Reducing Harsh Flash

Reducing Harsh Light From Pop-Up Flash

I’m sure you take pictures. I’m sure you know that flash is really helpful for taking pictures in areas that are not well-lit. I’m sure you also know that it is pretty common to come by pictures that are taken with flash that turned out to be over-exposed, people end up looking like they’re 0.5 seconds from getting hit by an on-coming car. 🙂 And if the subject was near a wall or some other object, you’re gonna see some shadows casted.

Are you keen on having taking pictures without having harsh flash ruining it? Then you should consider reducing the harshness of your flash, read on!

*Note : This article is NOT a product review.

Taming The Flash

There are many ways to reduce harsh flash, in this article I’ll be using a diffuser. The purpose of the diffuser is to spread the light and reduce its intensity, resulting in a more natural output.

Here’s the pop-up flash diffuser that I bought, mounted on my Fujifilm Finepix S7000 for illustration purpose on how it works.
Reducing Harsh Light From Pop-Up Flash

It hooks onto the hot shoe (the place where you mount an external flash unit), placing the opaque material right in front of the flash unit. 🙂 Works great with digital-SLR and prosumer cameras with pop-up flash!

*The pictures used in the later parts of this article are taken with the Canon EOS 350D (also known as Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT).

Non-diffused Vs Diffused

Let’s have a look at how diffusing the light affects pictures. I’ll be using some still objects in a not-so-well-lit environment.

Here we go!

Exhibit A

In this shot, the toy bear is placed about 8 inches away from the wall.
Reducing Harsh Light From Pop-Up Flash
Observation : Notice how the shadows are softened. Look at the shadows on the wall and also the shadows just below the neck of the bear.

Exhibit B

For the next example, I decided to use a more shiny subject.
Reducing Harsh Light From Pop-Up Flash
Observation : The harsh lights made the subject over-exposed. The diffuser reduced the impact of the light, resulting in the subject not being over-exposed. Notice how you could see better details on the face and on the abdominal area after the diffuser was applied? 🙂

Exhibit C

Now, let’s try a more colorful setup.
Reducing Harsh Light From Pop-Up Flash
Observation : Without the diffuser, the most prominent difference would be the shadows while the next thing to note is that the harsh lights hit even the background and making it rather distracting. With the diffuser the shadows are soften while the background remained naturally.

It Makes A Difference

As you can see, the intensity of light that hits your area of composition makes a difference.

You could reduce light intensity in many ways. You could diffuse it with a translucent tape, bounce it off the ceiling or even some reflective surface – and that’s just a few examples among the 101 ways to manipulate flash, DIY or not!

How should you do it depends on what you’re using, what you’re snapping and what effect you intend to get.

Other interesting sites for reference :
Digital Photography School : Using Flash Diffusers and Reflectors

goldfries rated this product :


  1. Being a cheapo like me, I made a DIY diffuser out of a semi transparent film canister. 😛

    But at times, one needs to bounce the flash off the wall rather than hitting directly at the subject which I think it is quite hard for built-in flash.

  2. Author

    Yup, which is why I mentioned that towards the end of the article.

    But you’ll be the first person I come by that says “bounce the flash off the wall”! 🙂 Most people would bounce it off the ceiling.

  3. Oppss.. Silly me. I meant ‘bounce off the ceiling’. Haha.

  4. What if I am using a conventional digital camera?
    I once cover the flash with semi-transparent duct tape.
    But it was troublesome and ugly-looking.

  5. Author

    @Chong, not every place gives you the option to bounce-off the ceiling. 🙂 some places, ceiling aren’t white. Furthermore built-in flash are 1-directioned.

    @Joel, cover it with duct tape. cover it with white plastic. 🙂 up to you. trial and error. yes it’s ugly and troublesome but that’s what people do to get better photos.

  6. Yeap. Built-in ones are 1-directioned unless someone comes up with whacky DIY diffuser design. Haha.

    Indeed you looked weird/ugly if you got stuff covering the flash. But it is for the good as what goldfries said. Once, I used tissue papers to cover the flash and my friends gave me “WTF??!!” look. To make it worst, I was holding the tissue papers rather than sticking it with tape.

  7. Author

    OK. back from holiday. 🙂 tissue papers, toilet roll type would be thicker.

    output results vs looking odd. hehe.

  8. Good tip

    I saw another way of achieving this if by using a cutout portion of the plastic milk carton.. the effect is almost the same 🙂

  9. Author

    Yup. there might be some color differences but that’s about it.

    the thickness of the material will also affect the amount of light going through.

  10. Hei there, I was using a diffuser similar to yours sometime ago.
    It threw my white balance off.
    The pictures appeared yellowish.
    I’m glad that I no longer need the diffuser anymore as I own a Speedlite now xD

  11. Author

    Threw your WB off? Wow…….. Mine is alright so far. 🙂

    Anyway this one’s for the pop-ups. When you’re on an external flash unit, gotta try those lambency diffusers.

  12. Hehe.. Im juz using diff thickness of paper or tissue to cover up d flash coz duno where to get d diffuser… More challenging.. 😛 Anyways Tissue is easier to get outdoors(Dont like to carry much things) incase i need to diffuse the flash.. Hehe… Btw im juz using PnS camera.. No money to get DSLR yet.. T.T

  13. Author

    As long as the tissue doesn’t block too much of the light. 🙂

  14. whoa.. like that also can.
    I also have the problem with my camera. the flash is so sharp that even a black coloured thing can become white colour in the photo.

    time to try the tactic 😛

  15. hmm i got question, let’s say i’m using a normal digital camera or my n73 handphone, normally for my digi cam, during night time, i’ll turn off the flash but the problem would then be the pictures might turn out blurry due to shaky hands. any better ideas? as for the n73.. it’s just pathetic in the dark 😛

  16. try to use tripod? xD

  17. hey.. that’s same thing i had… given by a fren to me… but didnt use it much…

  18. what thing are you having?

  19. The ‘thing’ is the stuff that we put in front of the flash.. almost the same with diffuser for flashgun..

  20. I use a piece of A4 white paper and cut it to the square size to attach to diffuse my DSLR pop up flash. This is quite useful since i haven’t get an external flash… 🙂

  21. At night shoot without flash is hard for the camera sensor to get enough light for the object, so the camera will auto set to very low shutter speed to gather more light to take a photo on the object. Not to said n73, even with a good camera also will get blur object if shooting in low light condition..

  22. @goldfries:
    The far object did not bright enough when i was using the paper diffuse on my DSLR pop up flash. So i think this is suitable for short distance object to get balance light.

    Besides that, do you have some opinion regarding Metz flash product?

  23. thanks to this post i got myself the flash diffuser… =D

  24. Thanks for teaching me. I’ve read all your articles so, that I can use my dad’s SLR camera

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