first setup wasn't creating any harsh shadows to analyze, I moved on to something new. This time I changed the camera settings a bit to adjust to the new room and repeated my with/without the Puffer process. Below are the results:

Here you can see the results of the Puffer much better. The shadows are softer and the light is more spread out, resulting in an overall brighter looking image.

In one final test, I wanted to really see the difference between how the two different methods dispersed the light. Basically, I wanted to analyze the shape of the flash and the resulting light rays. The easiest way I could figure out to do this was simply to stand in front of a mirror and take a few shots.

The image on the top shows the flash with the Puffer and the image on the bottom shows the flash without the Puffer. The images are both hideous, but again we see an overall better dispersal of light when the Puffer is introduced.

## Is It Worth The Money?

The Gary Fong Puffer did exactly what it advertised, it softened my shadows and spread out the flash. However, I must admit that I had hoped for a more dramatic improvement in the quality of the resulting image. To be fair, much of this can probably be attributed to the fact that Canon placed a not-so-horrible flash on the T1i.

To quickly answer some questions that you might have about the Puffer: No, it doesn't eliminate redeye or pin lighting (little dots in the eyes). The flash carries around a big room a bit better, but is still not ideal for shooting anything more than a few feet away. No, I still wouldn't use a pop-up flash in a dark professional situation such as a wedding reception. Though I might consider using the Puffer in an already bright outdoor shoot to add some filler.

So will this piece of plastic take a pop-up flash from horrible to amazing? Certainly not. Am I glad that I have one? You bet. I've spent a lot of time with it in the past month in lots of different lighting scenarios and I almost always get better results with the Puffer than I do without it. Sometimes the difference is so subtle that most people would see no real improvement, but a photographer's eye will always spot the warmer skin tones and improved light spread.

## How Do You Diffuse Your Pop-Up Flash?

Now that we've seen how the commercial product works, let's have a look at some of your homemade methods! I know many of you have faced this problem before and I've seen some pretty inventive methods for a DIY diffuser, everything from a film canister to vacuum bags!

Leave a comment below with a link to your diffuser hacks. Were you satisfied with the results? How would you improve your rig if you did it all over. Also be sure to let us know what you think of the Puffer!